Looking forward to his junior season at St. Anselm, Ryan Spillane was expecting to see a larger role for the Hawks. The former Franklin High standout had played in 23 games as a sophomore, scoring a pair of goals and recording three assists, and he had high hopes of even more ice time and even more production as a junior.
Unfortunately, a hamstring injury in September would cost Spillane the entire year. He has worked hard to not only get back on the ice but to become a regular contributor for a team with its sights set on bringing home the NE-10 title.
“By the beginning of the summer I was ready to get back on the ice and get in shape,” Spillane explained. “By the time the season came, I felt like I was ready to go, back in game shape like I was two years ago. It’s nice to be back on the ice.”
It is always hard for an athlete to sit and watch his team play, but Spillane praised his coaches, teammates, and the training staff at St. Anselm for keeping him involved and for getting him back on the ice for this season.
“It was definitely really frustrating,” he admitted. “At first, I was rehabbing the injury with hopes of coming back and then I saw a couple more doctors and it ended up that I had to have surgery. It’s tough to show up every day and watch knowing that you’re not going to be on the ice at any point in the season.”
The injury has also been a motivating factor for his senior season and a reminder to not take any moment on the ice for granted.
“It kind of was a little bit of a shock,” Spillane said. “It kind of told me that I have to focus in and really give it all I’ve got for this last year because you never know if something could happen. You could go down in any game, so you’ve just to give it everything you’ve got every game.”
Hard work has been a trademark of his game since his time at Franklin when Spillane led the Panthers to their first Super 8 berth, winning Hockomock League MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year honors in the process. He capped that season with one of the top moments in program history, when he scored the game-winning goal against Xaverian in the Super 8 play-in game.
“I’m still best friends with all those kids I played with on that team,” Spillane said. “Obviously we’re older now, but it’s something that’s still reminisced upon on occasion.”
Although playing college hockey was something that he had long considered, Spillane chose to stay at Franklin for the full four years before taking a postgraduate season at Kent Hill School in Maine. He said that staying at Franklin was an easy decision, in no small part because he was able to play for his father Chris.
He said, “There was no chance I was going to leave Franklin. Obviously playing for my father, and playing with all the kids I grew up with, it was too special for me and something I wasn’t willing to give up.”
His season in Maine was critical to his development and, he said, one of the reasons that he was prepared for playing at the collegiate level. While his post-grad experience helped, Spillane said that there was still a lot of growth when he got to the Manchester, N.H. campus, both physically and mentally.
“I came in pretty light and was getting thrown around a little bit, so just getting stronger as a player is really important,” he said. “Coming into senior year, trying to pick up a bigger role, it’s definitely been quite a ride here.”
The comfort level he feels on the ice is obvious, as he has already scored a career-high six goals and tied his career-high with three assists through the first 18 games of the season. That included the eventual game-winning goal in the first period on Friday night against Post. It was the third straight win for the Hawks (10-7-1, 5-2-1), who are in the middle of conference play and currently lead the league by a point over St. Michael’s.
The Spillane family legacy at Franklin is well-documented. Chris Spillane was a star player for the Panthers before becoming the head coach and leading the program for 20 successful season. Ryan and CJ Spillane both played for the Panthers and their sister Kaitlyn was a standout at Franklin before heading to prep school and to an impressive career at St. Anselm.
Kaitlyn’s success at St. Anselm was one of the reasons that Ryan had the school as his top option.
“It’s where I wanted to play hockey, where I wanted to go to school, and I was fortunate enough to make that happen,” he said.
“Playing hockey at the same school as my sister definitely brought us closer together. We could talk hockey, we could talk school, we could talk whatever and it was really special to be able to watch her last couple years playing hockey. She’s a great hockey player, so it was really fun to watch her.”
One of the reasons that Chris Spillane cited for his decision to step down after two decades in charge of the Panthers was the chance to watch Ryan play his senior season. Ryan said he was grateful to look up in the stands and see both his parents there watching, even if the coaching hasn’t really stopped.
“You definitely get the pointers after every game, but it’s great that I’m able to have that relationship with him,” he said. “He’s been coaching [at Franklin] for so long, it’s been such a big part of his life our whole lives but it reaches a point in everything where you’ve got to call it quits and I think he was just at that point where he was ready to hang them up.”
Spillane is closing in on the time when he will have to hang up the skates as well. His senior season is winding down and he is confident that the team can send him out with a NE-10 championship. “I’ve only got about 13 games left in my career,” he said, “and I’d just like to go out on top, end on a high note, and just give it everything I’ve got.”
He took a moment to reflect on what the end of his career will mean, after so many years spent on the ice. “It’s just crazy to think how quick it’s winding down,” he said.
“It feels like just yesterday that I was playing my first college game, even playing high school games. It’s been a long career, hockey’s been my life since I was five years old, and it’s crazy to think it’s coming to an end. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve had a great run.”