Coming off of a three-win season, the Weston boys hockey team retooled under new head coach Mike Shortsleeve and assistant coach Alex Marlow with new hope and ambition for the 2017-18 season.
With three games left in the campaign, the Wildcats stand at four wins. Although the wins haven’t come quite as quickly as the team had hoped, Shortsleeve has seen some progress from his young crew.
“They’ve played well,” Shortsleeve said. “There still are some growing pains, but they’ve definitely progressed since the beginning of the season. Their conditioning is better and we’re working on their shooting a lot as well.
“I’m definitely seeing some growth there.”
A highlight to the season has been sophomore goalkeeper Zack Korbin.
“He keeps us in every game and he keeps every game competitive and that’s all we can ask of him,” Shortsleeve said.
The coach noted that Korbin faces an average of 35 shots in each game, but still has saved more than 90 percent of the shots.
“That says a lot about what he means to our team,” said Shortsleeve.
Weston is led by sophomore Cooper Griffin on the offensive end as he is the leading scorer on the Wildcats.
“Cooper has had a very strong offensive season,” Shortsleeve said. “I’ll be looking for him to continue to develop and grow as he progresses through his high school career.”
Weston’s captains -- seniors Thomas Burke, Preston Grundy and Mike Sacco -- have carried the load in several facets of the game.
“They are just workhorses,” Shortsleeve said. “I use them on special teams, on the penalty kill, and on the power play and they’re also on our first line, so I ask a lot of those guys and they’re definitely making me proud right now.”
The Wildcats have wins over Bedford, Attleboro, Watertown and Nantucket, but the victory over Nantucket was the best game in Shortsleeve’s mind.
Nantucket was 19-1 last year, but despite losing several players to graduation, taking an 8-0 win was big for Weston.
“Our team showed a lot of grit,” Shortsleeve said.
With five games remaining on the schedule, Weston still had a slim chance of making the playoffs by winning each of the final five games to reach 20 points.
They missed the mark by losing to Newton South on Thursday, but Shortsleeve’s long-range goal is still in play.
“I came into this job with a goal of redefining Weston hockey and what it means to play Weston,” Shortsleeve said. “It might be a process that takes a couple years.”
Currently, the team has no middle schoolers on it, but the middle school team has 16 sixth-graders on the roster, so in a few years, Shortsleeve hopes they can use the waiver process and get some of them to play at the high school level.
Youth is definitely the name of the game as Weston only has one junior this season, so current sophomores and younger will be the face of Wildcats hockey in short time.
“I’m hoping there is going to be a smooth transition between the sophomores and the middle schoolers,” Shortsleeve said. “The goal is to always grow the program.”
Weston has games against Attleboro, Martha’s Vineyard and one final opponent to be determined in the Fairleigh Dickinson Tournament.
“We have a lot to play for regardless, and a lot to look forward to in the future of Weston hockey,” the coach said.