On March 10, the Walpole Express skated off the ice, officially closing their 2016-17 season. For no less than 18 players, however, that moment marked their transition from junior to college hockey players.
By Joshua Boyd
To the Express, playoff wins would be nice, but the mission remains college hockey development.
“We should end up with between 18-20 college commitments from this team,” said Cos Polino, Premier assistant and 19U Elite head coach. “It’s all about who’s moving on and developing as hockey players.”
Dylan Carabia, the Eastern Hockey League Premier Defenseman of the Year, is one such player. He committed to Salve Regina University, of Newport, R.I. Carabia was a three-year Express player, two for the Premier team and one for the former Metropolitan Junior League team.
“Salve Regina was on Dylan all year to commit there, and he made the call. It’s a great fit for him,” said Polino. “We know [Salve Regina coach] Andy Boschetto pretty well. Dylan can slide right in there and play a role.”
Boschetto took Salve Regina from a two-win team in his first year to the NCAA tournament five years later.
Michael Wise and John Fine-Lease committed to Assumption College.
“Mike spent a couple years with the Express, playing with the Elite team last season. He’s a kid I’ve closely worked with for two years, so it’s something rewarding for me,” added Polino. “John came over from the Northern Cyclones Elite team. He came to us and worked really hard, defensively. He was a stellar penalty killer.”
As for the series against Cyclones, Polino said the Express played very well.
“There’s not much we could have done differently,” said Polino. “I’m disappointed the way it ended, but I thought we had a pretty outstanding group this year, as far as hockey players and people.
“We changed a couple things as far as systems go, just to generate more offense. The way we changed it went very well, with easier ways to get out of the zone,” Polino added. “The guys performed up to what we wanted them to.”
The Express were “just a couple bounces here and there” out of that series. He praised the 2016-17 Express Premier team for being a close, cohesive group on and off the ice.
“It was different, this year was more close than cliquey,” Polino added. “You want to see a group that is close like that and works so hard.”
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