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A long journey for St. Sebastian's D'Orsi

Will D'Orsi recalls the first time he ever put on skates.

Just four years old at the time, D'Orsi did not have the luxury of other kids his age who could go to a frozen pond in town, or have their mom or dad drive them to a nearby rink to hone their skills.

You see, D'Orsi was living in England with his family at the time. England, hardly considered hockey haven, only had a couple of rinks available in which D'Orsi's father, Scott, or mother, Deborah, would have to drive long distances to get to.

"We lived in England from when I was three to when I was five," said D'Orsi, "I think there were just two rinks in all of England so we had some long rides. But I vividly remember me being that young and loving every minute I was on the ice.

And where is D'Orsi today?

He is a prominent fixture on the St. Sebastian's hockey team, leading the Arrows in scoring. A first-line centerman, D'Orsi is considered one of the more prolific players at the prep school level.

He began competing at a high level while playing at the Fessenden School. Upon graduation, D'Orsi decided to attend Belmont Hill which lasted for one year before opting to transfer to St. Sebastian's for his sophomore season.

"Belmont Hill just wasn't the right fit for me," he said. "So I came to St. Sebastian's. Coming over here is the best decision I have ever made in my high school career. The hockey has been great and Coach (Sean) McCann has done a great job with the program along with my own development. It is an environment that I wanted to be in and it has been great for me personally."

Athough the Arrows (10-8-3) have been a bit downtrodden this season, it has not affected D'Orsi's play one iota. The senior continues to flourish nightly despite the team's rough times, having tabulated 13 goals and added 19 assists so far. D'Orsi, along with fellow linemates R.J. Murphy and John Rourke have combined for 76 points already this season.

"The funny thing is that all three of them have been centermen at one time or another," said McCann. "They all can skate, can handle the puck and all have very good instincts. I wanted to put them all together to give them some flexibility from the standpoint of if you are a left winger it is OK to cut to the middle to take the center spot."

D'Orsi has emerged as the leader of this valuable trio, excelling in his abilities to control the puck and set up his teammates.

"Will's skill set is very good," adds McCann. "He is a tremendous skater and has spent years and years working on that. He also has very good hands. He does an excellent job in his ability to control the puck and be able to protect it. That makes him a threat anytime he is out on the ice.

“He also has a very high hockey IQ. He immediately draws players to him which allows him the ability to dish the puck to someone else or be able to create an opening for himself.”

During his sophomore year, D'Orsi accepted a scholarship to play at Yale – the same school his father played at from 1986-1990. For the younger D'Orsi, there was little hesitation on making his decision to become a future Bulldog.

He is the second D'Orsi child to receive an athletic scholarship. Older sister Hope, a standout lacrosse player, is midfielder at the University of Richmond.

"My dad played at Yale and the coaching staff was aware of that," D'Orsi said. "Once they noticed me they wanted to get me on campus. Being that my dad went there, Yale was always going to be at the top of my list. I had always wanted to play hockey at an Ivy League school.

“I can't honestly give you one reason why but academics has always been important to me. I looked at Yale and Harvard, but Yale became more appealing to me and they have been playing some great hockey, having recently won a national championship (in 2013 under head coach and Worcester native Keith Allain). My dad is certainly excited about it.”

D'Orsi's transformation from being a solid player to an elite one began after taking part in the Select Under-16 Festival for two years before joining the U.S. Under-17 Select Team as part of the Five Nations Hockey Tournament in the summer of 2013. It was there that the Sudbury native quickly realized it was now time to bring his game up another level.

"It was during the Under-17 Select when I started to take things a lot more seriously,” he said. “I knew the reason I was asked to the camp was an opportunity for me to tryout and hopefully make the team and represent our country in the tournament. I knew I needed to establish myself in an effort to get noticed by the coaches.

He added, “Coaches also wanted to see guys who would do the little things and go into the dirty areas on the ice. That was what was going to establish you over the other handful of players. I stuck to that and got the call that I had made the team. We went to Slovakia and won the gold medal. It was a great experience. For me, it was just an honor to put on that USA jersey."

D'Orsi, along with Thayer Academy's Lincoln Griffin, were the only two Massachusetts prodigies selected to the Under-17 select team.

In spite of the experience D'Orsi had gained from playing against international competition, there were parts of his game that still required some developing. Among them was his apprehensiveness to contact. McCann took notice of this and leaned heavily on D'Orsi, who stands 5-11, 170 pounds, to become more physical on the ice with or without the puck on his stick.

"Because of the coaches constantly talking to him, Will has become a player who is a lot more physical than when he first arrived here," McCann said. "I think that has added a different dimension to his game. It has allowed him to get better opportunities and it has allowed him to get the puck more and to set up other guys because he is now willing to have contact.”

McCann was certainly the right person to drive D'Orsi and teach him the proper mechanics which, in turn, has established him into being one of the top prep players in the country.

In his own college career, McCann was an outstanding defenseman at Harvard, earning him All-Amerca honors and being a finalist for Hobey Baker Award during his senior season in 1994. That year, he helped guide the Crimson to the Frozen Four, where they fell to eventual national champion Lake Superior State in the semifinal round.

Prior to coming to St. Sebastian's in 2009, McCann served as an assistant coach at Harvard.

"Will plays the game the right way," McCann said. "He will do well for himself whether it is in the game or outside the game. He's a great person."

In order to exceed at the next level, D'Orsi is aware his shortcomings on the ice. It is an issue he is relentless on correcting by the time he arrives in New Haven next fall.

"What has got me whatever success I have had so far is skill with the puck, shooting the puck and stick-handling" said D'Orsi. "What I feel I need to get better at is supporting the puck all over the ice and being gritty in every single battle.

“I am mindful of all of it. I've learned that you can be highly skilled and look like one of the best players on the ice but if you aren't willing to do those other things then maybe you aren't as big an asset as you might appear to be."