Current Athlete Of The Week: Griffin Starr

Sophomore goalie Griffin Starr

The Whaler boys hockey team hit a crossroad in their season on February 12 following their 4-1 loss to Bishop Stang on home ice. Nantucket felt confident about their chances going into this matchup after tying Stang three weeks prior on the road 3-3.

But Nantucket came out flat and couldn’t get much of anything going against Stang, suffering one of their most lopsided losses of the season. The defeat dropped the Whalers to 6-7-2 on the year. Players began to slowly emerge from the locker room shortly after the game had ended to head home until all but one player remained. It was goalie Griffin Starr, alone, throwing a tennis ball against the wall for over an hour to work on his mechanics.

“I’m never playing another game like that again,” Starr said in that moment. He took that loss personally and felt like he let his team down.

“After knowing the fact that we could beat Stang from tying them in their home rink, the way I played at home against them frustrated me knowing that I could have done a lot better,” he said. “That game should not have been 4-1.”

Starr’s accountability, in that moment, may have been the turning point in the Whaler’s season. Starr has been better, much better in fact, allowing just 10 goals in the six games since that Stang loss for a goals against average of 1.66. The Whalers are 3-1-2 in those six games. He has allowed only three goals in two playoff games so far in the tournament.

Head coach Scott Corbett believes Starr is playing his best hockey of the season and that this team wouldn’t be preparing for a game later this afternoon if Starr wasn’t protecting their net. It made Starr an easy choice as one of our two Current Athletes of the Week.

Starr said he believes he has adjusted to the speed and pace of the varsity level very quickly because of the large sum of opportunities he has had to practice with the varsity team over the course of the past four years.

“(The speed of the varsity game) wasn’t a big fear of mine or something that I was very concerned about in the begging,” Starr said. “This year in practices I have been trying to work a lot on my edges, stability, and angles/staying square to the puck. My chest protector is pretty big and certainly takes up some net so I try my best to use that to my advantage by taking angles away from shooters since I am not the quickest goalie. I have also been trying to project my hands out more towards the puck to cut down even more net for players to shoot at.”

But quickness has continued to become less and less of a worry for Starr as this season has progressed. During the Whalers Round of 16 game at Martha’s Vineyard on Tuesday, Starr made several excellent saves in situations where he needed to quickly trace and react to the puck. His growth has never been more evident at any point this season than it was during the Vineyard’s four minute power play with just under nine minutes to go in regulation. The Whalers took away passing lanes with their sticks and shooting lanes with their bodies, but the Vineyard still produced several excellent scoring chances that Starr was able to stop. Those stops helped Nantucket make it to overtime, where senior forward Riley Williams scored the game-winning goal to keep the Whaler’s season alive.

Starr believes the coaching he receives has played a significant part in his growth as a player. He said Corey Gammill and David Pekarcik have been two coaches who aren’t part of the full-time staff who have helped him at various points over the years.

“The biggest thing (Corey) has taught me is to take one thing at a time,” Starr said. “Like taking a whole practice concerned on one specific part of my game to work on.”

“Dave Pekarcik has also been to plenty of ice times and run many different skating drills and shooting drills that are for goalies. Getting away from the typical battle drills or game prep drills and just going 1 on 1 with a shooter that allows him to point out what he sees needs improvement.”

Starr said he couldn’t say enough about head coach Scott Corbett and assistant coach Bob Hickman. He said those coaches, along with his team in front of him, are very intelligent and make his job easier in net.

“Scott and Bob have been huge for us this season,” Starr said. “99 percent of the time when they are explaining drills, forechecks, backchecks, breakouts, and strategies, I am kind of in my own world as I have one job to do and I’m not part of any of those things. I just have to stop pucks. But I can say that even if I tried to understand what they are saying, I probably couldn’t. The hockey IQ and knowledge is unbelievable on this team.”

Starr said staying calm in net is one of the abilities he needs to continue to hone, although he feels like he is getting the hang of mastering that mindset more and more by the day.

“That is the first skill that you need to be proficient in at most things in life,” he said. “I could be the quickest, most coordinated, best skating goalie in the world, but if I wasn’t able to stay calm under pressure, all of those skills would mean absolutely nothing. It is definitely something that comes mostly from mentality and experience. You have to be able to see what can go your way and what might not, and put yourself in the best position to succeed from there.”

He referred back to that four minute penalty kill against the Vineyard on Tuesday and how mentally preparing himself for that moment helped him perform well.

“To me that was just like practice,” Starr said of the four minute penalty kill. “Practices before games usually consist of power play work, and for me just trying to make it fun has given me a huge confidence boost for when we are on the kill.”

Starr is looking forward to his team’s Round of 8 game later today at 3:30 p.m. He believes the tight-knit culture he and his teammates have established could help them pull out a victory and bring the Whalers to their first ever final four.

“The chemistry on this team is unreal,” Starr said. “Our top two lines and other starters are a group that have been playing together since they were 10 years old. From peewee hockey until today. Even off the ice everyone is able to get along and that is a huge part in being part of a team.”

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