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New Holliston Hockey Coach Aims For Smooth Transition Bedard Was Player, Assistant For Panthers

Derek Bedard is Holliston’s third hockey coach in the last three years.

Staff Sports Writer
Derek Bedard graduated from Holliston High seven years ago in 2015 and now, at age 25, he’s the school’s varsity hockey coach.
Bedard may be young but he’s got a good hockey pedigree. And, his family’s hockey roots at Holliston run deep at. 
Bedard played defense for four varsity seasons for the Panthers and was captain his senior year. Competing at 5-9 and 170 pounds, he averaged 20 points (goals and assists) during his final three campaigns. And, as a sophomore and senior, he was a prime contributor in helping the Panthers qualify for two tournament berths. His father (Mike) and his brother (Jason) both played hockey for Holliston.
“My father graduated in 1982 and my brother graduated in 2011,’’ Bedard said. “All three of us played defense and we all wore No. 2. I graduated in 2015 and went to Merrimack College but was unable to play hockey because of knee and shoulder injuries I suffered in high school. I got my degree in business administration and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2019.’’
Before taking the head-coaching reins last October, Bedard was an assistant at Holliston for three years, working for Dan Geary and Mike Dutcher. Now he’s at the helm and he’s set some specific goals.
“We want to stress one game at a time and that our players improve daily,’’ Bedard said. “If we do those things, then hopefully we’ll have a winning record. I also want us to be competitive in the Tri Valley League Large Division and be the hardest-working team in the area. As far as a tourney berth goes, we’re focused on the present, not looking too far ahead.’’ 
A native of Holliston, Bedard is the Panthers’ third coach in three years but athletic director Matt Baker is confident he’ll be a good fit.
”Derek has a great opportunity to lead the program,’’ said Baker. “He knows most of the kids so with the familiarity it should be a seamless transition. He’ll work tirelessly to give the kids a positive experience and build a program the community can be proud of.’’
Bedard, who works in marketing for Tech Target, isn’t worried about a difficult transition. “Dan, Mike and I were all on the coaching staff together,’’ he said. “The kids know me and they know what to expect. Coaching turnover can be difficult but I’m not new to them.’’ 
Bedard’s style will depend on his personnel and he no doubt will be flexible. “We hope to be a defensive-minded team,’’ he said. “But, if we’ve got goal scorers, then we’ll aim for an offensive identity.’’ 
The Panthers, who were 2-6 last year, have a decent mix of veterans and youth, giving Bedard optimism about his squad’s overall strengths. “We’ve got experience and depth,’’ he offered. “Our players have a high hockey IQ, their skating ability is strong and their work ethic is excellent.’’
Bedard’s captains will give the Panthers an all-around look. Seniors Mitch Saponaro and Julian Payne are defensemen who lead by example and have a variety of assets.
“Mitch is a defensive defenseman,’’ Bedard said. “He’s a three-year varsity player who sees the defensive zone well. He’s got a high hockey IQ and excellent quickness. Julian is an offensive defenseman. He’s also got a high hockey IQ. His work ethic is strong, he moves the puck well and has a scoring mind.’’
Holliston’s other two captains are senior forwards. Trevor Fanara can play either center or wing and senior Rocco Mastrangelo likely will see time at wing. “Trevor worked hard in the off-season and will get more ice time,’’ Bedard said. “He’ll help our play-making up front and he’s not afraid of going into the corners. He’ll get opportunities to score and get some assists. Rocco is a good locker-room guy who works hard. He’s improved, has a good shot and is a powerful skater.’’
Senior Caden Gallagher and sophomore James Givens provide more depth on defense.
“Caden has improved greatly from last year,’’ Bedard said. “A physical player, he’s got good technical skills and should be a top-four defenseman. James got a lot of ice time last year and he also gives us a physical presence. A smart skater, he’s got an effective shot and I expect him to build on last year’s efforts.’’
Three junior forwards will give the Panthers versatility on offense. They include center Nick Larche, winger Rhys Duncan, and wing-center Jonah Feldman.
“We need Nick’s scoring ability,’’ Bedard said. “He was injured most of last year but he’s got a lot of desire and drive. A smart player, he can pass and his wrist shot is good. Rhys is a hard-hat, lunch-pail guy. He has no fear going into the corners. Always giving 100 percent on every shift, he’s got a solid wrist shot. Jonah is versatile, able to score and sturdy on his feet. He’s a powerful skater who has a powerful shot.’’
Sophomore George Gabriel has experience at center. “George can be a top-notch forward,’’ Bedard said. “He displayed good scoring ability as a freshman. He’s smart, quick and shifty and his wrist shot and snap shot are very good.’’
Freshman Collin Logan will handle the goaltending chores. “Collin played on select teams and looks promising,’’ Bedard said. “I hope he’ll continue to develop and sharpen his skills and that he’ll become a formidable goalie during the next four years.’’
Bedard’s varsity assistant is Mike Donovan who played hockey at Holliston with Bedard. Donovan will work with the defense. 

Holliston’s hockey captains are, from left, Julian Payne, Trevor Fanara, Mitch Sapanaro, and Rocco Mastrangelo 

Bedard’s athletic philosophy combines winning, reaching one’s potential and having fun competing. “Winning is important and if our players are realizing their potential, then we can win,’’ he emphasized. “And, if we’re winning, then they’ll be enjoying their time on ice.’’
Life lessons learned in athletics that Bedard hopes his players will embrace are being accountable, communicative and having a strong work ethic. “Accountability leads to being responsible,’’ he noted. “Communication is necessary on the ice and it’ll help in one’s future job. A strong work ethic, or going the extra mile, will always be a plus, especially in the workplace.’’
The Panthers know their new coach will be demanding but fair. And, they know team chemistry will be a key to their future. “We’ll need contributions from everyone,’’ Bedard said. “Our team won’t be about having one-or-two star players.’’