The Day's All-Area Hockey Player of the Year: Eastern Connecticut's Evan Tower
It's easy to spot Evan Tower on the ice during hockey practice and games.
Just look for the hardest worker.
The tireless Tower never stops skating.
"The kid has a motor that doesn't quit," said Randy Craig, Tower's coach on the Eastern Connecticut Eagles. "The way I usually describe him is he's super tenacious and never takes a shift off. A lot of kids will go hard in the first shift and then are tired and don't work too hard on the next shift.
"He never takes one off. Not a shift in the game. Not a shift in practice. Not in a scrimmage that doesn't mean anything."
Tower, an East Lyme High School junior, earned the distinction this season of becoming The Day's first All-Area Hockey Player of the Year. He scored over 100 points during the last two seasons and helped the Eagles capture consecutive Nutmeg Conference titles. An all-conference and all-state selection this year, he led his team in goals and points.
He scored both of his team's goals in a 3-2 loss to Cheshire in the first round of the Division II state tournament.
His most impressive statistic, as far as Craig is concerned, is a plus-minus ratio of plus-30 (a player's goal differential when he is in the game).
"That's unheard of," Craig said.
Tower, who just completed his second year playing high school hockey, fell hard for the sport at a young age. He started skating at around seven years old. His first team was the Seahawks, a house league team in Norwich.
"I knew I loved it right away," Tower said. "Just being in the locker room with all the guys. It's hard not to like."
Hockey gradually became a bigger part of his life. He'd shoot pucks in his driveway and skate on the backyard rink. His father, Keith, would encourage Tower to work on his game.
"My dad would always push me to be better," Tower said. "He'd always have me practice at home."
Last year was the highlight of his hockey career. Eastern Connecticut's magical postseason run culminated with the program's first state championship, a 7-3 win over Tri-Town in the Division III title game at Yale's Ingalls Rink.
"That was a really cool experience, especially my first year playing high school hockey," Tower said.
When asked about his goal-scoring prowess, Tower credits line mates Ryan Huta and Kyle Jacobson for setting him up. He added that he's more shifty than fast and considers his strength being able to change directions quickly, allowing him to elude defenders.
"It was really nice having two other great players on my line because the majority of the goals I scored, I didn't even do too much," Tower said. "I would just get set up. Get the puck in a good spot after they did a lot of work and I would be able to shoot it."
Tower is being far too modest, according to Craig, who raves about the junior's all-around play.
"That's what I would expect him to say because he is a team player," Craig said. "And he does everything. He kills penalties and he plays on the power play. If I need him to double-shift, he double-shifts. He's in incredible shape. He just keeps going and never says a word.
"The games are one thing and he's a great player. But the great players are the guys that can play in practice. And he makes the entire team better in practice."
Tower, who checks in at about 145 pounds, is tough, too.
Opponents try to be physical with Tower to slow him down but he keeps going.
"He gets beat up every game and he doesn't get a ton of help from the officials," Craig said. "He gets pounded but he doesn't go down easy because he's a great skater. His edge work is really, really good. ... He's a strong kid and he's physical and fast and he'll take a hit. And he'll make hits, too. He's just really good on his feet."
Tower has turned his attention to lacrosse this spring. It's a sport he enjoys but not as much as hockey.
It may be the offseason for hockey but Tower will continue to skate whenever he can.
"I go to the open hockey a lot at the Norwich rink," Tower said. "I try to go as much as I can because it is such a good workout. In hockey, you get rusty pretty fast if you take time off."
The Day's 2019 All-Area Hockey Team
Player of the Year — Evan Tower (Eastern CT Eagles)
Will Cannella (Eastern CT Eagles)
Rylin Fowler (Eastern CT Eagles)
Ryan Huta (Eastern CT Eagles)
Kyle Jacobson (Eastern CT Eagles)
Kyle Marino (Eastern CT Eagles)
Steve Turchetta (Redhawks)