The Nantucket boys hockey team lives to fight another day after defeating the Northeast Metro RVT Knights 4-2 Thursday afternoon in the Round of 32. They overcame several undisciplined penalties that if not corrected, could doom them in future rounds as the teams get more and more challenging.
“It was a hard-fought game today and they gutted it out,” head coach Jack Moran said. “We can’t take anybody for granted.”
Junior center Ryan Davis got the scoring going for Nantucket about 10 minutes into the game. He had the only tally of the first period for either team.
“I thought we played really well in that first period,” Moran said. “We must have been in their zone for 13 of those 15 minutes in the first period. We worked the puck around well, the forecheck was effective, and the kids were really working hard and doing a great job.”
With Nantucket on a penalty kill and leading 1-0 to begin the second period, senior captain Jack Billings got an opportunity just 26 seconds into the period to score after he found himself all alone in front of the Knight’s net following a defensive miscue. Billings capitalized on that chance to give the Whalers a 2-0 lead.
Junior defenseman Michael Culkins was back in action today after missing several games due to an enlarged spleen from mononucleosis. But when he received word earlier this week that he was cleared to return to play, it was much to the delight of his teammates and coaches.
“Mike did a heck of a job today and while I wouldn’t say he is 100 percent and is more like 70 percent, he went out there and acted like he was 100 percent,” Moran said.
Culkins made his presence known defensively, but also offensively by scoring three minutes after Billings to give Nantucket a commanding 3-0 lead.
Undisciplined play by the Whalers nearly came back to bite them. The Knights got two 5-on-3 opportunities in the second period for two minutes each, scoring on one of them to make it a 3-1 game after two periods.
“The shorthanded stuff we can do without. We need to work on that,” Moran said. “It is not like they are taking cheap penalties. They just can’t understand that we are never going to beat the guys in the stripes and when they are calling penalties, whether they are good ones or bad ones there is nothing we can do. We need to go out and understand that we need to shut our mouths and stay out of the box. I don’t like those five on threes. We can do without those.”
The Knights would score another power play goal in the third period to make it 3-2, but it was senior forward Curren Hatch who came through with a nice rebound goal with 5:50 to go in the game to give the Whalers a 4-2 lead they would take to the final buzzer.
“We were a little bit nervous when it is a 3-2 game because it is always anybody’s and so when he popped that one in it gave us some breathing room,” Moran said of Hatch’s goal. “We needed that one.”
Junior goalie Griffin Starr was stellar in net once again, making several key stops in the final six minutes of the game to keep Nantucket in the lead.
“Griffin, again, stood on his head,” Moran said. “He was flurried with shots.”
Nantucket will be playing the #11 seeded Abington Green Wave after Abington beat #22 East Bridgewater 6-1. The Whalers and Green Wave had one common opponent; the St. John Paul II Lions. Nantucket beat the Lions twice this season by scores of 6-2 and 5-4 while the Green Wave beat the Lions in their only matchup by a score of 7-2.
The Green Wave scored 80 goals in 20 games this season while allowing 52. Nantucket scored 71 goals in 19 games and allowed 47.
Abington's leading scorers are senior forward Jake Quinn (24 goals, 21 assists, 45 points), junior forward Hunter Grafton (15 goals, 20 assists, 35 points), and junior forward Evan St. Martin (14 goals, 15 assists, 29 points)
Abington is led in net by senior captain Spencer Merrick, who has had a very strong season with a 2.41 goals against average and .914 save percentage.
The date and time of this game has yet to be determined but we will post any information we receive as it becomes available.