It’s all unspoken now.
John Rossini walks into the hockey rink to watch his daughter, Adrieana , a sophomore center at Arlington Catholic. He finds an isolated spot in the bleachers, a quiet place where he can focus. He sits down and doesn’t say much.
When the Cougars come out of the locker room for warm-ups, he stands up and waits for Adrieana’s eyes to pick him up. It happens fairly quickly, and he sits back down.
Adrieana needs to know where her dad is at all times. He’s at every game. Without him, she feels lost.
The habit is an old one between these two. John Rossini says it’s unnecessary now. He swears his little girl would be fine on her own. But with the 5-foot-6 Adrieana leading the Arlington Catholic girls to a second straight appearance in the Division 1 state championship game, to be played against St. Mary’s of Lynn Sunday at the TD Garden in Boston, there’s little reason to change a system that’s worked so impeccably well.
“I need to look at him; if I don’t know where he is, I get frustrated,” said the 15-year-old forward, who has contributed a heavy portion of the Cougars’ goals this season, though an exact count is unknown. Coach Maggie Taverna doesn’t keep stats.
This father-daughter story is unlike most others. John was careful to avoid being one of those dads who force-fed his favorite sport to his little girl, hoping she would not only eat it, but live and breathe it.
Noelle , who graduated from AC last year, is the older of the two Rossini girls. She was a dancer, and a good one. “As great as Adrieana is at hockey,” John said, “Noelle was that great at dancing.”
Adrieana had little interest in that. So when the father of a kindergarten friend asked her if she wanted to join a boys’ hockey team in Wilmington, she nodded her head up and down.
“Something to do,” she figured.
“Since then,” John said, “it’s been seven days a week.”
For Dad, too.
He started taking her with him to Mike’s Gym in Medford when she was 12 years old.
“My dad said if I wanted to be the best I have to train like the best,” Adrieana said. “You have to want to go to the gym and want to have that drive.”
Adrieana can’t talk about hockey without talking about her dad. He gives her advice before every game. He gives her a grade after every game. She says she needs it. She thrives off it. But he shrugs it off.
“The drive she has, the determination she has — you’re born with that,” said the soft-spoken father. “She’s a determined young lady. She wants to win. She’ll make whatever hockey play she has to do.”
“My dad really made me love hockey,” Adrieana said. “He used to say I was good and I could become anything I wanted, that I could get to the point where I could be as good as possible.”
Not a very fast skater at first, Adrieana spent most of her time at the gym doing cardiovascular exercises. Four days a week in the offseason, and two to three days a week during the season, she typically bikes about 6 to 8 miles.
Taverna says Rossini’s speed is her most dangerous asset.
“I don’t think my dad ever thought I’d have any real speed,” Rossini said. “I do the bike, keep my legs moving. That’s how I got fast.”
In last year’s Division 1 semifinals against Braintree, Rossini was still flying up and down the ice late in the third period and well into overtime. She remembers four rushes in OT that presented her with a chance to score. She tried a different move each time.
With help from Dad in the stands, signaling motions that hint at different pieces of advice, Rossini got a fifth chance on a rush, made a backhanded move and potted the game-winner.
“My dad,” she said, “tells me whenever I make my move sometimes I make it too early.”
John insists he has nothing to do with her success.
“It’s no coincidence in the third period and overtime that she’s not tired,” John said. “She’s in tremendous condition. She’s got a second, third wind. And it shows.”
“She’s not naive,” said Taverna, who had a stellar career at Boston College before taking the job at Arlington Catholic three years ago. “She’s aware of her talent. She knows that if she’s not successful the first time and continues to work, eventually she will be successful. Failure doesn’t deter her.”
In Sunday’s Division 1 state semifinals, the Cougars jumped out to a 2-0 lead over Westford Academy in the first period but gave up a pair of goals in the third.
With overtime coming, Rossini looked up to the stands to find her dad. He had no advice.
He says she no longer needs any, that she’s the best she can be right now.
John looked back at her, pumped his fist and said, “Just take care of it.”
“And she did,” he said.
Rossini netted the game-winner after out-skating the defense off a face-off play.
Then she looked right up to the stands.
Some other local underclassmen who shined this winter:
■ Megan Barrett/Leah Cardarelli , Acton-Boxborough: Barrett, a freshman, and Cardarelli, a sophomore, received raved reviews from coach Brian Fontas during a season in which they combined for 49 assists and 29 of the team’s 91 goals.
■ Keely Corscadden/Cecily Docktor , Wellesley: The Raiders will be without senior Molly Connolly (39 goals, 18 assists) next season, but return her sophomore linemates, who combined for 30 goals and 47 assists in a 17-2-3 season.
■ Eric Holden/Jacob Sacher , Lincoln-Sudbury: Senior Jordan Dow wasn’t the only one responsible for the reincarnation of L-S ice hockey. Holden posted 19 assists in his freshman year while Sacher, a sophomore, had 20 helpers to go with 19 goals.
■ Dan Quinlivan/Jack Quinlivan , Shrewsbury: The sophomore linemates were each dangerous in their own way, with Dan scoring 24 goals and twin brother Jack dishing out 29 assists for the 16-5-1 Colonials.Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.