January 20, 2014

Sommer, Crusaders savor milestone win

When it comes time to sell the family home in Shrewsbury, Mass., it’s going to take more than a little time and effort to get the basement back in shape, said Roy Sommer.

Raising a kid intent on becoming the best hockey player he can be will sometimes do that to a room.

Sophomore Castan Sommer, son of Worcester Sharks head coach Roy Sommer, led Holy Cross freshmen last season with 17 points and helped the Crusaders upset then-No. 7 Boston College on Nov. 29.

Castan Sommer, a sophomore forward at Holy Cross, was likely on a fast track to higher levels of hockey from an early age. He thinks his mother might have gone into labor with him during one of his dad’s games. Hockey is still his father’s career.

Roy Sommer is in his 18th season of coaching in the San Jose Sharks organization and his 15th with its American Hockey League affiliate as head coach now with the Worcester Sharks.

“Our whole family is involved in hockey,” Castan said. “It’s always been an important part of our family. I was lucky. My dad could pretty much get ice for skating any time he wanted. I was always hanging around his office and then getting out on the ice.”

He did his share of hanging out in the basement at home, too, after Worcester became the AHL affiliate for the Sharks and Roy and Melissa Sommer brought their family to town.

“He was always down there shooting when he didn’t have anything else to do,” Roy said. “It’s pretty torn up down there. It’s cinderblock but all the insulation above it is torn out. There’s no insulation under the dining room floor. Some kids beat up the garage door. He beat up the downstairs.”

Shooting a lot of pucks at a young age pays off in the long run, Roy Sommer said.

“It definitely helps to get shots and work with the puck,” he said. “You can push the puck, drag it, shoot from different areas. If young kids shoot a lot of pucks, shoot heavy pucks and shoot lead pucks and shoot them with proper form, when they start getting strength in their arms at 17 and 18 it’s going to help them have good shots. A lot of kids pick it up when they’re older and it’s too late.”

Castan Sommer’s game picked up as he grew and the family moved around with Roy’s jobs.

“It really got going in Kentucky,” Roy said. “The hockey wasn’t very good, but he had a lot of fun. We went to Cleveland and the hockey was pretty good and then the big stepping stone was moving to Massachusetts with lots of hockey everywhere, every night.”

The family — including Castan’s brother, Marley, and sister, Kira, neither of whom took to hockey like he did — settled on Shrewsbury, about 15 minutes out of Worcester, in part because of its high school hockey.

They got to town when Castan was a sophomore in high school, and he played for the Colonials for three years, leading them in scoring each season and helping them to a Division 3 state championship as a senior.

Along the way, he got his first introduction to Holy Cross from his high school coach, John Binkoski, who had been a goalie coach with the Crusaders and took him up to visit.

“It was pretty cool,” Castan said. “Before that, I didn’t really have a specific school in mind. I just wanted to go to a good school.”

He played a year of prep school hockey at Hotchkiss and then a couple of years with the Bismarck Bobcats in the North American Hockey League.

“Holy Cross started to pay more attention,” said Sommer, who majors in international studies. “They said they liked the way I improved year to year.”

When coach Paul Pearl (Winthrop, Mass.) offered a scholarship, Castan signed on.

He was about 5-foot-6 early in high school, a 6-footer by the time he left and now is listed at 6-foot-3.

Castan didn’t get to see his father play but has heard about his game and has tried to make his a little more like his dad’s as he’s gotten bigger and older.

“He was about 5-foot-11 and played juniors and he fought a lot,” Castan said. “He was real physical. My game might be turning that way a little. I try to play an all-around game. I don’t think I’m the fastest skater, but I try to let my head do a lot of the work. And be in the right place at the right time and make good plays.”

He collected six goals and 11 assists to lead Holy Cross freshmen in goals and points last season. Going into Christmas break this season, he was tied for the team lead in goals with freshman Mike Barrett with four. He and Barrett each had three assists as well.

Barrett was centering a line for Sommer on the left and sophomore Matt Vidal on the right late in the first semester.

The unit came up huge in one of the biggest wins ever for Holy Cross in late November. The Crusaders went to Conte Forum on Nov. 29 and knocked off No. 7-ranked Boston College, 5-4, for the first time. BC had never lost to an Atlantic Hockey Association team.

Barrett had two goals and an assist, Sommer had a goal and an assist and Vidal had the game-winning goal and two assists.

The Crusaders did not have the start of the season they were hoping for and were 3-9-0 when they went to BC, but felt they were playing much better than their record.

“We were pretty competitive in all our games but a couple,” Sommer said. “We knew BC was going to be one of the three best teams we played all year. We got out to a good start and held on from there.”

Vidal’s goal put Holy Cross up 5-1 with just over three minutes left in the second period. The Eagles roared back with three goals in the third but could not get another past junior goalie Matt Ginn.

The Crusaders followed up the BC win with a pair of ties, 2-2 and 3-3, against Air Force at home to close out the first half.

Holy Cross lost a few players at times to injury in the first semester and hopes to get them back as it tries — helped by the local coach’s kid — to build on that last stretch of games in the second half and see if they can match, or improve on, last year’s third-place finish in the regular season.