December 12, 2023 – Story and photos by Joshua Ross
It’s a new team and new season for Tony Messina’s Harbormen, but it’s the same goal as always – be one of the best teams in the state when the final puck drops in March.
Unlike almost every other Hingham High School team this year, both boys and girls hockey teams decided not to move down to Division II and stay in Division I.
“We try and play the most difficult schedule we can,” says Messina. “It’s where the program needs to be. We have the talent to compete and it’s where we really want to be. There was no question about it.”
He will get what he wants to open the season, which begins tonight in Andover for the first of three away games right out of the gate. Games at St. John’s Prep and Catholic Memorial will round out the Harbormen’s challenge of three away games in eight days.
“It’s going to take a lot to win all three games,” senior captain Travis Rugg tells the Anchor. “We are going to have to work harder than all three teams. They are all talented starting with Andover. The scrimmages this weekend helped us come together both on individual lines and as a team. We have a long week ahead of us but we always manage to start off well and I think we will again this year.”
The boys spent the weekend up north for their annual preseason games in Londonderry, NH and Burlington, VT. They managed to squeeze in some team bonding activities, including catching a hockey game at UVM, where Coach Messina played after graduating HHS.
“The weekend went well,” describes Messina. “I thought we could have scored a lot more goals. We outplayed both teams, but we got to get to that point where we are making better plays and capitalizing on opportunites. But overall, it was a grea trip – team building, team camaraderie, all of that stuff was excellent. Hopefully we will get better.”
Senior captain Paul Dzavik agrees that the activites off the ice this weekend were just as important as the action on the ice.
“I thought it went very well,” Dzavik says. “Our team was able to mold and mesh pretty well. A lot of new friendships and we all got a lot closer. From a hockey standpoint, the new guys learned what Hingham hockey’s identity and I’m confident they will play with and reflect that identity in these first three games.”
This time of year is always exciting and suprising for both players and coaches. Even when you count your tenure by decades instead of years.
“The beginning of the season is great, you never know what you are going to have,” explains Messina. “You’ve got so many kids who want to contribute, who have been waiting for their chance and this is their time. Hopefully they step up and go, but you just never know until you start. The only thing that has been somewhat surprising is how balanced we are. Usually we can say we have three or four guys who can score at will. I don’t know if we are there yet. We were playing six lines in the scrimmages and we were able to go up and down with anyone, so we will see how that transpires.”
Defensively, the Harbormen will have two capable sophomores between the pipes. Michael Karo, who had some varsity experience last year, and James Whitmore, making his varsity debut, looked good in action during the preseason. The defense, which only returns three players from last year, initially had senior defenseman captain Jack Rakauskas a bit worried, but the new playes seem to be stepping up nicely.
“With only bringing three D back was kind of scary,” says Rakauskas. “But I feel like the new kids have really stepped up giving us and the coaches confidence they can play three lines of defense against the toughest opponents.”