Spillane Returns to Coach FHS Ice Hockey Team
Chris Spillane guided the Panthers to a state championship in 2016 when Franklin defeated St. Mary’s of Lynn.
By KEN HAMWEY,
Staff Sports Writer
Chris Spillane’s return as Franklin High’s ice hockey coach was announced last August, and the news no doubt got veteran Panther fans thinking about what his teams achieved during his two decades at the helm.
The 56-year-old Spillane coached the Panthers for 20 years, starting in the 1999-2000 season. His tenure was dynamic — guiding the program to a state championship in 2016 by defeating St. Mary’s of Lynn. There were four more Boston Garden appearances that ended with second-place tourney finishes and one Super 8 berth. His 20-year regular-season record was an amazing 332-115-45, a winning percentage of 74.
A 30-year veteran of the Franklin Police Department, Spillane retired as a sergeant last July. And, now that his children no longer are competing in sports, he decided to coach again.
“I thought I was done, but I’m excited to be back,’’ said Spillane who was a captain and a two-time Hockomock League all-star when he played for Franklin. “I still feel like I did during my first-year coaching. I’m ready to help our kids to become good players, and I’ll challenge them to be the best student-athletes they can be.’’
When Spillane played center for the Panthers, he was challenged by legendary coach Bob Luccini. “We lost in the state tourney final to Falmouth when I was a sophomore, but we captured the crown a year later by beating them when I was a junior,’’ Spillane recalled. “I was a play-making center.’’
Competing at 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, Spillane had 8 goals and 15 assists as a sophomore. As a junior, his numbers jumped to 27 goals and 15 assists, and he concluded his senior campaign with 30 goals and 49 assists. At UMass-Boston, he finished with 130 career points in a three-year career that ended with an all-star berth as a senior.
During his 20 years at Franklin’s helm, Spillane never felt his team was in rebuild-mode. “We were all about reloading,’’ he said.
Replacing Anthony Sarno, who’s moved on to coach Brookline High, Spillane inherits a team that finished 13-8-1 overall last year. The squad qualified for the tourney but lost to Hingham in the second round.
“Our team strengths are experience, depth, athleticism, and skating ability,’’ Spillane said. “We’ve got 12 returnees with varying degrees of experience, and we’ve got three top-notch lines. I’d label us as a fast-pace, competitive team.’’
With that said, Spillane’s goals for his 21st year are “to improve daily, compete for the Kelley-Rex Division title, and go on a lengthy tournament run.’’
His team, no doubt, has embraced those objectives, especially his captains — seniors Ben Jaroz (right wing) and Ryan Sicchio (center) and junior Logan Marchand (defenseman). Jaroz and Sicchio are two-time captains.
“The captains are good, strong leaders,’’ Spillane said. “Ben has a high hockey IQ and has a physical presence on offense. He had 9 goals and 8 assists last year. Ryan is a playmaker but can also finish plays on offense. He can skate, sees the ice well and relies on good instincts. He had 6 goals and 15 assists last year.’’
Spillane likes Marchand’s defensive versatility. “Logan is a very good, two-way player who’s strong on the blue line and a presence on offense. He’s solid in transition, is physical, and can move the puck well.’’
Four junior forwards who’ll be key components are Anthony Lampasona (left wing), Ben Paterson (center), Dylan McEvoy (left wing), and Dan Daley (right wing).
“Anthony can play well in any zone, especially on defense,’’ Spillane said. “He’s the complete package — he can battle in the corners, likes physical contact, is a strong skater and favors an up-tempo style. Ben was our fourth-leading scorer with 8 goals and 14 assists last year. A finesse player, he sees the ice well, distributes the puck to the wings effectively, and has a good wrist shot.’’
McEvoy and Daley have similar attributes and Spillane admires their approach. “Dylan and Dan have great potential and lots of passion for hockey,’’ he noted. “They’re well-skilled and will be contributors in key situations.’’
At Local Town Pages’ deadline, Spillane was still assessing his team’s goaltending. Three candidates are in the mix to start. They include junior Colby Wagner and sophomores Jack O’Connor and Joe Torraco. “They’re competitive nature is strong and they’ve all got ability,’’ he offered.
Spillane’s assistant coaches are David Marchand and Jake Brightbill (varsity assistants) and jayvee head coach Mike Green, whose assistant is Ryan Spillane (coach’s son).
Relying on an athletic philosophy that focuses on three aspects — winning, making sure his players reach their potential and enjoy their athletic experience — Spillane says: “We always play to win but reaching one’s potential and having fun are necessary ingredients that lead to victory. And, valuable life lessons can be learned by competing in sports. I hope my players learn that teamwork is essential, how to lead, how to overcome adversity, rise to any challenges that occur, and how to make their teammates better.’’
The state title victory over St. Mary’s in 2016 was a big thrill for Spillane as he neared the end of his first stint as Franklin’s coach. But, it’s not No. 1.
“The top thrill I had in my first 20 years coaching was the opportunity to have a day-to-day interaction with the players,’’ he offered. “I got to see them grow, not only as improved hockey players, but I also got to see them grow into young responsible adults.’’
Spillane’s return to coaching was delayed when Franklin’s opener against Newburyport was postponed because that team was dealing with illnesses. The Panthers then faced non-league foe Gloucester after Local Town Pages deadline.
When the Panthers get rolling, there’s one sure thing — if their results are anything like what Chris Spillane achieved in his first 20 years on the job, then Franklin’s opponents will be dealing with a plethora of challenges.