On Woburn ice, it’s tough love
Coach prefers to ignore numbers
Jim Duran and his assistants at Woburn High continually remind the players to keep working, that they’re not on top of their game.
Statistics are not allowed in the locker room. Frankly, the head coach would prefer that any praise be tossed elsewhere.
Despite their coach’s best efforts, though, Woburn has a hard time avoiding the spotlight.
At the start of the week, the Tanners were 6-1-0 overall, and one point out of first place in the Middlesex League, with a 5-1-0 mark. Their 31 total goals were tied for the league lead.
“If you were to ask anyone in the Middlesex League,’’ said Duran, “they probably would mention us in the same breath as Burlington and Winchester. I would say I wish they didn’t.’’
After Woburn won its first three games in convincing fashion, netting 20 goals, the Tanners suffered a 6-2 loss to Melrose (2-4-0 in league play).
“The first few days we started reading the press clippings and thinking we were better than we were,’’ Duran said. “[I’d prefer] they play us up that we stink.’’
His team learned its lesson a year ago after finishing 13-4-3 and earning the third seed in the Division 1 North sectional. The Tanners were eliminated by Medford, the lowest seed in the sectional.
“We’ve already gone through a stage where we didn’t play well [this season],’’ he said. “But last year as a young team we played well all throughout the season and we got to the playoffs and we couldn’t bump it up to the next level. We didn’t come to play.’’
This season, the Woburn attack has been paced by the Holland brothers: Dan, a sophomore who netted his third hat trick of the season in a 6-3 win over Reading on Saturday night, and Alex, a junior, who contributed four assists.
Duran is not keeping track of the numbers.
“I think [players] get too caught up in points and it really doesn’t matter,’’ said the coach.
“Sometimes in high school, the best game you can play you don’t even score a goal, or you can score three goals and you could have been the worst one on the ice.’’
Dan Holland scored once in each period against Reading. In the second, he skated through three defenders before sniping one in off the crossbar. In the third, he fooled Reading goalie Andrew Keen with a crafty deke on a breakaway.
“From my point of view as a coach, tonight wasn’t his best performance,’’ Duran said. “But when he gets the puck, he’s going to score. Same thing’’ with Alex.
The Holland brothers are continuing a family hockey tradition at Woburn. Their grandfather Bill Holland operated the Tanners’ home ice at O’Brien Rink before his death in 2005, and their father, Bob, runs Holland Arena in town. Their eldest brother, Bobby, a Globe All-Scholastic as a senior in 2007, graduated with 112 points in his career.
“[Dan’s] senior year, he’s going to be really good, I’ll tell you that,’’ said senior goalie Rich Magro. “He gets a lot better each and every year. I think that’s why he’s so much better - because he’s had two older brothers that are great at hockey. He can always learn from them.’’
Magro is learning to adapt to a goalie rotation with junior Cam McGlashing. Duran has been pleased with the play of each and believes the decision on whom to play has become more difficult as they continue to impress.
“I was a little shaky the first couple games,’’ Magro said, “but you get used to it, trying to get into a rhythm. It works out. If we don’t do well one game, we have a solid backup.’’
With depth in goal, the Holland brothers fueling the offense, and strong play from senior captains Phil Nagle, a defenseman, and forward Jared Dabrieo, Woburn has the look of a contender.
But Duran isn’t looking too far ahead.
“We always say we want to win the Middlesex League title, but we’re a long ways away from that,’’ said the coach.
Central Catholic is flourishing in tight spots. The Red Raiders (6-1-1) earned their fourth one-goal victory of the season, edging St. John’s Prep 3-2 in the Derek Hines Memorial game. Hines, a 1999 Prep graduate, was killed in action in Afghanistan in September 2005.
Nine-year Central coach Mike Jankowski says the close games are a reflection of strong goaltending, both from his backstop, sophomore Kyle Williams, and Red Raider foes.
“You’ve got to hand it to some of these goalies,’’ Jankowski said. “The way they play, as far as being technically sound, it levels the playing field quite a bit.’’
Williams seized the No. 1 spot in the second game of the season and followed up a shutout of Acton-Boxborough with a blanking of Arlington Catholic two days later.
“He just came in and has been able to close the door,’’ Jankowski said. “He’s playing with some confidence and is remarkably calm in these one-goal games.’’
Playing in front of Williams is what Jankowski called a “solid defense.’’ The defense includes just one senior, but the Central coach credits the success to the effort of every line.
“We have a tremendous amount of depth,’’ Jankowski said. “We don’t have that one guy you can look to. We have three solid lines.’’
The versatility of junior Nick Leonard has been an asset. He scored a goal and added an assist against Prep and has the ability to play forward and defense.
“He can be a forward and light it up,’’ Jankowski said, “but instead we have him take a shift at forward, then fall back to defense. He’s been our go-to guy taking the load of the team on his shoulders in several different roles. . . . We have kids that listen and apply themselves and we’re bound to get great results.’’
Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at email@example.com.