FRANKLIN — Caleb Lothian got his start on skates at the Highgate Arena, pushing a milk crate along the ice as most budding skaters do.

What began as a fun pastime quickly blossomed into a passion--one that would provide Lothian with a host of opportunities as he grew.

Lothian began in MAHA, where he was part of a state championship team, and transitioned to MVU. He played for the Green Mountain Glades, for Rice prep, and the Saint Michael’s College varsity hockey team.

A true lover of the game, Lothian still plays today, and last year he returned to the Highgate Arena to assist the MVU boys’ varsity hockey team.

“It’s been an enjoyable transition. I get to stay in the game and be part of it. Sometimes it’s tough to sit back as a coach when you want to play and help the team,” said Lothian, smiling, “but it’s time to give back through coaching.”

The MVU boys played one of their best seasons in recent years last year, finishing second in DII with a 15-3-1 record in the regular season.

In the postseason, the boys earned a thrilling win against Brattleboro in the quarterfinals but fell to Colchester in the semifinal game.

When the boys were eliminated, Lothian, just like many others, felt the sting.

“It hurt me quite a bit because I knew what it felt like to win a state championship,” said Lothian. “It was tough to know they wouldn’t get to go to Gutterson, especially knowing how hard they worked the entire way.”

Lothian was a freshman when MVU won the state championship in 2009.

“My brother Dylan, who was a senior, was my D-partner,” said Lothian, “and it was a great senior class--Dylan, Jack Hubbard, Kyle Kilbury, Johnathan Case, Ryan Ploof, Jake Pratt, Justin Christian, and Devin Johnson.”

Like any brothers, the Lothian boys had their moments.

“I remember my first game on varsity with my brother,” said Lothian chuckling. “I got into an argument with him in front of our net. You’re only supposed to do that with the other team!

“It’s that brotherly love,” said Lothian, “but I haven’t had a better D-partner than him. We laugh about it now, but we were pretty mad at the moment!”

That season, Dylan hit a long-awaited milestone, twice in one game.

“My brother scored his first carer goal. We were 5 on 3 in a penalty kill against North East Clinton,” explained Lothian. “Dylan blocked the shot and went down on a breakaway and scored.”

“Later that game he scored his second career goal. Assisted by Jack Hubbard and myself.”

Lothian has enjoyed working with the MVU coaching staff, Chris Hatin, Chad Hatin, and Kevin Moser and is looking forward to the upcoming season.

“The coaches are a great group of guys,” said Lothian. “This year I will be working with them as the full-time offensive coach. I played defense, but I’m an offensive-minded defenseman.”

When asked what he values most as a coach and a player, Lothian answered without hesitation.

“I value respect and hard work; I respect every player, and I ask for their respect in return,” said Lothian.

“You don’t have to be the most skilled player. I had very little skill, but I was able to play beyond high school because of my work ethic and respect for the game.”

Playing at the college level showed Lothian an entirely different side of the game.

“In college, sports are like a business. You work for everything you get.”

Coming onto a college hockey team as a freshman straight out of high school was not an easy task.

Many collegiate hockey players take at least a year at prep school after high school and before attending college, coming onto the team at 20 or 21 years of age.

After seeing the size and strength of his college teammates, Lothian knew he would have to step up his game.

“Conditioning and fitness are very important to me. I was very fit in high school, but I picked it up when I got to college.”

In between his freshman and sophomore, Lothian hit the weight room and put on 20 pounds, coming back stronger and faster.

“College is a different animal, and you have to really love the game to go on to the next level. A great amount of focus, dedication, and time are required to succeed.”

Now that his college days are over, coaching allows Lothian to stay in the game--whether it’s ice time or time spent with the guys.

“I became a coach to help with hockey skills and also with life,” said Lothian. “There’s a lot of joy knowing you’ve positively impacted a player in some way.

“You don’t really appreciate the value of that until you look back on your playing career and see how that impacted your own life.”

Lothian, who was a part-time coach with MVU last year, due to attending the police academy, shared his favorite moment of the season.

“The biggest moment for me was the BFA game. That was an eye-opener for our program. It raised the eyebrows of high school hockey fans all over the state,” said Lothian. “We lost 1-0, but if you knew hockey you knew it could have gone either way.”

Losing by a slim margin to a tough, successful DI team was a highlight.

“BFA continues to prove to be one of the better teams in the state,” said Lothian. “The close game with them revitalized a dying hockey rivalry between the Franklin County schools, and it showed us what we had and that we had a lot in us to take the team far into the season.”

This season, the MVU boys will have some big shoes to fill after graduating players like Joel Gagne, Braylen Parent, Steve Bessette, and Ryan Laroche.

“Those guys were key players,” said Lothian. “I’m excited to see the younger guys step up. We’ve got some kids from Bantams coming up who already have an established, winning mindset.”

As talk of hockey and years past progressed, Lothian recalled some of his favorite times.

“Some of my best memories were made in MAHA,” said Lothian, “waking up at the crack of dawn and driving to Stowe or Chazy--the fog still on the ice when we got there.”

Recalling the youth hockey days, Lothian had wise words to share with parents of growing players.

“Remember that your job is to help your kids love the game and stick with it. Sports are a big part of people’s lives; it’s where you make so many friends and so many memories.”

Coming back to his roots at the Highgate Arena, eager to help grow those younger players, Lothian smiled as he thought about the transition he’s made personally.

“As a player, you find pleasure in goals, playing time, and hanging out with your buddies. As a coach, there’s the added satisfaction of seeing guys grow into young men.”