Derek Harrington is the new boys ice hockey coach at Medway High, and there’s little doubt that he’s the right man at the right time. A former Medway High star athlete, he’s coached as a Mustang assistant in football and hockey, and he’s been a police officer in town for 20 years.
The 46-year-old Harrington, who lives in Franklin with his wife Courtney and four children, may be a native of Brockton, but he’s really a purebred Mustang.
Harrington graduated from Medway High in 1989 after playing three sports — hockey, football and baseball. He was a captain his senior year in hockey and football and he was a Tri Valley League all-star in hockey as a senior. Then, he coached as an assistant in football for 15 years and he was Medway’s jayvee hockey coach for 17 years.
Now, the personable Harrington will be guiding the hockey team’s fortunes ,and he seems well-equipped to handle the job after working first with Chris Dwyer and later with Chris Ross, who resigned earlier this year to become an assistant at Southern New Hampshire University.
“Both were outstanding coaches,’’ Harrington emphasized. “Chris Dwyer changed the culture and built a winning mentality. He was a terrific mentor who focused on skill development. Then, Chris Ross succeeded him and he was all about disciplined leadership. He took the program to a higher level. Between the two of them, Medway qualified for the playoffs 16 times since 2001.’’
Harrington intends to produce similar success for Medway fans, and that’s easily detected when he lists the goals he’d like to achieve.
“We want to consistently improve every day,’’ he noted. “We’ll set our sights on winning the TVL Small Division title and also qualifying for the playoffs, where we want to make a deep run. All these objectives are realistic, because I’m aware of the traditions and culture, I was a captain, and I’m aware of what it’s like to experience times that are lean and times that are successful.’’
Another plus for Harrington was his time spent as a grid assistant, especially with coach Dave McSweeney, who passed along some valuable traits. “Dave demanded discipline, and his preparation was superb,’’ Harrington said. “He paid close attention to detail, and he also stressed the importance of adhering to a team concept.’’
Three players who’ll be promoting a “team-first philosophy’’ are senior captains Carter Fisher (defenseman), Jeremy Curley (left wing), and Nate Steinhoff (wing).
“Carter is a hard-working, shut-down defenseman,’’ Harrington noted. “He’s strong, moves the puck well and can shoot. Jeremy is an opportunistic scorer who’s aggressive and instinctive, while Nate is a smart skater who plays to his strengths and has a high hockey IQ.’’
Another key part of Harrington’s nucleus is junior center Jack McCarthy, who’ll be counted on for offense. “Jack has really elevated his game,’’ Harrington said. “He’s fast, and he’s got a hard shot.’’
Defense will take center stage and be Medway’s calling card, with Harrington at the helm. But, other hockey precepts will not go to the back burner. “We’ll focus on defense; we’ll be opportunistic and mildly aggressive,’’ Harrington emphasized. “We’ll work hard on our passing skills, and we’ll strive to reach our potential on offense, even though we’ve got some fine-tuning to do.’’
Harrington, a criminal justice major at Stonehill College, sees a variety of overall strengths in the 2018-19 edition of the Mustangs. He likes its leadership, its hockey IQ, and its technical skills. “We’re young but we’re enthusiastic and we’ve got potential.’’
Last year, in Ross’ final season as the Mustangs coach, the squad finished with a 15-8 record. In quarterfinal action, Medway bowed to Plymouth South with a second left in the game. That was a disappointing time for the coaching staff and the players. And, although it was rewarding to be in the tourney, Harrington points to 2012 and 2013 as his most-thrilling memories in his tenure as an assistant.
“In 2012, we lost to Hudson in the State finals, 5-2, then in 2013, we lost in the State semifinals in overtime to Swampscott,’’ Harrington recalled. “It was really something to see townspeople all wrapped up in hockey. And, it was fun to see the joy the kids were having and how well our team chemistry came together.’’
Harrington’s competitive philosophy will go a long way in measuring Medway’s future success. He firmly believes that if his players reach their potential, develop passion for hockey, and enjoy playing, then winning will be the by-product.
“Hockey, like other sports, can teach youths some valuable life lessons,’’ he noted. “Overcoming adversity, like the ups and downs the game offers, is an important lesson. Being accountable is another great lesson. Kids learn that their actions affect the team.’’
Harrington’s staff will include a quartet of assistants — J.P. Gasparrini, Kyle Dwyer, Troy Kelley and Dave Consigli. The foursome, along with the new head coach, will get a good look at how prepared the Mustangs are when the season opens at home on Dec. 8 against Oliver Ames.
“It’ll be a good test to get ready for our games in the TVL Small Division and also when we face the Large Division schools, like Westwood and Medfield,’’ Harrington said.