December 18, 2013

Prep Journal: Thayer's come a long way under Amonte

By Arielle Aronson

Linc Griffin has been a major difference-maker for Thayer. (Photo: Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

When former NHLer Tony Amonte (Hingham, Mass.) took over the Thayer Academy hockey program in 2010, the team was floundering following a three-win seasonThree years later, Thayer is proving how quickly things can change in prep school hockey as it already matched its 2009-10 win total with its 3-0 start to the 2013-14 season.

The Tigers throttled their opponents this year by outscoring the competition by a 25-6 margin through those first three games. Thayer will see some tougher competition when it plays in the St. Sebastian’s tournament over the weekend, but its hot start this season and 15-9-1 finish last season prove the program has made quite a turnaround.

Amonte credited the change in the team to depth, better recruiting, and the impact of one very talented player.

“The one kid that probably turned the whole thing for us is Lincoln Griffin,” Amonte said. “Him deciding to come was kind of a turning point for us. He comes and we get things going in the right direction.

“He’s just one of those players. You don’t have to tell him much as a coach. He just goes out there and does it on his own. When you get a player like that that leads by example and not being so boisterous in the locker room, it makes for a good atmosphere and everybody else is hungry around him.”

Griffin, a junior, committed last February to play college hockey at Northeastern University, where his father played baseball. He has nine points (five goals, four assists) through his first three games this season and plays left wing on Thayer’s top line with junior center Adam Gaudette (four goals, 10 assists) and senior right wing Neil Conway (six goals, six assists).

“That’s a line that has been super dangerous every time they’ve gone on the ice this year,” Amonte said. “It happened by mistake and that’s usually how these things happen. You just put some lines together coming through the preseason and they seem to have clicked and have been gone and running since.”

In addition to a robust offense, Thayer features both a deep and experienced defense. Thayer returned all six of its defensemen from last year as well as starting goaltender Rob McGovern, who finished last season with one of the best save percentages in the region.

It also helps to have a 17-year NHL veteran as a coach. Throughout his time in the NHL, Amonte was exposed to many different coaching styles, but he said he tries to emulate current Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter the most.

“It’s being stern but being fair as well and being able to talk to a player and let him know you care about him,” Amonte said. “You might yell at him one day but the next day, that’s dead and gone and today’s a new day and everyone starts over and gets a clean slate. It’s refreshing to play for a guy like that. I hope my players feel the same way.”

If strong coaching, offense and defense aren’t enough of a dangerous combination, Thayer also has some unfinished business serving as motivation for this season’s squad. Amonte said the team was surprised by its finish as Martin/Earl Tournament semifinalists last year, but a trip to the tournament did not satisfy the Tigers.

“That really opened our kids eyes and proved to them that hard work does pay off,” Amonte said. “A lot of our guys that were here last year ended up with a bitter taste in their mouths losing to Avon in the semifinals, and the kids are hungry to get back there.”

Game of the week

Dexter School vs. Cushing Academy, Dec. 20 at 4:30 p.m.

Dexter handed Cushing its only loss of the season thus far when the two faced off back on December 4, so this rematch at the Groton-Lawrence Holiday Tournament is sure to be a hotly contested game.

Prep Power Rankings

Check out Arielle's ranking of the top 20 prep boys teams at our prep hockey power rankings page.

Twitter: @aharonson28