WALPOLE, MA -- Since 2005, the Walpole Express have established themselves as one of the best Junior hockey programs on the east coast. While the organization is notorious for recruiting top-tier talent at the Junior “A” level, the Express also take pride at acquiring skilled players who entail character on and off the ice.
There is no doubt that defenseman Romeo Torain was an ideal match for the Express, after he shared his Road to the EHL.
Entering the 2020-21 Eastern Hockey League (EHL) campaign, defenseman Romeo Torain was the lone skater who returned to the Walpole Express. Yet, some might wonder how the New York, NY native gained interest in ice hockey.
“I got into hockey from watching my older brother,” said Torain. “I watched him from when I was just in a stroller and then I took action and asked my parents if I could try to play as well.”
Yes, Torain grew up in the City that Never Sleeps, but that never stopped the dynamic blue-liner from pursing his ultimate goal of lacing up the skates at the rink and on a consistent basis. Prior to skating for Walpole, that the left-handed shot dressed for teams in two different states and persevered to follow his passion – no matter the circumstances.
“Being a city kid and living in the city where hockey isn’t exactly a ‘big thing,’ or you can’t find ice (time) that often was tough,” said Torain. “But you work around it and you manage your time, and you look for teams that are maybe close to where you live. So, I would go outside of New York City and I played in Jersey and Long Island for three years, and it was a great experience - I can say that.”
The 5-foot-11 defenseman’s dedication to the sport first carried him to New Jersey where he laced up the skates at a competitive level with the North Jersey Avalanche’s “AAA” programs (U16-U18). After four seasons with a commendable program in North Jersey, Torain joined another well-known hockey organization in the P.A.L. Islanders.
The energetic skater then skated on the right track with the Islanders from 2016 until the end of 2018 at the “AAA” level, while catching the eye of Junior hockey scouts. Walpole head coach Cody Campbell expressed his interest in scouting the youngster prior to accepting the bench boss role with the Express.
“I saw Romeo play throughout the course of his youth career when I was coaching in the NAHL (North American Hockey League) and USHL (United States Hockey League),” said Campbell. “Then, when I took the job in Walpole, I had a list of players put together and Romeo was on my list after seeing him play in the Battle of Boston and Chowder Cup.”
It also seemed that Torain was intrigued about signing with Walpole from the get-go.
“I decided to sign with Walpole and give it a shot and play for Cody,” said Torain. “I’m really proud of the team we had last year and I’m very proud of the team that we have this year, as well.”
The Express finished with a 28-13-5 record last season, while Torain dressed in 46 of the team’s 47 games. Additionally, the humble blue-liner tallied three goals and recorded 17 helpers on the year.
After spending one season and counting with the Express, Campbell shared his thoughts on Torain’s development.
“Fortunately for us, he decided that this was going to be a good decision for his development and we felt the same way,” said Campbell. “His decision-making and overall puck possession he makes with the puck has come a very long way from day one of last year, to where we are currently. He’s the only returning skater this year, so with that he’s been able to show guys who haven’t been here before – which is pretty much the entire team – what our standards are and what our culture is.”
While Torain and the Express experienced a tough start this season with five consecutive losses, Walpole has bounced back with eight consecutive wins since Oct. 15. The team’s recent hot streak jump-started the Express into second place for the EHL’s New England Conference, which also witnessed Torain and company earn shutouts in the their last three contests – no team to date has accomplished that in 2020-21.
“It was a rough start in the beginning and the team wasn’t connecting,” said Torain. “But then I think after the game we lost to the Boston Jr. Rangers (9-3), I decided to make a change. There are teams that have a tough start but can still make changes – I mixed things up around with the warm up and such and it’s a routine that you have to follow and if you follow a perfect a routine it helps your team win. Things started to turn in our favor and now we’re rolling on a streak, but you have to take things one game at a time and always be ready.”
Torain wasn’t shy about how he’s enjoyed spending “everyday” with his Express teammates and working hard with them often at the rink, either. It also seems that the defenseman has enjoyed “seeing the new faces” that arrived and the challenges of being a leader as the lone returning player.
Torain played AAA hockey for the North Jersey Avalanche from 2013 to 2016, working his way up from 13U to 16U.
Following his time in New Jersey, Torain jumped over to the P.A.L. Islanders for 3 seasons of midget development.
Torain’s hope after his EHL experience with Walpole, is to attend college at a SUNY institution and study Sport Management. He believes that the field would suit him well considering how beneficial the sport of hockey has been to himself.
And, most who know Torain would agree with his decision to pursue that career path since the sport has welcomed the leader with welcomed arms since he first witnessed hockey before he could walk.
“Hockey has taken me all over and now it’s gotten me to a great league and high pace level, and I’m very proud of myself for how far I’ve come in the sport.”
Kyle McKenna spent four seasons working in various communications roles at the professional hockey level from 2015-2019. McKenna served as the New Jersey Devils Communications Assistant for the 2015-16 season and Community Hockey Assistant and Lightning High School Hockey League Beat Writer from 2016-2018 for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Additionally, the New Jersey native worked at the 2018 World Junior Championship at Buffalo in as a Media Relations Assistant and was also the Communications Assistant for the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder in 2018-19. Since graduating Monmouth University with a bachelor’s degree in communications (2015), the former Junior Hockey player also covered the NHL for various blogs in freelance roles. McKenna’s familiarity with the EHL dates to last season (2019-20) when he was an organization’s communications manager, while creating written and digital content on a daily basis.