The Hanover High boys hockey team is in a familiar position heading into the 2022-2023 season.
The Hawks, who have been state champs since 2020 (there was no state tournament in 2021), enter the season as a team every opponent has circled on the schedule.
“We have a target on our back, we’ve had a good run in the last 10 years and I think everyone gets up against the Hanover Hawks,” said Hanover head coach Jonny Abban.
Hanover has won six state titles since 1997, three of which have come in the previous seven seasons. The goal to reach a state championship is customary at this point.
“Obviously you start a season with goals and one we’ll always strive for is to win a state title,” said Abban. “That’s first and foremost within our program. I took over for Jimmy Sylvia, Jimmy won three of them, so the winning culture has been there for many many years so we want to keep that tradition going.”
Taking over for a Hall of Fame head coach in Sylvia wasn't easy, but Abban made his own legacy. Going into his 13th year as head coach, he’s now looking for his fourth title. But with a significantly large group of seniors on last year's team, the Hawks might find themselves fighting for that top spot again.
“We graduated I think 14 seniors from last year's team,” said Abban. “So there’s some major holes, and I don’t like to use the word rebuild, but yeah there’s a lot of open positions and hopefully we can fill them and continue the winning culture.”
With a program as successful as Hanover's, there’s always players developing that don’t quite get the shine yet. When Abban feels they’re ready, that’s when they get placed under the bright lights.
“I have a group of kids that have waited in the wings, that have waited for it to be their turn,” said Abban. “They’ve been patient, they worked hard, sophomore, junior, and freshmen years now it’s their turn to shine.”
Hanover is a hockey factory, so although many impactful players may have left from the program, that just leaves more room for others to step up. And it starts with the five senior captains.
“I think it starts at net with Liam Monahan. I think he’s one of the best goalies around,” said Abban. “Great kid, great work ethic, it starts with him. He’s a captain.
Liam Joy, Ryan Coutts and Ben Lines are senior captains and forwards who have been with the program for four years. Tyler Richards, a senior defenseman, is the other captain.
“Those kids experienced the winning culture and what it takes to get there,” said Abban of his senior captains. “So I’m hoping what they learned, seen, and what they’re apart of will resonate to another successful year."
Despite state-final expectations before a puck even hits the ice, Abban is realistic. He knows the season will be a process.
“To start a season everybody wants to go out on top so why not?” said Abban. “We've done it before. We’ll take it one game at a time. It’ll be a slow go out the gate but you never want to be peaking early. So If we can compete early, get better each game, we’ll see where we’re at heading into the tournament run.”
The Patriot League will present plenty of challenges for the Hawks. Hanover defeated league rival Scituate in the Div. 3 semifinals last year. Every team in the league, in both divisions, played in the state tournament last season.
"The Patriot League is what I think is one of the best public high school hockey leagues around," said Abban. "It’s just stacked. Marshfield, Scituate, Duxbury, Plymouth South every team in our league is well coached and we just got to come out and be prepared.”
But just like any program that’s used to still playing late in the season, Abban knows to take nothing for granted. This winter is a whole new slate with a new group of seniors, it’s back to the drawing board.
“We turned the page. Great season last year the kids were great. Went out on top, nothing better than that. But back to the grind,” said Abban.
This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Previewing the 2022-2023 Hanover High boys hockey team's season