There is an ongoing discussion in the hockey world, especially in Massachusetts about how to make high school hockey better. Communities enjoy supporting their teams, rinks are usually packed and the state tournament still draws media attention and a decent crowd. However, it’s not the days of the Matignon mohawks with the crowd screaming as they took off their shamrock-covered helmets, facing off against Acton-Boxboro and Tom Barrasso in the opposing goal. Those days are over. However, when we started our new Mass High School site, we watched more of public/catholic games than ever before and we found there are still plenty of very good players and lots of passion for MIAA hockey. We went out and saw over 30 games since the season started and came back with a few names of players that really stood out. We kept coming back to one that was intriguing. His name is Michael Tersoni.
We arrived a few minutes late to Loring to see Framingham and they were up 1-0. When asked who scored, the woman at the desk said “Tersoni, he is awesome.” We know Mike from the Mass Hockey Festivals and some showcases where he graded well in our reports. He is not exactly an “under the radar” prospect. People know who he is. Prep schools know who he is.
His game for Framingham looked different, however; better, crisper. He appeared really engaged and persistent trying to hunt pucks. His transition game is unmatched in the MIAA and he goes the other way quickly. Drew a penalty with his speed. Snapped a goal home with a quick release and hard shot. He was the best player on the ice and one of the two best we had seen all year. He had gotten better, looked stronger and seemed to be having the time of his life playing in front of his peers.
We asked Mike about what he worked on over the summer to improve. Turns out he worked with two pretty good tutors in Coach Jamie Rice from Babson and former Framingham and BC star Blake Bellefeuille:
“My shot was really a focus. I worked with a couple of different coaches, they helped me with my form and a plan to get better. On my own, I just shot as many pucks as I could. My speed backs people off and I needed to be able to use that space to snap shots on goal.”
It has worked so far as Mike has already surpassed his goal total from last season with plenty of time to pad that total.
Framingham Coach Will Ortiz who played at UMass-Amherst further described Mike’s game:
“Mike is a left shot forward that is able to shoot the puck with his feet moving. The puck explodes off of his blade and is able to score from in close and far out. Mike is strong on his edges and feet. His quick speed and acceleration play a key role so his success on the ice. He is able to create his own time and space adding to his spatial awareness on the ice. Mike stands at 5’8″ and is not afraid to play the body. He encourages the physical contact and is not afraid to deliver a check. His center of gravity is low and delivers/absorbs hits with force. Mike has the intangible skills set that a coach desires. He approaches the game without fear of failure and a desire and will to be the best all the time. Sometimes a coach can’t describe it but knows it when you see it, Mike has it.”
Mike’s success has not come without help. He wanted to be clear we note that.
“My parents make a lot of sacrifices for me, they always make things work. Early practices as a kid. They are in the stands every game now. New stick or a pat on the back, their support means a lot.”
He also noted his linemates and fellow captains:
“Robbie Lopez came back from the Jr. Bruins and he has been great. He can pass, shoot or carry to the net and has great speed; Will Trischitta is a great passer, we know each other well because we have played together since we were little, there is a real comfort level there.”
Mike grew up in the Framingham youth program and always played for his town. When he moved up to Pee Wees, he then played for the Central Mass Outlaws with a lot of other Framingham kids for five seasons. He skated for dual programs for the competition and because he preferred playing with his friends. Most of the Outlaws were Framingham players. He and his current FHS co-captains, PJ Conzo and Nate Nichols have been together since Mites. Mike’s Dad got him started at the age of 4 as his older sister was already playing in Framingham.
As we watched him play, we wondered why he was still at Framingham. Nothing against his team or coaches as they have a good squad and Mike seems to be improving nicely, but many players like him leave. Why didn’t he? Mike answered that question for us.
“I was approached after my sophomore year by some prep schools. That year we went to the Division 1 Finals at the TD Garden. It was a nice run but I wanted more. Representing my town and the community means something to me. The whole city has our backs. I like the school and like being a hockey player there. We want to try to get in the Super 8. We have a long way to go but that would mean a lot. I see the youth kids who look up to us and I want them to want to play for Framingham High School too. Maybe by staying, I can help make that happen. Have less kids leave. I love Loring Arena too. Great old barn with awesome architecture. Fun to play there.”
Coach Ortiz spoke to Mike’s loyalty as well:
“Mike had opportunities to leave his public high school entering his senior year. Mike decided to finish what he started. His loyalty to his program and community speaks volume about his character. He cares about where he came from and wants to see things through until the end. His loyalty to his teammates, coaches, and community is a big part to our team’s success. This opens up the opportunity to be the guy. The team relies on him and he is accepting that challenge. He is embracing it everyday in practice and its showing on the ice.”
Tersoni reciprocated his coach’s respect:
“Coach Ortiz has helped me since the minute he got the job. We were all so excited to have him take the lead. He stays up late and watches film. He wants us to play our hardest, never take a day off and dominate the day. He leads by example and I appreciate him and the whole staff a lot.”
Now that we have answered why Mike stayed. What’s next? Mike has been contacted by several prep schools (many of which are consistently in our NZ Prep top 10) and he is starting to make some visits. Those schools that were around the last couple of years, they are still around. They still have interest. First, however, Mike has a season to finish with Super 8 aspirations. Not just for him or his team but the entire community; youth players to old-time fans of the Flyers. He hopes their success can make a long-term impact.
Coach Ortiz echoed that sentiment
“As a community, you want to see the public-school athletic programs succeed. The success over the past three years is a testament to those who stayed and wanted to be a part of it. Everyone that puts on the Flyer jersey played for our youth program. It means a lot more than just a hockey jersey, there is pride that follows. When our team succeeds, of course it creates the buzz around the city, as it should. It’s not just the success that keeps kids wanting to play for the program, it’s also the placements. Two years ago, we placed Ben Stefanini at Northfield Mt. Herman and he is now red-shirting at Wilkes University a DIII hockey program. The success of our players is what will help to promote and encourage the youth players, but more importantly, the parents to keep their kids in the program. Mike Tersoni will be the next. It is our goal as a coaching staff to do our job. If a player’s desires to play hockey at the next level, we will prepare and do everything for them and their family. The correlation between success and placement is when the team wins the individual does as well. If we continue to put a good product on the ice, there will be opportunities for those players who want to pursue hockey at the next level.”
The Flyers currently sit at 10-2-1 and are indeed in the Super 8 picture. With Walpole Saturday and BC High Monday, things won’t be easy but Mike and his teammates know they have the support of an entire city. Both games are Loring Arena.
Photo Credit. Hamid Amini