Progress A Key To Holliston Sextet’s Impressive Start

Ken Hamwey, Staff Sports Writer
Eight seniors who’ve played a role in helping the Holliston hockey team improve are, front row from left, Jake Kober, James Crews, and Will Fitzgerald. Back row, from left, are Jack Wilkie, Jack Larche, Tim Ringie, Cam DeCristofaro, and James Franco.
Issue Date: 
February, 2018
Article Body: 

Dan Geary is in his third year as Holliston High’s hockey coach, and he’s hoping the current campaign will yield the first playoff berth in his era.
So far, the Panthers are 8-1-1 at the halfway mark and on the verge of making his team’s goal of locking up a tourney slot a reality. During Geary’s first year on the job, Holliston finished 4-12-4, and last season the Panthers missed qualifying by one victory, compiling a record of 7-8-5.
“The theme I’ve stressed right along has been progress,’’ Geary said. “And, the three steps to keep progressing are to work harder to improve, play smarter, and to improve one’s hockey IQ. By playing smarter, that translates to knowing the game plan and executing it.’’
Geary emphasized that Holliston has had nine ties in his first two years and that a change in style when leading is what will turn ties to triumphs. “It’s about playing sound situational hockey,’’ he noted. “It’s about slowing the pace and maintaining puck control. It’s about knowing when to take an icing call and how to limit turnovers. The players need to focus on those things.’’
Although Geary and his 27 varsity skaters are aiming for a playoff berth, his approach to that objective is all about focusing on day-to-day practices and games.
“Yes, we think about the tourney, but I emphasize the importance of competing for two points every time we have a game,’’ he said. “If we do that, then the tourney berth will take care of itself. Also, on any given day in the Tri Valley League, we can expect a battle with every team. Winning the league title is also a goal, but it’s not talked about much. Teams like Medfield, Hopkinton, Westwood and Medway are talented and traditionally strong.’’
The Panthers are now in that mix of strong teams and their four senior captains deserve some credit for their leadership and competitive spirit. They include center Jack Larche, left wing James Franco (7 goals, 9 assists) and defensemen Tim Ringie and Jack Wilkie.
“They’re all top-notch teammates who lead by example and by being vocal,’’ Geary said. “Jack is a two-time captain who’s vocal, hard-working and fierce. James has lots of energy and gives 110 percent all the time. Tim is a solid one-on-one defenseman who’s tough to play against and Jack is heady and has a great ice vision and a high compete level.’’
Geary is bullish on his other four seniors. They include defensemen Jake Kober (4 goals, 8 assists) and Will Fitzgerald, right wing Cam DeCristofaro and goalie James Crews.
“Jake is a warrior who’s got good ice vision and a good shot,’’ Geary said. “He’s also got grit and toughness. Will has lots of hockey intelligence. He’s steady and heady and a fine all-around defenseman. Cam is a physical presence, able to check very effectively. He always holds himself accountable, and James is our back-up goalie who’s a solid teammate. He’s always pushing others to excel.’’
The three juniors on the squad are classified by Geary as “good situational hockey players.’’ They are right wingers Dan Rutowicz and Alex Naya and left wing Logan Brooks. “Dan has been out all season because of a shoulder injury, but he could be returning soon,’’ Geary noted. “All three of the juniors are quick, have speed and excel as penalty killers.’’
Center Cooper DeCristofaro (7 goals, 5 assists), left wing Sam Farrell and defenseman Tommy Labb headline a group of sophomores who’ll be counted on in the present and in the future.
“Cooper is a second-line center who was originally on defense,’’ Geary said. “He’s got a good, hard shot, he’s a play-maker who can finish and his offense is at a high level. Sam is very fast, and he can be a game-changer, because he creates offense with his speed. He also kills penalties on the power play. Tommy is our fifth defenseman but he gets ice time. He’s solid, physical and is a stay-at-home defenseman.’’
Geary emphasized that seven other sophomores will be in Holliston’s future plans. “Three sophs on defense will be counted on to step up next year,’’ he said, “and three forwards are progressing and getting acclimated to the physical nature of high school hockey. We also have a goalie who’s improving.’’
Two freshmen — goalie Nico Quatromoni and forward Kevin Balewicz — are contributing in a big way. “Nico is our starter,’’ Geary said. “He’s sound, has good technical skills, is instinctive and a good positional player. Kevin plays all three zones effectively, has a good offensive touch, is coachable and smart. Our other four freshmen are fine role players who have a strong future.’’
Two of Geary’s senior captains — Larche and Ringie — like the way their coach has emphasized progress and what’s needed to achieve it.
“Improving daily, playing smarter and increasing our hockey IQ give us a chance to beat a team that might be more skilled,’’ Ringie said. “Coach Geary has also stressed a game-by-game focus. No one looks beyond the next opponent.’’
Larche notes that watching film continually and hard work in the off-season are major factors in the Panthers uptick. “Because we’ve strived to improve daily, optimism is running high, and so are expectations,’’ Larche said. “When you watch lots of film, you get to see what’s happening around you. That’s how a team progresses.’’