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Ice Hockey Player of the Season: Stark-Hopkinton’s Paul Molnar

  • John Stark-Hopkinton senior Paul Molnar skates with the puck during the Division III boys’ ice hockey championship earlier this month. Molnar, who has been named ‘Monitor’ Ice Hockey Player of the Season, scored the game’s lone goal as JSH defended its D-III title. Rich Miyara file / NH Sports Photography

  • John Stark-Hopkinton's Paul Molnar (24) watches the puck fly by during Wednesday's hockey game at New England College in Henniker on Jan. 10, 2018. John Stark-Hopkinton defeated Monadnock, 7-1. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Teammates surround John Stark-Hopkinton’s Paul Molnar after he scored a goal against Pembroke-Campbell in January. Molnar was named ‘Monitor’ Ice Hockey Player of the Season. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 3/20/2019 7:14:48 PM

He can score a man-up or a man-down, on a breakaway all by himself or outnumbered in the offensive zone, from the blue line to the slot. There is no shortage of ways for Paul Molnar to find the back of net, and he’s likely to make opposing defenders look foolish while doing it.

“I believe he was the fastest skater, the smoothest skater and he’s kind of like the point guard in a basketball game for us,” John Stark-Hopkinton boys’ hockey coach Denis Kolehmainen said of his star senior. “Where as I have Brett Patnode, who is more of our power forward, Paulie can stick handle in a phone booth, make five guys looks silly and he barely even moved.”

Molnar, Stark-Hopkinton’s dynamic senior forward and a clear-cut choice for the Monitor Ice Hockey Player of the Season, is simply a talent that can’t be denied.

In his final season with the General Hawks, Molnar poured in 30 goals and 20 assists, was again a Division III First Team All-State selection and was a big reason why the team finished 20-1, locking up its second consecutive championship in D-III with a 1-0 victory over Monadnock-Fall Mountain.

“I was never expecting that,” Molnar said of back-to-back titles. “But as I saw my teammates progress and I got better, too, it kind of seemed possible that we could at least win something. Coming from last year, it seemed like we could definitely repeat again this year.”

And Molnar made sure they did by scoring the lone goal in the title game – a shot that slipped through the goalie’s pads 46 seconds into the third period off an assist from Brett Patnode.

“In that game I was just waiting. Someone has to score and I know it’s most likely going to be a pass off (Molnar’s) stick or coming off his stick,” Kolehmainen said.

“That game was definitely really intense,” Molnar said. “When I scored that I was kind of like, ‘Oh my goodness, we can win it right here.’ But we just kept at it, too. We didn’t think it would be a one-goal game.”

Another reason for Molnar and the team’s success, especially late in the season, was a strategic move made by Kolehmainen. Due to an increased focus on Molnar by opposing defenses, the longtime coach altered his top line.

Instead of staggering his top skaters, Kolehmainen put Molnar, Patnode and Nolan Sauer all on the first line.

“Last year they were split up so we had two really good lines and a third line that went out every once in a while. And we did the same this year,” Kolehmainen said. “But when you put those three together, no one had an answer for that.”

A move so late into the season had the potential to throw off Stark-Hopkinton’s chemistry, but Molnar said it was a relatively smooth transition.

“It was awesome because the skill level on that new line was prime and we could pass it around and get goals repeatedly,” Molnar said.

When he’s not scoring goals or making defenders miss with clever dekes, Molnar, who will attend Brown University where he plans to play on the club hockey team next year, is still a very sound player on the ice.

For his entire career, he accrued just two penalty minutes, and those didn’t happen until Stark-Hopkinton played Goffstown in the 16th game of this past season.

“He’s disciplined. He knows how to play the game. He’s not the big physical guy. He can throw a check if he needs to. But he’s a very good hands player. He can pickpocket the puck off a kid’s stick and the kid doesn’t even know he lost it,” Kolehmainen said.

“He’s just a great kid overall,” Kolehmainen said. “He plays hockey the way you’re supposed to play it and doesn’t get into any of the extracurricular that goes on.”

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)

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