Editor's Note: We'll be running several features on members of the Wilmington boys hockey team in advance of Monday night's North Division 2 championship game between the Wildcats and Winthrop at Tsongas Arena. Puck drops at 6 p.m.
When the final buzzer sounds at the end of a Wilmington hockey game, Wildcat players trek into to the locker room, change and exit the arena to load onto the bus or jump into their car and go home after a physically and mentally draining tilt.
But junior defenseman Brian Pickett’s night isn’t done yet.
After every game, Pickett sheds his skates, laces up his sneakers and heads into the cold winter night for a run.
“With Brian, you just don’t know what’s coming out of his mouth or what he’s going to do next, so it didn’t surprise me the first time I saw him do it,” said Wilmington senior captain Dalton Rolli lightheartedly. “It’s just a cooldown for him after he’s had a great game.”
Pickett said the ritual started in youth hockey when his coach, the father of current teammate Brendan McDonough, told all of his players to go for a run before the game to get the blood flowing. Then after the game, Pickett said it helps him wind down and avoid tight muscles.
Sophomore goalie Drew Foley said he remembers the first time he saw Pickett duck out after a game.
“We were in the locker room wondering where he was going, just wondering where he gets the energy,” said Foley. “He runs off any problems he had during the game and forgets about it, and just focuses on the next game.”
Luckily for Pickett, he hasn’t had many problems to run off as of late. The junior has been a catalyst in the defensive zone for Wilmington. During three postseason games, Wilmington has only allowed three goals.
In addition, Pickett has also provided some timely offense this year. He had a game-winner earlier in the campaign, and against top seed Lynnfield he scored a critical goal that helped the team advance in the North Division 2 bracket.
“He’s improved a ton since last year,” said Rolli. “You can tell he has captain potential, just because of the attitude he has. He’s been a great teammate on and off the ice, and he’s really become a leader.”
Wilmington head coach Steve Scanlon said Pickett’s skating ability is his best quality. But the Wildcat mentor said his defenseman has another rare skill that leads to success on the ice.
“He’s a really good poke checker, which is a lost art. He keeps players off balance with a really quick stick,” said Scanlon. “He’s a smooth skater, and because of that he can get himself into position to make the good play. Plus he’s an intelligent hockey player, so he always knows where to go with the puck to advance it.”
The junior said he's enjoying every minute of the ride that has brought the team this far into the postseason. And given his unique postgame routine, he's glad he's been around for all the busrides home.
"My teammates think I'm a head case now, just really out there when i do it," said Pickett. "The bus has never left without me. I don't have to worry about it because they know I'll be back in just a few minutes."
Pickett’s next run will come on Monday night as the Wildcats face Winthrop in the North Division 2 title game in Lowell's Tsongas Arena.
With a win in that game, the defenseman would have the chance to take a lap around a bit bigger venue in a week or so. If the Wildcats are victorious against Winthrop, they’ll be in the state championship game and Pickett can take to the streets around Boston’s TD Garden.