Even after the contest, when he was clearly tired from an emotional day, Gilligan eagerly diagnosed some of the night’s nuances with the Shairs brothers outside the hosts’ locker room.
“We just have to get the puck down deep in that situation.”
“Those guys on that line can really be effective.”
“If we can keep cycling the puck like that ... “
“He’s working so hard for us, so we have to work just as hard for him,” said senior captain Andrew Irving, who finished with two goals and a pair of assists.
“He’s so unbelievably inspirational,” added cousin Connor Irving, who had two assists of his own. “Coach is the strongest man I know. We could tell this whole week he had a jump in his step, that he was ready to go.”
Gilligan’s team certainly seemed aware that this was a special evening, and not just because it was the opener. Jumping on their Bay State foes early, they got two goals from the third line in the first period as Teddy Leathersich and Jesse McLaughlin both tallied; got another from second line center Graham Doherty late in the third as they built up a 32-4 shot advantage; then finished the job over the final 15 minutes with three more goals without ever letting up.
“Our guys executed exactly as we hoped they would and took away the stuff (Weymouth) did well,” said Justin Shairs, the team’s de facto head coach while Gilligan was out earlier this season.
“You know, a lot of our guys have been here since Day 1 when this happened with Bob. They know what he’s been through recently: the high level chemo and treatments, the stem cell transplant right before Thanksgiving. For him to come back much earlier than any of us thought, you could tell an immediate difference in the kids at practice.