By Matt Williams
Building excellence in a sports program isn’t easy. Sustaining it over decades? That’s something reserved only for the true giants of the coaching profession.
Two of them in Massachusetts reached career milestones over the last few weeks. Arlington Catholic head coach Dan Shine recorded career win No. 500, while Catholic Memorial coach Bill Hanson grabbed the 600th win of his distinguished career as well.
For Shine, the milestone victory came in a 5-2 decision over Archbishop Williams last Wednesday. More importantly, it gave the Cougars two big points in the Catholic Central League standings. The Archies avenged that win by upsetting AC earlier this week, putting AC three points behind St. Mary’s in the league standings and one back of Austin Prep.
At 10-3-1 overall, the Cougars are in strong position to snare one of the state’s Super 8 bids if they finish strong. Wins over a St. John’s Prep team fighting for its tournament life and another contender Duxbury in the coming weeks would help the Cougars secure at least one of the four play-in berths.
AC has been one of the top defensive teams in the state, riding senior goalie John Richard’s 1.69 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. The scoring has been balanced, as Ryan Tierney, Ryan Spagnoli and Andy Somerville are all tied for the team lead with seven goals each.
Shine is in the midst of his 36th season behind the bench at Arlington Catholic. In 1997, he led the Cougars to the Super 8 championship, in the process becoming the first coach outside the Catholic Conference to lead his team to the Bay State’s most prestigious hockey crown. In 23 years of Super 8 history, only three schools outside the league have won the tournament. Shine also led AC to a Division 1 state title in 2010.
Hanson, meanwhile, grabbed win No. 600 in a 2-1 win over the Prep on Jan. 11. One of the most decorated hockey coaches in New England, Hanson has led CM to 17 state championships, 13 of those the Super 8 variety. He’s one of only three coaches all-time in Massachusetts to hit 600 wins, and did so a few weeks before leading his team against Delbarton, New Jersey, at Yankee Stadium. While the Knights lost, 3-0, it was surely an experience they’ll never forget.
At 9-3-2, CM has likely clinched a spot in the Super 8. They’re 3-1-1 in league play and have a chance to move up in the standings since they play Malden Catholic and BC High back-to-back on Feb. 12 and Feb. 14 next week. The Knights are also allowing fewer than two goals per game on the strength of sophomore goalie Brandon Collett (.924 save percentage).