By Phil Stacey
---- — Ted Hanley hasn’t even coached his first official game for the Salem High hockey team, but he already knows he’s got something special with this group.
“I love this team. These kids are great,” said the Witches’ rookie head coach. “They’ve been busting their butts and are dying to play in some real games.”
There is plenty of newness surrounding this squad. Not only is the 50-year-old Hanley, a special education teacher at Witchcraft Heights Elementary School in Salem, a new face, but the Witches also have new practice gear, new game jerseys, new players (22 are on the team, more than in recent seasons) and, most importantly, an urge to use this time as a new beginning.
“The first thing I wanted to do is to get the team in a positive frame of mind, to get them into thinking ‘team’ and positive thoughts,” said Hanley, who played hockey at Matignon High School in Cambridge during its heyday as a state powerhouse. “And boy, do I have the right group of kids. They’re very young (only three seniors) but very impressionable, too, and they’re buying into the program and the system. I couldn’t be happier.”
Salem, which is made up of 10 players from the host school and a dozen others from its co-operative agreement with Hamilton-Wenham, didn’t even touch pucks until its seventh practice, as Hanley has been emphasizing conditioning and skating.
“We want to be the best-conditioned, hustling team in this league,” the coach said. “What we lack in talent we want to make up for in effort.”
Junior captain Brett Harring, who faced (and stopped) far more shots than any other area goaltender last year, is back between the pipes for a third season. He’ll again be backed up by Grant Thompson, who Hanley said has looked very good in his own right.
The team’s other captain, Jake Batista, will lead a deep defensive corps that includes talented freshman Ishmael Telemarco, senior Anthony Maurais, junior Adam Ngo, sophomore Matt Robinson and freshman Owen Renault.
Up front, senior Spencer Bergholtz and juniors Jake Stahlman and center Danny Heck figure to make up the Witches’ top line. Expect to see plenty of ice time from fellow forwards Killian Fitzpatrick, Matt Jalbert (who could wind up as the team’s third captain, by a vote from his peers) and Ben Kapnis, all of whom are juniors; sophomores Sam Bresnahan and Sam Petri; and freshman Matt Andre.
With the Witches playing three road games to begin the season (at O’Bryant, Lowell and Somerville) before returning home to Salem for its season opener against Revere on Dec. 22, Hanley is hoping they can get off to a solid start so that the players can see the fruits of their labor.
“They’re typical kids in that they’re looking for direction and some type of foundation,” he said. “Not one of them is sulking or looking at me like, ‘This is no good, Coach.’ I think they’ve been looking for this positivity and direction. It’s been a real bright spot.”