A little of this, a little of that …
• When last we saw Hope Walinski, she was hitting cleanup and starting at catcher for the Lincoln High School softball team. That was back in the spring of 2017.
Much has changed since then for Walinski, who elected to leave Lincoln for the prep-school route in an effort to improve her stock as a hockey goalie. She headed to The Winchendon School and reclassified so she could spend four years at the Massachusetts boarding school.
“It was tough to leave Lincoln. I had a good group of friends, but it was a separation I needed to make in order to reach my goals,” said Walinski said earlier this week. “I set my goals pretty high. [Moving to Winchendon] was something that needed to be done for my future if I wanted to succeed in the hockey world.”
On skates since was three, Walinski knows where she’ll be hitting the ice for her college hockey career upon graduating high school in 2021. Before last season, she supplied Providence College with a verbal commitment. That certainly validates the path Walinski chose to follow, yet as she explained, her decision to test herself against better competition can be traced to the words told to her by an opposing coach on Winchendon’s schedule.
“The year before I got there, this team that won the league beat Winchendon, 9-0. When I got there, we lost to that same team by a 1-0 score. They scored with five minutes left,” said Walinski. “Afterwards, the coach came up to me and said they had been practicing over the previous week just to get the puck past you. Hearing that was such an accomplishment. All of this hard work was paying off and people were noticing.”
Walinski’s desire was also fueled by college coaches who dismissed her because of her height, saying that at 5-foot-5, she was too short to be placed between the pipes. Those same coaches who shortchanged her watched as Walinski was named First Team All-NEPSAC for Division I schools during her sophomore year (2018-19).
“That’s when people started to realize I could keep the puck out of the net,” said Walinski. “My freshman year, no one wanted to look at me. My response was that you’ve got to look at the way I play. There’s something there.”
In the offseason, Walinski keeps her hockey skills sharp on the split-season midget circuit with the Boston Jr. Eagles during the fall. During the spring and summer, she spends time with the Wade Warriors. At Winchendon, she also suited up for the school’s soccer and softball teams.
After touring PC for an unofficial visit last summer, Walinski felt comfortable in her decision to slam the brakes on her recruiting odyssey.
“I didn’t need to see anyplace else. That’s where I wanted to be,” said Walinski. “[PC head coach Matt Kelly] knew that Providence was my number one choice. I played a game in Vermont [in August 2019] and afterwards, he told me that they wanted me.
“My goal has always been to play Division I hockey,” she added. “I did everything I could to get that done and it paid off.”
Walinski sat out Winchendon’s entire 2019-20 hockey season after undergoing ACL surgery, the result of getting hurt on the soccer field. She was appointed a captain, hence she still had responsibilities to tend to even though she was forced to watch teammates from the stands.
“Everyone supported me. I always had people to talk to if I needed it,” said Walinski, who turns 18 in July.
Recently, Walinski received the green light to resume on-ice activity with all of her goalie equipment on. Finding a sheet of ice has proven to be challenging, yet Walinski appreciates having Mitchell, her older brother who is playing college hockey at Salve Regina, firing shots in her direction in an effort to sharpen her reflexes.
“There are certain drills I do to keep my eyes focused and my arms moving, but my brother has a very good shot,” said Walinski, who is looking forward to her final season at Winchendon before heading off to PC.
“It’s been the best – and I mean the best – experience in my life. I would not trade it for anything in the world,” she said. “Having that extra year is nice. I get the full four-year experience.”
• Tabbed last week as the Most Valuable Scout Player on offense for the 2019 Salve Regina football team was former Tolman High quarterback Justin Klemanchuck, who spent his freshman season making sure the Seahawks were prepared for everything and anything heading into games.
Per the Seahawks’ football Twitter feed, junior linebacker Matt Messner had this to say about Klemanchuck: “This one person … he gives us a lot of different looks. He helps out wherever he can. He’s a hard worker and super dedicated to the team. The plays runs a lot more smoothly when he’s in and running the offense.”
• The trip to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame that was on the docket this spring for the Woonsocket High baseball team has been rescheduled to May 2021. Head coach Tommy Brien purposely planned it so that this year’s Villa Novan baseball seniors – the ones who are missing out on their final varsity season – would be home/done with their first year of college.
“We want them to be part of it,” said Brien.
• Pawtucket’s Kate Magill concluded her junior swimming season at Fordham University by participating in three individual events at the 2020 Atlantic 10 Championships. The former Bay View standout earned a silver medal and Second Team A-10 honors in the 1,650 freestyle (16:49.94).
Staying with swimming, Lincoln High product Mollie Westrick closed out her college career at Penn by qualifying in four events for 2020 Ivy League Championships (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay, and 400 freestyle relay). In the ‘B’ final of the 200 freestyle, Westrick finished second with a personal-best time (50.19 seconds).
• Proof that recruiting in college athletics isn’t skipping a beat during these pandemic times can be found in St. Raphael junior/Woonsocket resident Amaya Dowdy. On Tuesday, Dowdy received her first Division I scholarship offer from the women’s basketball program at UMass Lowell. The River Hawks are coached by West Warwick native/former URI men’s basketball standout Tommy Garrick. Last month, Dowdy was recognized as the MVP of the Call/Times 2019-20 All-Area Girls Basketball Team.
• Congrats to Central Falls senior Amber Aguilar, the R.I. recipient of the 2020 Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award that recognizes and celebrates the nation’s most outstanding high school senior female wrestlers.
• A quick check yielded that there are now seven female athletic directors among R.I. Interscholastic League members following the addition of Erika Paiva at St. Raphael Academy. Considering the size of the state, that’s a pretty good total.
• Just in time to commemorate graduations, Father’s Day and other special events in one’s life, the PawSox are turning the McCoy Stadium video board over to fans who wish to send in a customized message. With a donation of any amount to the PawSox Foundation, recipients can expect a high resolution, digital photo of their message – which can include photographs and artistic images as well – via email. Visit www.pawsox.com for more information.
• For those keeping track, Wednesday night would have marked the 18th scheduled home game in what was supposed to be the PawSox’ swan song of a 2020 season at McCoy Stadium. Of those 18 opening dates, four would have been postponed due to rain.
• No question, The Last Dance documentary that chronicled Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls hit a lot of high notes and proved to be just what the doctor ordered during the Great American Sports Freezeout of 2020. Much was divulged over the 10-part series that concluded last weekend, yet I find myself thirsting for more as it relates to specific individuals who were central figures during that period of time in the NBA.
At the top of my wish list was to see an interview with Marv Albert, who called many a Jordan game for NBC. No national broadcaster was associated with the Bulls’ dominant run during the 1990s more than Albert, who surely had a behind-the-scenes story (or two or three) that would have been great with the cameras rolling.
Also, Ron Harper’s lone camera appearance had nothing to do with his time with the Bulls. The starting guard on all three squads of Chicago’s second three-peat was asked about switching defensive assignments with then-Cleveland teammate Craig Ehlo right before Jordan drilled a game-winner that knocked the Cavaliers out of the 1989 playoffs.
Harper was one of Jordan’s trusted confidants, witnessed by the countless images throughout the documentary of him playing cards with Jordan on plane rides. Surely, Harper could have spoken about Jordan’s competitive nature extending beyond the court.
• This column would have been longer, but I want to see if Punxsutawney Phil, the weather-predicting animal himself, is willing to help us out. After all, it is his offseason. We know what spotting his shadow means – six more weeks of winter. Can we see if good old Phil wants to play it again in terms of how much longer we have to deal with the coronavirus?