Sticks, gloves and helmets went flying Saturday as jubilant Orono players celebrated their first Class 1A state championship.
In December, a thrown water bottle in the locker room told a different story.
A late change brought Will Scholz over from the junior varsity just before the start of the season. Former varsity coach Mark Parrish, a NHL veteran, took a broadcasting job with the New York Islanders.
The difference was akin to a tap on the shoulder pads versus a swift kick in the breezers.
“I’m always loud, whether we’re up 6-0 or down 4-0,” said Scholz, whose rasp worsened as his team’s state tournament run deepened.
Scholz inherited a team eager to expand on youth-level success. Orono’s seniors won a Bantam A state championship and sought to add some high school hardware.
“Everyone just had that thought that, ‘Hey, once we get to high school we could have a shot at winning the state tournament,’ ” senior goalie Evan Babekuhl said.
By mid-December, the Spartans rose to No. 1 in the Let’s Play Hockey coaches poll. They dropped three of four games to close the month, however, and Scholz had had enough.
“We dumped a bad game and I blew my top in the locker room,” he said. “Threw a water bottle and did all that. It took me some time to figure out how to push the buttons and how to get through.”
He learned to reframe his concerns.
“They respond more by telling them how much they’re capable of,” Scholz said. “Instead of, ‘You’re lazy today,’ it’s, ‘You’re so much better than this.’ ”
Senior forward and team captain Thomas Walker said players didn’t take things personally.
“We know the intensity he brings to everything and from the outside, it might rub some people wrong,” Walker said. “But we know he wants the best from us and he cares about us.”