Franklin coach keeps hockey squad on straight and narrow
Adam Hall was in a hurry to get home last week, and in the midst of the holiday season, it was understandable.
But just a few minutes away from his house, Hall rolled through a stop sign a little too quickly.
The siren went off, the blue lights began flashing, and an officer from the Franklin Police Department approached Hall, a senior captain on the Panther hockey team.
“We just ended up talking about a hockey game for 10 minutes,’’ Hall recalled.
Such is life on the Franklin High squad, under the direction of 13-year coach Chris Spillane, whose full-time position is as a sergeant with the town’s Police Department.
Regardless of whether Hall was issued a citation, his punishment was surely imminent.
If any one of his players gets in even the most minor of trouble, Spillane is one of the first to know. And he takes it seriously.
“I think they understand it and respect it,’’ said Spillane, whose primary responsibility on the force is to watch over the high school with three other officers, making him a very familiar face in the hallways.
“They know what my role is and there’s no crossing it. There’s no gray area. If you step over that line you’re held accountable, and it’s worked well for us so far.’’
During the season, “we know we have to behave,’’ Hall said. “Most of the kids tone it down on the weekends. Because even if you get pulled over, [Spillane] knows about it.’’
To those who have played for Spillane, it is no surprise that Franklin has been a perennial contender in Division 2, advancing to the state final at TD Garden last March before dropping a tough-to-swallow 2-1 loss to Tewksbury.
His rules are simple but highly respected. Younger kids are intimidated but the older ones make sure everyone sticks together.
It’s a rare day that Hall or fellow senior captain Nick Bertoni doesn’t see Spillane, dressed in his police uniform, in the high school hallway.
“During the day, you’re going to be a good kid with coach always around,’’ Hall said. “He definitely gets that respect.’’
It’s not that Spillane has a hard time separating his two roles - his daughter, Kaitlyn, a junior on the girls’ team, said he is much more serious on the ice than he is at school or at home.
When he was named head coach at his alma mater in 1999, he was determined to fix a program that had struggled with disciplinary issues.
After winning a state title at Franklin in 1983 and later skating for the University of Massachusetts Boston, Spillane took over the Panther bench just a few years after he joined the police force.
“I haven’t changed at all,’’ he said. “Coaches coach their personality, and mine hasn’t changed since I started. Year in and year out, my kids know what they’re going to get. There are rules to be followed, there’s accountability, and there are expectations. If you don’t come into season in shape you’re not going to play. The kids know that. No surprises.’’
Spillane has raised his three children the same way.
Kaitlyn, the top player on the girls’ team, is double-shifted on offense and defense, and would not be able to handle her role had it not been for her father’s encouragement during her first years as a hockey player.
“He definitely preached that to me, skating and being in shape,’’ she said. “He’s big on conditioning. He doesn’t like it when people are ‘public skating.’ That’s what he calls it.’’
After separating her shoulder during the field hockey season, Kaitlyn missed just two games before getting back on the field.
“She’s just a competitor,’’ said her father.
It’s the same type of attitude the coach has tried to instill on his team.
And after graduating 15 seniors off last year’s Division 2 South championship squad, losing senior Ross Tanner to a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered during lacrosse season, and watching first-line senior Evan Stawarz suffer a broken wrist in the Panthers’ second game of the season, Spillane needs the best out of his 10 returning players and 17 newcomers.
“Franklin has never had the most talented teams, it’s always our work ethic,’’ said Bertoni, a former water boy and now a first-line winger who had nine goals through Monday. “We just play a blue-collar, hard-working type of hockey.
“We were talking about it the other day,’’ he said. “Every year we put something together. We lost a bunch of seniors this year and we figured we weren’t going to be as strong, but somehow, some way we put ourselves together. It always seems to work out.’’
At 6-0 heading into last night’s matchup against Attleboro, the Panthers have made their coach proud.
He took a week off from the police force after the Christmas holiday, and rather than relax at home, he scheduled 24 hockey games between the Franklin varsity and a variety of younger squads that he coaches. “That was my vacation,’’ he said, jokingly.
And when he is not on the ice, Spillane can usually be found at Franklin High School, patrolling the hallways, keeping the school safe and making sure he is there for his players whenever they need him.
“I check and make sure they’re doing homework and that they’re in their classes,’’ he said. “So it’s constant. I’m in their life for three months, and they know it.’’
Bertoni said that sometimes “I’ll wave, sometimes I’ll stop and say hi. But it’s not really a second glance anymore. It’s just natural. He’s our coach everywhere, whether it’s in school or out of school during hockey, and it just works for us.’’
Patriot girls finding new ways to win
After starting the season 0-2 and losing senior Jenny Robinson for two games following a major penalty during a 6-2 loss to Acton Boxborough Regional, the Concord-Carlisle High girls’ squad persevered.
The Patriots rallied around the loss of their star player and won two straight against Billerica and Waltham before Robinson made her return in a 3-1 win over Stoneham.
“We definitely just started coming together as a team, and kids who don’t usually score just found a way to get it done’’ said coach Lauren McAuliffe, who has been particularly impressed with junior Sarah Bagley. “Right now it’s a much more balanced team, so I’m pretty happy with the way we’re playing.’’
Arlington Catholic stops Lexington
After scoring 21 goals through their first three games, the Lexington girls were stumped by Arlington Catholic, 3-1, last Friday.
The surprising Cougars were off to a 6-0 start through Monday, allowing just seven goals.
Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at jasonmastrodonato@ yahoo.com.