December 19, 2012

High School Hockey Notebook: Coach took the long road to arrive at Westbrook

By Paul Betit
Staff Writer

Ryan Close followed a different path to become the Westbrook High boys' hockey coach.

click image to enlarge

Lily Jordan

Derek Neal



Derek Neal, York sophomore: Neal scored three goals as the Wildcats opened the season with a 4-2 win against Cape Elizabeth. Later, Neal, who has scored a team-high six goals, had two goals and two assists in an 8-4 win against Noble/Wells.


Blake Alexander, Brunswick junior: Made 27 saves to lead the Dragons to a 5-0 win against Cony.

Nick Bagley, Scarborough senior: Scored his third goal of the game in overtime to lift the Red Storm to a 4-3 win against Falmouth.

Grayson Szumilas, Camden Hills junior: Scored the first three goals of the game to lead the Windjammers to a 5-2 win against Yarmouth.


1. Thornton Academy 2. Scarborough,

3. Falmouth, 4. Greely, 5. Cheverus


Lily Jordan, Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete, sophomore: Jordan led the Capers to two wins last week. She made a total of 65 saves on 68 shots, including 46 saves in a 2-1 win over Falmouth.


Rachel Moroney, Brunswick, senior: The Dragons went 1-2 last week, but Moroney still shined with seven goals and an assist.

Kristen Murray, Scarborough, sophomore: The Red Storm remained unbeaten with a 5-0 win over Biddeford, as Murray contributed two goals and an assist.

Rachel Yorke, York, senior: Yorke led the Wildcats to a pair of victories with a total of five goals and two assists, improving York's record to 5-1.


1. Scarborough, 2. York, 3. Greely,

4. Falmouth, 5. Biddeford

It began in Sacramento, Calif., where Close started playing hockey when he was 9 years old.

"Hockey is huge in northern California," Close said

"They don't have high school hockey in California but I played pee wee, squirts, bantams and midgets."

When he was a senior in high school, Close moved east to live with his mother in Vermont, where he played center for the high school team in Waitsville.

"When I came out for the team I had bleached-blond hair and, you know, I looked like a kid from California," he said. "I showed up for tryouts for the team and everybody kind of laughed and joked, but I made the team. I could play."

Close knows his way around a hockey arena.

"When I was a kid, I actually used to work at the ice rink in Roseville, Calif.," he said. "I (was) a skate guard on the ice all the time, and I was teaching learn-to-skate programs. Then as I got older I coached mites and young kids, and started working in the pro shop sharpening skates. The one thing they never let me do was drive the Zamboni."

Following graduation from high school, Close spent a prep year at Hebron Academy, where he played football and hockey. Then he went to St. Joseph's College in Standish, where he played hockey on the school's club team.

For the past 41/2 years, Close, 27, has been a member of the Westbrook Police Department and is in his second year as the resource officer at the high school.

"It really strikes me how much you can push kids, especially young men, to really challenge themselves mentally and physically to become something more than they are," said Close, who also serves as an assistant football coach at Westbrook.

"I don't care if we win a state championship or lose every game as long as these kids become better young men and learn something in the process. That's what it's all about."


BOYS' HOCKEY appears to be alive and well at Portland High.

"We had 34 or 35 kids come out for hockey, and I was expecting mid-20s tops," said Chad Hart, in his first season as head coach of the Bulldogs after serving as an assistant coach the previous two seasons.

"We've got a big freshman class and we got a couple of kids from Deering."

In September, the Maine Principals' Association granted a two-year waiver so Portland could join with Deering to put a co-op boys' hockey team on the ice.

"There were a few kids that hadn't played hockey before that skated with us and tried out," Hart said. "In the past I knew they would end up on the team only because we couldn't make cuts because we wouldn't have the numbers, but in this case I had so many kids I had to let go of some of the guys."

Hart, who grew up in Waterville and received the Travis Roy Award in 1999 as the state's top Class A senior hockey player, kept 27 players.

"We don't have a full junior varsity program, but we're definitely going to schedule some (junior varsity) games," he said. "Most of the kids who are not playing much are freshmen and they have potential for the future, so I want to keep them and develop them."

"Maybe next year, if the numbers are still decent, I hope to have a full (junior varsity) program."


DENIS COLLINS resigned as the Bangor coach over a controversy following his refusal to allow a bathroom break on a three-hour bus trip.

(Continued on page 2)

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