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Milford Hockey Continues to Rise

The final result was the same, a season-ending loss to Oliver Ames. But after a dozen wins and a strong showing in its first-round playoff game, there is little doubt that Milford High School hockey plans to remain a contender.
"This was a great season as a whole," said MHS head coach Michael Balzarini, who's team finished 12-7-2 on the year. "To think these seniors experienced an 0-20 season four years ago, the success they have had the last two years as been remarkable."
MHS won just one game over a two year stretch before Balzarini took over as head coach. Two years ago, the Scarlet Hawks won eight games, a high water mark for the program. Last year, they went to the playoffs for the first time and were eliminated by Oliver Ames in a 6-0 shutout. This year, they lost by a 4-2 final.
"We didn't do as well on the power play as we usually do, we were forcing passes a bit," said Balzarini. "All in all, I thought we played great. We played hard for all 45 minutes and no one hung their head at any point."
The loss brought the season to a close and brought an end to the high school careers of four seniors who have experienced the program's highs and lows over the past four years. "I think the first win two years ago opened their eyes and made them think 'hey, we can do this,'" said Balzarini. "They bought in and picked up where they left off the next season. The junior class that became seniors this year really took ownership of the team."
The senior class includes Stephen Veduccio. He was an important part of the Hawks' defense, playing primarily as a third or fourth blueliner. "His work ethic is second to none," said Balzarini. "He knew his role and was always winning one-on-one battles. He's a workhorse and played every shift like it was his last."
Senior forward Matt Nilan finished with 14 goals and six assists while playing with the second line. He notched a pair of hat tricks on the season. "He made his linemates better while playing with a junior and a freshman," said Balzarini. "It can be hard to adjust to that, but he did it tremendously."
Milford will also lose Brad White and Jared Balzarini, who finished as the top two scorers on the MHS roster and finished second and third, respectively, in the Hockomock League.
The Scarlet Hawks will have 17 players eligible to return next year. The group includes junior forward Drew Wilde, who scored 35 points this season, as well as starting goaltender Brian Ireland. Junior defensemen Sam Croteau (five goals, 13 assists), junior winger Griffin Lynch (nine goals, 10 assists), and freshman forward Alec Gilliat (seven goals, 10 assists) are all also expected back for a team and a program that will not lower the newly-raised bar of expectation next season.
"We have a job to do," said Balzarini. "The freshman class looks strong and the returning players have another year under their belt. I think we will be just fine."




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