All Sean Hallice wanted to do was what he did before every game — leave the locker room, find a nice, quiet spot to tape up his stick, and have a couple of minutes to himself to get in the zone.
That’s what he tried to do at the Hart Center in Worcester one day last month, only to find, much to his surprise, there was not a quiet spot to be had. The biggest crowd the Shrewsbury High boys’ hockey team had seen all season showed up early for the match against cross-town rival St. John’s High. So even during the final minute of the preceding junior-varsity game, the place was packed.
“I looked up into the stands and all of one side was Shrewsbury High students,” said Hallice, a senior defenseman for the Colonials. “My body started shaking. I’ve never had that before.”
And he almost never did.
Hallice is wrapping up his first and only season with Shrewsbury High, making him one of a number of area athletes who, after bouncing around trying to decide which route — high school, prep school, or junior hockey — would be best for them, ended their odysseys by playing for reasons bigger than themselves: their friends, their schools, their towns.
The debate over high school hockey versus junior/club hockey isn’t a short one — the better option usually depends on which side you talk to — but this part of the year brings a different dynamic. It’s tournament time, so the games are close, the stakes are high, and the memories are long lasting.
That’s part of what attracted Framingham High seniors Cory Gorovitz and Cullen Smith back to the Flyers. Both played with the Junior Bruins U-18 squad in the fall, and had intended to stick with them all winter. But weighing their travel schedule, combined with some friendly peer pressure from classmates, they opted for one last hurrah at Framingham.
“It’s a journey, but it’s something you always remember,” Smith said. “I don’t want these guys in 30 years at the high school reunion saying, ‘Why didn’t you come back?’ It’s been awesome.”
Gorovitz and Smith have been crucial to the 13th-seeded Flyers beating No. 4 Marshfield and No. 5 Franklin to earn a bid in the Division 1 South semifinals, in which they played Braintree Wednesday. Gorovitz scored three goals in Framingham’s first two postseason games, which brought the team closer to a championship than it’s been in five years.
For Gorovitz, stringing together a few more wins would mean the fulfillment of a dream he has long shared with senior goalie Al Lynch , one of his teammates he grew up with and one of the reasons he returned to the Flyers. “He’s always been my goalie and I’ve always been his shooter,” Gorovitz said. “The dream’s almost come true.”
High schoolers joining their town’s varsity after playing elsewhere isn’t as uncommon as one might think. In addition to Hallice and the Framingham duo, Arlington High forward Mike Moran played three years at St. Sebastian’s in the Independent School League before joining the Spy Ponders for his senior season.
“Now he’s having the time of his life,” said coach John Messuri , whose team played Billerica in the Division 2 North semifinals Wednesday. “There’s no exchanging the experience of playing for your town team.”
Peter Masters, general manager of the Marlborough-based Junior Bruins, said that while the junior game has similarly exciting end-of-season tournaments, the sense of community isn’t quite the same, since players and fans don’t bond around being from the same town.
If high school hockey “is the path of development you’ve chosen, you should enjoy this time, because it’s going to go fast,” Masters said.
‘I remember last year going to the games — the people that went, the attention they got in school.’
Hallice, the Shrewsbury defenseman, suited up last season for the Middlesex Islanders U-18 team, and looked into playing juniors with a US Premier Hockey League team. But with noon practices not exactly conducive to a student’s academic progress, he decided to double down by combining his Islanders load with a new experience, playing for Shrewsbury.
“I remember last year going to the games — the people that went, the attention they got in school. I was in awe,” he said. “I never had that experience. But I always wanted to have that high school experience.”
Hallice’s decision paid off for Shrewsbury. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound blue-liner collected 22 points as the 17-2-1 Colonials earned the top seed in the Division 3 Central sectional.
“He put us over the top,” said coach Steve Turnblom . “He gives you that strong presence every other shift. . . He’s hard to get around, he’s tough in corners. He limits a lot of shots on net, and he contributes jumping up on offense.”
Hallice learned a lot about the game along the way. In the past, he said, “I was selfish; I was playing for me.”
The last three months taught him there is more to it than that.
“Some of these kids, this is it for them,” said Hallice, who plans to play juniors next year. “They put their heart into it. I’ve never played with harder workers than these kids. It makes me better because I want to win for them.”
Girls’ co-op team reaches quarterfinals
For four years — its first seasons of existence — the Medway/Ashland girls’ co-op team accomplished what every team sets out to do: qualify for the state tournament. And for four years the team failed to move past the first round, racking up a 1-4 record as each season ended with disappointment in the preliminary or first rounds.
This year that changed.
The Mustangs (15-5-2) beat Oliver Ames/Mansfield and Whitman-Hanson/Pembroke last week to get over the hump and into the Division 2 quarterfinals. They will play Sandwich at Gallo Ice Arena in Bourne at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s a great feeling,” said coach Kurt Carter . “It’s funny because we talked with this team about legacies and creating a program. It sounds cliché, but we’ve always played the Acton-Boxboroughs, the Hinghams of the world because that’s who we want to be. . . We want to further the program.”
Junior Kathryn Hamer , in her fifth year as the starter after earning a spot in the seventh- grade, has seen the program grow. This season she had some young, talented support up front. Sixteen of the team’s 21 skaters are freshmen or sophomores, led by freshman Melissa Alexander (20 goals, nine assists) and sophomore Kerryann Goode (13 goals, 13 assists).
The Mustangs will be tasked Saturday with confining Blue Knight seniors Claire Gauthier and Maggie Layo , both 50-plus-point players. Sandwich is seeded 17th, but topped No. 1 Methuen/Tewksbury, 7-5, in the first round.
“All I know is their forwards: Oh my gosh, they’re good,” said Carter, who saw them in the Southeastern Massachusetts Girls’ Hockey League’s all-star game. “They were the real deal.”Tim Healey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.