With graduation season upon us for high schoolers, there is no better time to celebrate the Class of 2020. The circumstances this year are tough due to the COVID-19 pandemic: many of these young men and women lost the opportunity to finish out their last school year, go to the senior prom, walk at graduation ceremonies: it’s a truly unprecedented time in this country’s history.
But, there is something we can do. All season long we at MassNZ have been covering this senior class. In fact, we just published our list of the Top 130 MIAA Seniors we saw this season over on the main Neutral Zone site. We don’t want to let the on and off-ice efforts of these young men fall by the wayside as this pandemic has forced everyone to change their daily routines. This series will feature in-depth profiles where these seniors get to tell their own stories on their terms. We want to give them the platform to talk about what this year meant to them and what the future may have in store.
This week we speak with one of the top scorers in the Class of 2020: forward Sean Walsh of Hopkinton HS. Widely respected by our scouts as one of the fastest skaters in the MIAA, Walsh left an indelible mark at his alma mater as the top scorer in the school’s history with 158 career points. His career also included a trip to the TD Garden in 2019, finishing one game short of a State championship. He also led the Hillers to a sparkling 19-1 record in D3 play, a season that ended short of their ultimate goal: bowing out in the D3 South quarterfinals to Bishop Stang. Notching an other worldly 74 points this season, and after receiving MetroWest Daily News Player of the Year Honors, we sat down with Walsh to talk about his future in prep hockey and how his offseason training made him better every season.
MassNZ: When did you start playing hockey? Did you mostly play your youth hockey in Hopkinton or were there other programs where you learned to play?
Sean Walsh: I started to play hockey when I was about 4 years old. I spent most of my younger days playing for the Demons Hockey Program which includes Hopkinton and other surrounding towns. I played with them for about 5 or 6 years before switching to play for the 2002 Elite Minutemen Flames team for the following six years.
MassNZ: Describe what the hockey culture is like in Hopkinton: what is it like to play for your hometown?
Walsh: To play for my hometown, it’s something you can’t really describe. To wear the big Hopkinton H on your jersey means everything. You’re not just representing your school and everyone in it, but also your town and all the people who come out to support you.
MassNZ: You’ve had plenty of success at Hopkinton: winning a D3 South Championship last year and securing a 1 seed in the playoffs this past year. What made the teams you’ve been a part of so successful?
Walsh: Over the past two years, our team success has been based on trust. If you trust the people around you, everything will fall into place. We created a family and a bond that most teams don’t create. We just had a group of seniors who wanted to connect with everyone and make sure everyone knew each other. We had 3 named captains this year, and one last year. But in reality everyone was a leader in their own way. We all made sure to listen and once we knew each other well enough we started to just go on a roll.
MassNZ: How has your game changed over the past four years? At what point did you feel as though you had “arrived” so to speak and what do you view as the strengths of your game today?
Walsh: I would say my game has developed a lot over the past 4 years. I feel I arrived and found myself as a player right as my junior year was about to start. My hands got better, my footspeed was something I made sure to improve on and my first three steps are so explosive now it’s almost like I’m always a step ahead of the guy next to me.
MassNZ: Our scouts consistently noted your footspeed as being among the best we saw all season in the MIAA: what have you done to work on getting quicker in your training?
Walsh: My training for footspeed just started when I was little. My mom would make me run all these races every year, it helped my conditioning since I wouldn’t get tired. And once that kicked in, I started to do more ladder work in my backyard and I made sure to do a lot of it.
MassNZ: Hockey isn’t the only sport you play, you also play varsity lacrosse. What position do you play and how does lax translate to hockey?
Walsh: In lacrosse, I was a middie, which translated to being a center in hockey since I’d be playing offense and defense while getting the conditioning of running in. I was also a faceoff guy in lacrosse. That translated and made my hand speed quicker. I was always quick to the ball just like I’m quick to the puck.
MassNZ: What does it mean to you to be the all-time leading scorer for Hopkinton HS? What was it like when you scored the record breaker?
Walsh: It means a lot to be the all-time leading scorer at Hopkinton. It was a goal of mine ever since the end of junior year. I was only 54 points away from breaking the record at the beginning of senior year and I told myself I’d get there. As soon as I got that assist to break the record. It was just a huge joy of mine especially since I broke it in 3 years of playing while the former leading scorer did it in 4 years.
MassNZ: You will be spending next year playing at Tilton as a post-graduate. How did you make your decision to head up to the Lakes Region and was it a factor that so many other MIAA players will also be heading there with you?
Walsh: I made the decision to go to Tilton because it just felt like the right fit for me. I noticed how strong their PG program was and I wanted to be a part of it. I also really liked talking with the hockey coach, Coach McQuade. From talking with him I realized he can get me to the level of hockey I want to be at. And I know he will push me to be the best person/player I can be.
MassNZ: Do you intend to continue playing lacrosse up there as well or do you intend to just focus on hockey?
Walsh: I am going to keep my options open as of now, but I am hoping to do some type of spring sport whether it’s golf or lacrosse I’m not really sure yet.