Paul Guiney remembers warming up prior to Catholic Memorial’s showdown against host Framingham in the championship game of the CCM Holiday Classic at Loring Arena in late December 2016.
The rest of the night is a blur.
“I woke up in the hospital and my dad told me I was in an accident,” recalled Guiney. “That’s really all I remember from that day.”
In the opening period of the Knights’ 4-0 win, Guiney, then a freshman, was hit from behind and slammed into the boards in front of the Framingham bench. During a 14-minute stoppage, he was placed on a spinal board and taken off on a stretcher, receiving assistance from medical and emergency staff and the Framingham fire and police department.
“It was one of the scariest things I’ve seen,” CM coach Larry Rooney said. “It was very emotional and you’re always thinking the worst. It was a scary thing to witness.”
Guiney was rushed to Boston Children’s Hospital, where he would stay for a week. Doctors diagnosed him with a severe concussion. Upon his release, Guiney was unsure if he’d ever be able to play hockey again.
“I always thought I would be able to get back but there were a lot of doubts,” Guiney said. “It was such a hard injury and tough to go through. A lot of times it was hard.”
The day following Guiney’s release from the hospital, Catholic Memorial played BC High at Fenway Park. Guiney, the only freshman on the roster during the 2016-17 season, walked into the locker room and received a standing ovation from the Knights. He noticed teammates had written his number on their sticks.
“The seniors that year really guided me to come back,” Guiney said. “It really meant they cared and that I wasn’t alone in this. My teammates supported me through all the challenges.”
Support from family, friends, and teammates helped the Natick teen during the long and grueling rehab process. He went to Edge Performance Systems in Foxborough and worked with trainer Matt Healy at Dynamic Athletic Performance in Ashland.
Guiney focused on regaining his physical and mental strength, using motivational quotes such as, “no setback can overcome the comeback,” and a Toby Keith song about coming back from hell.
“That gave me the inspiration I can do it,” Guiney said.
After returning to school a month after the injury, he began to acclimate to classes and homework. But in order to play hockey again, Guiney knew he needed to work hard in the weight room to regain his physical strength. With help from Healy, he worked his way back.
Nearly a year after the hit, Guiney returned to the ice for his sophomore campaign with the Knights.
“He’s the hardest-working player on our team in the weight room and in practice,” Rooney said. “Paul wants to get better. He’s the first guy on the ice and the last guy off the ice. He wants us to work with him on his skating and shooting. We’ve seen a great deal of self confidence bouncing back from the injury.”
But Guiney’s comeback was cut short when he injured his shoulder three games into his sophomore season and missed four months. Guiney went through more physical therapy and recovered in time to make the varsity baseball team last spring.
In his junior season, Guiney has been injury free. The 6-foot-1-inch defensemen has carved out a role as an important depth piece and locker room presence for the Knights (12-7).
“Paul coming back showed how strong he is and how much determination he has,” said CM senior Chris Rooney , the coach’s son. “He showed what a CM Knight is. Since he can come back from that, we can come back from anything. It’s motivation.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Guiney skated around the Warrior Arena ice with his Knight teammates in a 4-0 win over La Salle Academy (R.I.).
He recalled how after the injury, all he wanted to do was be in the locker room and skate with his friends. Now, he is not taking that opportunity for granted.
“It’s the greatest feeling coming out here and playing and having fun,” Guiney said. “It’s second to none. To be able to say I came back, it gives me confidence in life.”
In his third season as coach, Larry Rooney said he has learned a lot from Guiney’s comeback.
“It puts things in perspective on why we play this game,” Rooney said. “These kind of accidents can happen at any split time. I’ve learned to appreciate the game that much more and the guys that we have in front of us.”
“Paul’s got great resiliency and fortitude and the guys in the locker room really look up to him. I’m just really grateful to be able to coach kids like Paul Guiney.”
Guiney hopes his story can help other athletes who sustain serious injuries.
“I would say to them, ‘keep your head up’,” Guiney said. “As long as you put in the work and trust yourself and your family and friends around you, you can do it. Anything is possible. Never give up with anything.”
■ Marshfield’s 6-0 blanking of Weymouth in the Ed Burns Classic consolation game on Monday helped coach Dan Connolly reach a special milestone. Now in his 20th year behind the bench in Marshfield, Connolly picked up career win No. 300 in the neutral-site game at The Bog in Kingston.
“I really didn’t know where I stood, in all honesty,” Connolly said, noting former Marshfield assistant Frank Smith, now with Scituate, told him after the Rams’ 4-0 win over Xaverian on Feb. 13.
Not that Connolly said he cared about the achievement from a personal standpoint.
“It’s not about personal goals for myself, it’s all about the kids and getting them focused on the next game, every game and every night,” he said. “It’s nice to win 300 as a program, but we’ve had great assistant coaches and great players come through. Without those two things, you’re not going to win a lot of games.”
Connolly is one of 13 active coaches with at least 300 wins in Massachusetts; Arlington Catholic’s Dan Shine is the active leader with more than 500.
■ Arlington won the Ed Burns Classic championship against Andover, 9-3, at Ed Burns Arena in Arlington on Monday. Burns, who passed away in 2014 at 93, coached both football and hockey at Arlington High, winning 695 games with the hockey team alone. The six-goal margin of victory was the largest of the season for the fourth-ranked Spy Ponders (14-3-3), while the nine goals scored were also a season high.
■ In other vacation week tournament action, No. 16 Hanover (17-2-2) won the Gould Cup at Hobomock Arena in Pembroke, defeating Scituate, 4-1, in the championship game on Wednesday. Senior Lucas Lanagan was named MVP for the Indians, who were appearing in the Gould Cup for the first time . . . At Gallo Arena in Bourne, Sandwich captured the Jeff Hayes Memorial Tournament championship with a shootout win over Lowell Catholic (the game counts as a 3-3 tie in the standings). Senior Zach Brooks took home MVP honors for the Blue Knights (9-8-3), who clinched a postseason berth in their opening round win over Nantucket on Monday . . . Foxborough (11-6-3) claimed the Dan Jordan Invitational with a 3-0 win over Blue Hills on Wednesday at the Canton Ice House.
■ There will be new state champions in Divisions 1, 2 and 3 for boys’ hockey in the Bay State. Waltham (8-10-3) and Plymouth South (3-14-2) failed to qualify for their sectional tournaments in Divisions 1 and 2, respectively, while Shrewsbury realigned from Division 3 Central to Division 1 North as an independent this season. The Colonials (4-11-4) have also been eliminated from postseason contention.
■ For the third straight season, Archbishop Williams entered the Buddy Ferreira Classic in Falmouth needing at least two points to qualify for the state tournament. Unlike previous seasons, the Bishops got the job done, picking up a 3-1 win over Arlington Catholic in a consolation game on Monday, improving their record to 9-8-2 to punch their ticket. “It was huge for the kids, that’s all that really matters to me,” Archies coach Derackk Curtis said. “They deserve it. We had a pretty good record at the beginning and then ran into a little bit of a challenge. It’s just really good to get into the tournament.
“The bottom line is you don’t want to go down to the Buddy Ferreira Classic looking for any points, let alone five,” Curtis added, a reference to last year’s team. “Two is more than enough. You have to play the full season, you can never take a night off. You definitely want to take care of business before heading down there.”