By Mac Cerullo
---- — NEWBURYPORT — If you asked any of the local varsity hockey coaches who the best players in the area were within the past year, they would inevitably respond with two names: Newburyport’s Travis Wile and Triton’s Kyle Hillick.
Though Wile and Hillick have each followed different paths to the top — Wile has played on varsity for Newburyport since his freshman year, while Hillick was a late bloomer who didn’t really break out until his junior year — each is unquestionably among the top players in the Cape Ann League and the guys who set the tone in their locker room.
Hillick was the third-leading goal scorer in the Cape Ann League this past season, scoring 14 goals to go along with 13 assists and 27 total points. Wile was right there with him, scoring slightly fewer goals (11) but a handful more assists (15) to finish with 26 points.
Each player also came up big in key moments. Hillick scored the go-ahead goal in the Vikings’ opening round matchup with Newburyport in the Newburyport Bank Tournament, and Wile assisted on the tying goal a few minutes later that sent it to a shootout.
“He’s an outstanding captain and leader for us. We started 1-4 and we had a difficult schedule ahead, and he got the team focused and led by example,” said Newburyport coach Paul Yameen, referring to Wile. “Working hard at practice and working hard in the weight room to get better. I think we did get better, and he’s a huge reason why.”
Drew Wile, head coach at Triton, had similar sentiments regarding Hillick, adding that he probably grew about 7 inches during his time with the program and transformed from an OK high school player to a guy who is probably going to play in college.
“He was the game changer, he was the one who could just make things happen,” said Wile of Hillick. “He led the way in that regard and that’s why he had at least half his points in the last eight games. He definitely rises to the occasion as a big-time player.”
The coaches each had nice things to say about their opponent’s best guy too, as did others who faced them. Wile attended Newburyport’s first-round tournament matchup against Winchester, and after the game he said he spoke to Winchester’s head coach, who told him that Wile had made an impression on his team during the first period in a big way.
“After the first period, he said my guys don’t want to play against No. 5 anymore,” Wile said. “That just goes to show you that he plays the game fair, he plays the game square and he plays the game tough. I’d take him on my team anytime.”
Similarly, Yameen said he enjoyed getting to play against Hillick because whenever you have a chance to compete against a player of that caliber, it makes you better too. On graduation, Wile said he plans to attend West Virginia University and hopes to try out for the school’s club hockey team. Hillick, on the other hand, will not be headed to college just yet. Instead, he will transfer to Tilton Academy, which will likely serve as his springboard to the NCAA.
“Travis and Kyle, we’re happy for both of those guys,” Yameen said. “Years from now we can look back at these Triton and Newburyport games and have some outstanding memories.”