MILFORD >> First year head coach Todd Sharinn didn’t shy away when asked what the ultimate goal was for the Staples High School ice hockey program.
“Our dream here, the reason I took this job in the first place, was to win a state championship,” he said.
Sharinn, who was an assistant for Westhill and has a plethora of hockey experience, is realistic about the challenge ahead of him. Staples, which is a co-op team with Weston and Shelton, won six games last season. They are light on numbers and had a few players transfer. It wasn’t the ideal scenario for Sharinn coming in. But the Wreckers have hit the ground running and the players have responded.
“These are a great bunch of kids, good students,” Sharinn said. “We’ve changed the system around for this team completely. And they’ve taken to it really quickly.”
Added senior co-captain Eric Zurmuehle: “We’re making a big transition. We had a rough season last year but this year coach has really brought the team together. We have a nice camaraderie going.”
That is one aspect that was missing from Staples last season. This group is much more united, as their theme is ‘Family’; something Sharinn has stressed since taking over.
“That’s a pretty big theme and I think that’s exactly what we needed,” junior co-captain Jack Mendillo said. “Because last year we weren’t very connected I feel like. Hockey is a lot more than having a bunch of skilled players; it’s about working as a team and having fun.”
The team has found that medium of success and fun early on. In the preseason that brought a bit of uncertainty, Staples responded with an impressive debut going undefeated and finding the net often. The team will open up the season on Saturday, Dec. 21 against NFA-St.Bernard-Bacon at the Milford Ice Pavilion at 8 p.m.
“Well, it’s been interesting,” Sharinn said. “I honestly didn’t think we’d do as well. We went out of state and played against two really good teams from Massachusetts. It was good hockey, it was very fast and somehow we managed to just preserve.”
Sharinn said there is no star player for the team, as he continues to go back to the point of family and playing together. Mendillo, Zurmuehle and sophomore co-captain Ian Offenberg all mentioned that the younger players have done a nice job early on and contributing.
“There is no one guy I’m looking at to lead this team,” Sharinn said. “It’s a team effort and so far they’ve all stepped up together.”
After a disappointing 6-14 record last winter, one of main goals is to make it back to the postseason.
“Absolutely, 100 percent,” Offenberg said of the goal of qualifying for the state tournament. “I think we missed it by one or two games; that one was kind of a heart-breaker.”
“I feel like we have everything it takes to get back there,” Zurmuehle said.