June 28, 2010

For Noonan, investment paid dividends

by Chris Carlson

Coleman Noonan (photo: St. Anselm)

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Players and coaches often refer to a tale of two seasons, or two periods. Coleman Noonan’s award-winning year was a tale of two goals.

The first actually came last season, when he was a St. Anselm sophomore. Noonan (Norfolk, Mass.) approached a defender, passed the puck through his legs – striding past the defenseman in the process -- and then deked the goaltender.

It was, St. A’s head coach Ed Seney said, “one of the more spectacular goals, I’ve seen.”

The second, which came this past season, arrived when Noonan worked his way in front of an offensive player, blocked a shot and chased down the puck, racing down the wing and finding the back of the net.

The first one was spectacular. The second made Noonan special.

As a junior, Noonan transitioned from scorer to two-way star, leading the ECAC East in scoring. He also led St. Anselm to a tie for second place in the league – the best finish in the program’s history – and secured the Concannon Award, presented annually by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston to New England’s top American-born Division 2 or 3 hockey player.

Noonan tied for third in the country, averaging 1.74 points per game, scoring 23 goals and adding 24 assists in 27 games. He was St. Anselm’s top scorer the previous year as well, with 10 goals and 14 assists.

Unfortunately for Noonan, he struggled to pick his spots.

“He was capable of doing that type of thing,” Seney said, harkening back to the unforgettable goal. “But he’d do it in our end too. This year he made the smart play, got the puck out and off the boards.”

While Noonan was one of St. Anselm’s most dangerous players the previous two years, he found himself bolted to the bench in key situations. Every time the Hawks went on the penalty kill, Noonan came off the ice. When the team was protecting a lead late, Noonan couldn’t play.

“He came to me after the season and asked how he could play more,” Seney said. “I told him he had to make a commitment to the defensive end. There’s between 10 and 12 minutes of penalties in a college hockey game. That was time that he couldn’t play. At the end of a game we were leading, we didn’t use him. If you want to be an All-American, you need to be on the ice for those minutes.”

Noonan made sure he was. And he took advantage of the extra time, leading the Hawks to an upset over Middlebury -- its first win over the Panthers in 16 years -- and a tie with Babson. The Hawks won the Northeast-10 tournament for the first time since 2006 and, despite being unable to play in ECAC tournament due to their Division 2 status, “(Noonan) put us on the map,” said Seney.

He always had great hands,” said teammate and fellow captain Nick Wheeler.  “He really improved over the offseason. He improved his speed and quickness. He had that meeting with Coach and he really took it to heart.”

Even in his first two years, Noonan’s talent was evident. A star in lacrosse as well as hockey at Catholic Memorial, his hands were exquisite. He had the confidence to hold the puck longer than most players would dare, and the ability to put the puck away around the net.

Noonan developed his skills as part of a hockey family in Norfolk, Mass. His older brother, Pat, played at Northeastern, and his younger brother, Garrett, is playing in the British Columbia Hockey League.

“I’ve got scarred walls, holes in the walls, broken windows,” said his father, Joe Noonan. “They played in the basement all the time.”

Coleman Noonan was recruited by Division 1 schools like Merrimack and Holy Cross, but they wanted him to spend time in junior hockey before coming to college. Unlike most of his teammates, he arrived at St. Anselm straight from high school. His game, while flashy, took a little longer to mature, forcing him to earn Seney’s trust.

While Wheeler said the team never noticed a lack of effort on the defensive side, the energy Noonan put into it this season was impossible to miss.

In his previous seasons, Noonan didn’t score a short-handed goal. This season, he had five, and the Hawks led the country with 13. He added eight power-play goals, scoring more than half his goals on special teams.

“I’d always been a one-dimensional player,” Noonan said. “It was just buying into what coach said. I was a captain. We were trying to get everyone on board, and I knew doing that started with me.”

Part of Noonan’s ability to play both ways came from conditioning. While he’d always worked out, Noonan took it a step further last summer. Instead of using his own workout plan, he drove to Foxboro, Mass., and worked out under the instruction of Brian McDonough at Edge Performance Systems.

Along with the endurance came the motivation of being a captain. During a meeting with his captains, Seney said he wouldn’t be able to reach the rest of the team unless the captains heeded his message first.

“It helps when your best player is on board,” Seney said.

Noonan listened loud and clear. And the results proved it.

Chris Carlson can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.