The spotlight on Holy Cross senior right wing Scott Pooley is significantly brighter now than when he learned to skate.
Pooley, whose father is Paul Pooley, the former Providence head coach and current Notre Dame associate head coach, was no stranger to rinks even as a young child. He learned to skate when he was two years old and was cruising around Providence’s rink with his father by the time he was three.
“One of the earliest memories I have with my dad is being three or four and going out on the ice early in the morning at Schneider Arena. None of the lights but the security lights were on. Holding on to milk crates, holding myself up was one of the coolest memories I have,” said Pooley.
20 years later, there’s little doubt the bright lights of hockey arenas have found the younger Pooley, who enters this weekend’s series against Air Force as the second leading goal scorer in the nation.
Pooley has eight goals and two assists in eight games played. He’s generating a lot of chances, as evidenced by his 39 shots on goal. Four of his markers have come on the man advantage. His hot start has given Holy Cross coach Dave Berard two strong lines as he’s kept Pooley apart from fellow seniors and top returning scorers T.J. Moore and Danny Lopez.
Pooley and center Michael Laffin have played together for the better part of the last two seasons, but have been joined this year by freshman left wing Logan Ferguson. The trio have quickly come together to provide a formidable attack.
“A lot of the credit goes to my linemates. Laff and I know how each other work. He’s made some really nice plays. Logan has gelled nicely with us. We’ve built some nice chemistry. He’s made some unbelievable plays,” complimented Pooley.
The big 6-foot-2 winger is able to drive the net and be a force in the high quality scoring areas. Now with 41 career goals, Pooley has always had a knack for lighting the lamp, but he’s become an even more effective player by heeding the advice of his coaching staff and honing in on the dirty areas near the goalmouth.
“They’ve showed me where my goals are. It’s easy to want to be perimeter, but they’ve preached getting to the tough areas around the net, especially in my case. Showing me how I need to play and how I’m capable of playing,” explained Pooley.
Pooley is an above average skater and has a good shot, but a lot of his goals come from finding soft spots in opposing defenses, and being in the right place at the right time. Thanks to growing up around rinks and being a student of the game, his hockey sense is an asset in those areas.
Being able to learn from past Notre Dame greats while his dad was on the Irish coaching staff is something that helps Pooley to this day.
“Because of my dad, I was able to see different styles of players who were able to make it to the NHL,” he began.
“A guy like [New York Islanders left wing] Anders Lee, how he uses his size and his reach to protect pucks and how he gets to the net.”
“Watching [Chicago Blackhawks center] Vinnie Hinostroza, skating against him in the summer, how he’s so shifty. Looking one way, but being able to go another way. That little deception.”
“I’ve become pretty good friends with [Boston Bruins right wing] Anders Bjork. Seeing the things he does with the puck. Holding onto it for that extra second to make a play rather than just getting rid of it.”
“It’s been cool to see those guys get to the level I aspire to be at. I like emulating those guys and trying to do those things in my game,” said Pooley of the three former Irish forwards.
While his dad’s profession afforded him opportunities that few others have, hockey was never forced on him.
“He never coached me growing up. He came on the ice more for the other kids. He never forced me into hockey which has helped me grow my love for the game and my passion for the game,” Pooley commented.
Pooley is appreciative of all the minor details he’s been able to pick up from his father over the years.
“Keeping it simple. Moving your feet. That was instilled in me since I was really young and growing up in that environment helped me. Opening that experience to see what it takes to be a good hockey player and play college hockey,” said Pooley.
While Pooley’s offensive acumen has soared, he continues to work diligently on the defensive side of the game, knowing that the next level will only be possible if he’s responsible in all three zones. Listening to him discuss the finer points to the defensive side of the puck, it’s clear he’s been around the game a long time.
“I’m working on wall battles. As a winger, those one-on-one battles with the ‘D’, winning those battles and making sure you get the puck out. Making the right play whether it’s dishing it quickly or eating the puck,” Pooley began.
“Shot lanes and stick position are things you can always improve on. Defensive intensity,” said Pooley. “Making the hard play. Not trying to get ahead of the play. Working on being intense so you have more time with the puck or more time to make a play,” he continued.
Pooley came to Holy Cross the same year Berard did after previous head coach Paul Pearl left to become the associate head coach at Harvard. Despite the ups and downs that any college player faces, the coaching staff has always pushed Pooley while being supportive at the same time.
“They’ve stuck with me and worked with me day in and day out. There have been times they’ve been frustrated with me, but their willingness to work with me and stay with me to be the best player I can be is the thing they’ve helped me with most,” said Pooley, who emphasized the confidence his coaching staff has given him.
After a tie and loss at Robert Morris, the mental side of the game will be key this weekend with the defending Atlantic Hockey Champion Falcons at the Hart Center for two games.
“Going into the weekend, we’re excited. It’s a great opportunity to have Air Force come into our barn and play us,” said Pooley. “They know what it takes to win. They won a championship. They have guys who know the commitment it takes, but we’re still trying to learn that.”
“It’s exciting for us to make another jump in the standings,” Pooley added.
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.