The Hopkinton High School boys ice hockey team was starting to come together when the season was upended by issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, but first-year coach Scott Hayes has been impressed with the way his squad has dealt with the curveballs thrown its way.
“We started off well and everything was going great and then we had a partial shutdown and had to deal with COVID, so we are slowly coming back from that,” Hayes said in early January. “But the kids have handled it great. We are getting healthy now and starting to get a full squad.”
The pause forced Hopkinton to cancel a scheduled appearance in a winter tournament and postpone its league game against Holliston. But Hayes said it has not impacted the team’s work ethic.
“I think the team is doing an incredible job with everything they have had to deal with,” Hayes said. “They have been sharp, they’ve paid attention to detail and they’ve done everything we have asked them to do to make a smooth transition back onto the ice.”
The Hillers dropped games to Norwell, Medfield and Norwood to start the year, three strong opponents right out of the gate.
“I thought the kids answered the challenge,” Hayes said. “We felt like we were right there in the Norwell and Norwood games and we took Medfield to overtime.”
“We are close,” he added.
Junior captain Joey Carrazza has been one of the Hillers’ mainstays at the center position, and Hayes described his play as “fantastic.” He’s taken on a leadership role along with fellow captains Manoli Barris and Michael Berman, both seniors.
“The three of them form an awesome leadership team and they have done a great job,” the coach said.
Goalie Jack Lang put together strong performances in the team’s first few games of the year.
“We have a team that is dedicated to playing hard,” Hayes said. “They don’t back down and they don’t quit.”
As the roster rounds into form and gets healthier, Hayes said he and the coaching staff have identified some areas where they hope to see improvement. He wants to generate more scoring opportunities and be more consistent on defense when the puck is on that end of the ice, he said.
The top goal in the short term is to make the playoffs in the new statewide format that eschews a traditional win-loss record as the only criteria in favor of factoring in strength of schedule, which figures to benefit Hopkinton in the tough Tri-Valley League. But Hayes said it’s also important to set some longer-term goals, especially since it’s his first season at the helm.
“We want to establish a foundation where the players understand what is expected of them and understand the vision for how our team plays,” he said. “If we can get that done in year one, that would be a huge goal for us and a huge win.”