First impressions are said to be the most important part of getting to know someone. Coach Ron Dowd has made a promising impression as the new head coach of the boys hockey team at Walpole High School. The Rebels started the season off with a 3-0-1 record, a turnaround from last year’s 3-8-6 losing season.
Prior to Dowd accepting the job the Rebels had only won 13 games in three seasons.
Dowd was head coach at Weymouth High School from 1995-2000 and in that time frame his record was 50-38-19. The Wildcats also made it to the Division 1 South tournament the first three seasons.
He hopes to bring the Rebels into the postseason for the returning seniors who have yet to experience it.
Senior captains Alex Carde and John White credit their successful start to Dowd and a change in attitude.
“There’s been a huge turnaround in attitude in the past year, and I definitely think that’s translating into the games,” said White.
Having two senior captains who can influence their team has helped Dowd in his transition, making it easier to get to know the players.
“They’re stand-up individuals,” said Dowd. “They come ready to play every single game and they’re also two of our better players. I don’t have to worry about them being ready to play hockey. I see why the team elected them captains. Being a new coach and all we didn’t want to change anything. I inherited the two captains and I’m glad that they are my captains. I’m proud of them every single day. They do a great job.”
The respect is mutual. The new Rebels attitude could have stemmed from Dowd’s contagious will to win.
“He does a good job of getting us all going,” said Carde. “I can’t think of a practice yet so far that we haven’t gotten better. We have all come together and just really gotten better as a team, and that’s huge.”
Dowd’s determination paired with the Walpole roster seems to be a recipe for success. The Rebels so far have scored 17 goals and only allowed 2.
While Dowd is impressed by all of his players, he is especially thankful for his two goalies, Ryan Erwin and Ray Mortali.
Mortali was in the net for the first two games. Erwin followed with an impressive shutout of Brookline, but what Dowd recalls about Erwin is his reaction to news that Mortali would play against Wellesley.
“He said: ‘Coach, we’re winning right now. I’m here to do anything to help the team win. Put Ray in and don’t worry about me.’ That’s the kind of hockey player you want. That tells you about Ryan Erwin. You don’t get two better kids than those two goalies. I’m proud to coach both of them.”
The qualities that Dowd respects in high school student athletes are visible in the players on the Walpole Boys hockey team. Dowd says the most important trait is being coachable and that along with their 3-0-1 start makes him optimistic about this season.
“We want to be successful and be good students, be good role models, be good everything. And I think these kids are,” said Dowd. “For my goals, I want to make the postseason. I want to compete and I want to hopefully make this program — year in and year out — competing for the tournament and be tough to play against.”
One thing the team wants to work on is discipline on the ice, which was an issue during a game against 2-1-1 Wellesley. Both teams played stellar defense and the game ended in a 0-0 tie. The Rebels had eight penalties within the game, which didn’t help their offense.
“The one thing we’re fighting is getting penalties,” said Dowd. “When you get eight penalties in a game it’s tough to win a hockey game. It was expected it was going to be a close game and low scoring, but penalties were disappointing.”
The senior captains hope to improve themselves and have the team follow their lead.
“I think it’s a lot of lead by example,” said Carde. “You can go out there and you can be a hothead or whatever, but that’s not going to get you anywhere.”
The Rebels appeared in the sectional quarterfinals in 2009 under coach Bill Meehan. They lost to Braintree 2-1 in overtime with a final record of 15-6-3.
Dowd was an assistant coach at Ashland High for the past two seasons. Despite it being 12 years since he held the head coach position, he says his tactics haven’t changed much.
“As times change you’ve got to change,” said Dowd. “I changed a little bit. I’m a little bit calmer if that’s possible. It’s a different athlete. When I coached Weymouth there was no e-mail, no stuff like that. Now it’s the way of the world. I’ve had to adapt a little bit.”
Coryn Doncaster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org