This year, the young men on the Nantucket Boys Ice Hockey Team are in an position to establish themselves as regular playoff contenders, hoping to improve on last season where they failed to qualify for playoffs.
After working on Nantucket as a police officer, former head coach DJ Watkins has moved off island, leaving the team under new management. The new head coach, Scott Corbett, is being assisted by Bob Hickman and Silas Gilbert. They hope to take Nantucket into a new era of success, drawing inspiration from the 2016 – 2017 season, during which the team was undefeated until the South Sectional Semifinals, where they were defeated by Rockland.
Senior forward Spencer West said, “The coaches are really pushing us this year. There is a large emphasis on playing as a team and being quick. I really like coach Silas and how he explains drills to us.”
Going with the theme of transition, the team has also changed their schedule up. Last season, they played as independents after separating from the Mayflower conference. This means that they did not participate in any league play, but rather scheduled games themselves, allowing them to play against larger and more successful schools. However, this change has clearly made an impact, seeing as the team was not able to qualify for state tournament.
This season, the team is competing in a brand new four-team Cape and Islands League, that will consist of Cape Cod Tech, Monomoy, and rival Martha’s Vineyard. While the small league format does seem odd at first, it gives the Whalers opportunities to schedule games against tougher opponents on days they are not involved in league play. This allows them to compete with teams which they typically would not, such as North Quincy, Boston Latin Academy, and Portsmouth High School.
Senior forward James Lester highlighted this, saying,“We have a lot of really tough games this year. I think that the Boston Latin and North Quincy ones will be our most challenging.”
Another benefit of the new league is that now, they get two games against the Vineyard; they used to play one rivalry game a season, alternating which island hosted the game, now, both teams host one league game.
The team also boasts many newplayers this year, including freshman Hudson Perry, Cosmo Tedeschi, Riley Williams, and many more. In fact, so many players signed up for the team this year that a JV team was established, a first for the program. The team is coached by Latin teacher Mr. Cothran and is largely made up of freshmen. This ensured heavy competition for places, as the coaches made final edits to their respective rosters during tryouts on the 27th and 28th.
Despite a large number of freshmen, there is still a good amount of experience on the team, including seniors Austin Starr, James Lester, Ty Harnishfeger, Robby Hickman, Spencer West, and Emmet Clarke. Some of the juniors with experience include Gavin Fey, Jeffrey Daume, and Alex Gibson.
The varsity team had their first scrimmage on Saturday December 1st, where they traveled up to Hetland Arena to play Bishop Stang High School. Unfortunately, they suffered a 2-0 loss, but senior defenseman Emmet Clarke emphasized the potential he saw in the performance.
“We were missing a lot of the players in the game like Robby and James. We had four lines taking minute shifts all game while Bishop Stang only really played their two top lines. We had a lot of players who had not played at that high school level before, so we could have played a lot better.”
The team is currently scheduled to open up their season against Sandwich High School on Nantucket at 5:15 on December 12th, before traveling to Dennis Yarmouth on the 15th.
By Christopher Amaya