By Jim Sullivan
---- — When former Triton hockey co-captain and center Mike Fish deferred his acceptance to Fitchburg State to play junior hockey for the New England Wolves last spring, he knew he was taking a chance.
But that chance has paid off as Fish has just been accepted to play for the Falcons next year.
“It’s a tribute to Mike Fish,” said Triton coach Drew Wile. “It’s a tribute to a kid who came up through the system and is off to play college hockey. Which he’s proven that you can do, coming from a school like Triton.”
This is the first player of Wile’s tenure who will be playing hockey at the college level, and it’s a big point of pride both for Wile and the system he and his coaches are trying to build.
“Newburyport has had numerous kids go play college hockey,” said Wile. “And, in my three years here, this is the first college hockey player that we’ve sent.
“That’s one of our goals as a program. We want to be able to tell the kids that you don’t need to play at other places. You could do the junior thing, you could do the prep school thing and go onto college hockey. And Mike Fish proved it.”
Currently playing a 65-game season with the Wolves against teams from the U.S. and Canada as part of the America Hockey Institute in Waterville Valley, N.H., Fish is happy to know his hard work has paid off.
“It’s just a big relief,” Fish said of getting into Fitchburg. “Especially when you’re playing juniors, you’re playing the year to see what happens and it’s hard to go to that next level.”
Fish, who played center for the Vikings and is currently playing wing for the Wolves, was known just as much for his presence in the locker room as on the ice.
“I really appreciate him more now than ever,” said Wile. “Because he’s the kind of kid this team currently needs. But a lot of our kids still talk about him right now. What he brought to the table, and they are trying to mimic that.”
Now that Fish’s Viking career is over, Wile laughed at his first impression of his former captain.
“He came out and I don’t think he was 140 pounds,” Wile said. “He was such a small kid. But he had a motor. You could tell, he didn’t just want to play hockey, he wanted to be a hockey player. And there is a big, big difference. He took off and he was the leader of our team (those) past two years. He’s playing well now. He’s doing well now and all his hard work has been noticed.”
Fish has left a lasting impression on the Triton system, which has been making great strides the past three years and is looking to place more players into colleges.
“We have more hockey players (now) than kids that just want to play hockey,” said Wile. “Once things get rolling, that’s the key. It shows the youth group that you can stay right at home. We’re trying to give whoever plays Triton hockey the best opportunity to move on to play college hockey and this proves that the method is working.”
Fish said that he plans to study biology and environmental science while playing for the Falcons but knows he wouldn’t be able to do any of it without his Triton experience.
“Coming out of a public school high school, you learn the mentality of hard work,” Fish said. “Nothing is really (handed) to you. Coach Wile was a great role model for me. He really taught me that hockey is more than what you do on the ice, it’s what you do off the ice too. It’s a part of your life. It’s more than just a game.”