Jake Batista may have a future as a hockey coach — or a motivational speaker.
“Those other guys were shocked you didn’t stop battling, that you tied it up,” Batista, a senior captain, said to his Salem High hockey teammates in the locker room after their come-from-behind 2-2 tie with Revere last Saturday night at the Rockett Arena. “You didn’t give up, not a single one of you. Give yourselves a hand.”
The Witches, as a unit, broke into loud applause and cheers.
Four games into the season and there’s already some distinct differences about this Salem team. The most important one is that they believe they can play with anyone, and will be rewarded for that never-say-quit attitude.
“Instead of ‘How bad are we going to lose?’, this year it’s ‘How are we going to find a way to win?’ said the 18-year-old Batista, a stalwart defenseman. “Everyone is feeling it. It’s been terrific.”
Salem, a co-operative hockey program between the Salem and Hamilton-Wenham school districts, won just one game a year ago. They went into this week’s Christmas break with a very respectable 1-1-2 record, having battled back to secure ties in each of their last two games.
This past Saturday the Witches scored twice with under four minutes remaining to earn a 2-2 tie with Revere; Batista called it the team’s best result to date.
A huge part of Salem’s turnaround has been Ted Hanley, the team’s new head coach. Having spent 20 years in the Marines, Hanley knows how to get results and get his men to achieve them ... or in this case, his high school skaters.
“Coach always brings a positive attitude, no matter what’s going on, and he’s taken very seriously,” said junior goaltender and co-captain Brett Harring, now in his third season as a starter. “What he’s taught us and the things he’s constantly telling us, they’re forcing us to become better as a team.”