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The Day's All-Area Hockey Player of the Year: Eastern Connecticut's Evan Tower

Randy Craig, head coach of the Eastern Connecticut Eagles, is the best person to start a story about forward Evan Tower.

“There are other players that are as skilled as (him),” Craig said. “I’ve never coached a player who works harder at the game than he does.

“I was fortunate enough to have a JV team this year. … I’d tell the (varsity), ‘we’re going to have a JV practice and if you want to come and shoot out at a pregame skate, you can do it.’ He showed up at every one.”

Tower is The Day’s 2020 All-Area Hockey Player of the Year, earning the honor for the second straight season, as one of the Eagles’ leaders both on the ice and in the locker room. With the Eagles being the lone hockey team in the region this winter, The Day did not choose an All-Area team.

The hockey part has been easy for Tower. The East Lyme High School senior from Salem had a team-leading 40 points and 19 goals this season for Eastern Connecticut. He had to learn to be a leader, however, as the team captain.

“I had to help in other ways other than just scoring goals,” Tower said. “So the numbers weren’t quite the same but I still think I made an impact.

“It was actually pretty hard for me (to be vocal), especially after the last few years. I know people watched me because I’m a good player, but I usually like to just play and let my actions lead.”

The season didn’t go as well as the young Eagles hoped as they finished 10-11-1, ending with a loss in the first round of the CIAC Division II tournament. They had won the Nutmeg Conference the previous two seasons.

“There were definitely some frustrating periods,” Tower said. “There were three games (out of five) where we scored no goals. We hadn’t had a (five-game) losing streak before. It was hard at the moment to not think about that kind of stuff but overall I’m not disappointed with the season.”

Tower helped the Eagles win their first CIAC state title his sophomore season (2018), was a first-team all-state coaches’ pick last season and a second-team pick as a sophomore and a senior. He also earned the Hobey Baker High School Character Award this year.

“We probably had 15 new kids in the program between sophomores and a handful of freshmen,” Craig said. “Whether the player was a contributor to the varsity program or a kid who had never played hockey before, Evan treats that kid with respect. He treats them like every other player. He leads by example.

“The bottom line for him is his legacy and it isn’t a championship that he helped bring us as a sophomore. He was a big part of that championship team. His legacy isn’t earning three straight all-state honors. … His legacy is that he built a culture of guys that work hard. As a coach, I can try as best as I can to change the culture. But realistically, as a coach, especially at a high school program, you can’t change the culture without guys who are leaders.”

Evan was drawn to hockey at a very young age watching his father, Keith, play in men’s leagues. Keith Tower was a former captain at Windsor.

“It was cool to see all the guys playing live,” Tower said. “I fell in love with it. ...The energy. I even went to some AHL games in Bridgeport and Hartford.”

It took hard work for Tower to become the player that he is today. Funny as it sounds now, he struggled at it when he was younger.

“I remember the first year I started (playing) and I was on a mite house team, which is for all the kids not good enough to even make the A team,” Tower said with a chuckle. “I was pretty bad when I first started. … I knew exactly why I was there because I wasn’t even close to some of the other kids on the team. I didn’t play hockey as much as some that played in the spring and offseason and I didn’t do so well. I knew I’d be behind them.

“I was at the bottom of the team, but every year, I built myself up.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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