SB Nation Massachusetts High School Hockey Coach of the Year
Kristian Hanson, St. John's Prep
Usually very reserved, St. John's Prep coach Kristian Hanson had a subtle confidence to his demeanor as his team marched through the Super 8 en route to the school's first state hockey title in 30 years. An alum of the Danvers, Mass. all-boy's Catholic school, Hanson played college hockey at UNH and Salem State.
Hanson led his team's turnaround from a 500 season a year ago to Super 8 champion in 2014-15. The Eagles were just 6-4-0 after a lopsided 6-0 loss against Catholic Conference rival BC High on Jan. 17. That loss sparked the St. John's Prep turnaround as the team went on a 12-1-1 run that culminated in the 2-1 win over Malden Catholic in the Super 8 championship game at the TD Garden on Sunday.
"Fate and destiny brought us here tonight. We knew Malden Catholic was a tremendous team. We knew that in 2001 we helped start their run when they beat us. We knew back in 1985, the last time the Prep won a hockey title, was against MC. It just felt like it was meant to be," said Hanson after Sunday's game.
What makes Hanson's leadership and coaching ability all the more impressive was the young defense that he was working with. He molded two very good young freshmen and two juniors into a solid top four on the blue line. He brought along junior Kyle Martin slowly before letting him emerge as a very good number one goaltender.
Hanson had the help of three senior tri-captains on the first line, but he pushed all the right buttons in the post-season. The third line and third defensive pairing was absolutely terrific in the Super 8. Hanson's team, made up of zero NCAA Division I commits, beat three teams in the Super 8 with nine such commits.
It was hard not to feel good about Hanson and his team as they won the school's first ever Super 8 with class and dignity.
Runner-up: Austin Prep coach Lou Finocchiaro led his team to its first ever undefeated conference season and an appearance in the Super 8 semifinals despite losing star BU recruit Bobo Carpenter up front to the USHL and defensemen Andrew Cross and J.J. Layton and goal goaltender Elijah Harris to prep hockey. The Cougars lost just three times, twice to Malden Catholic and once to Central Catholic.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.