It was Youth Hockey Night at the Nantucket Ice Rink Monday evening for the Nantucket boys hockey team's matchup against the St. John Paul II Lions, but the game on the ice was a man's game as both teams played a hard, physical brand of hockey in a Cape & Islands league matchup. The two squads combined for 20 penalties in the game, with many of those penalties coming in the final period after the Whalers had put the game out of reach on their way to a 6-2 victory.
For most of the game it was a clean, hard fought matchup and if the Whalers, who improved to 6-4 this season with the win, expected an easy night against the 2-9-1 Lions, they got the complete opposite in what was easily Nantucket's most physically demanding game of the year.
“Very physical game it was and (SJP) played a hard game,” Whaler head coach Jack Moran said. “They weren’t the kind of team that we were expecting to play whether that was our fault, or they were just a little better than we anticipated. But they played a good game and have been in a couple games this year where they competed very well. We knew they had some good skaters.”
The Whalers are currently ranked #5 in the MIAA’s Div. 4 state tournament rankings while the Lions are ranked #30 in the rankings. These two teams will have one more regular season matchup before possibly meeting again in the state tournament.
Nantucket was without junior assistant captain and top defenseman Michael Culkins due to an illness, and his absence was clearly felt to begin the game after junior defenseman Braden Knapp was assessed a misconduct following his first period goal for allegedly taunting the Lions' bench. The goal gave Nantucket a 1-0 lead with 8:16 to go in the first period, but the Whalers were suddenly incredibly thin at defense.
Both teams had their own personal struggles in the first period defensively with shots 12-12, but Nantucket was able to capitalize on more of their scoring chances.
It began with Knapp scoring his third goal of the season and five minutes later junior center Colby O’Keefe let an off angle shot rip from the left side of the net that had eyes to give Nantucket a 2-1 lead 38 seconds after SJP had tied it. It was O’Keefe’s sixth goal of the season.
The Whalers got a power play opportunity in the final two minutes of the opening period, and it was the Jenkinson brothers working their magic to extend the Whaler’s lead to 3-1 with 1:44 to go in the period. The play began with Nantucket working the puck around their offensive zone. Eventually, Jeremy Jenkinson corralled the puck in the right face-off dot and sauced a pass cross-ice to Canton Jenkinson for the one-timer to give the Whalers some breathing room.
“My concern was I wanted to try to keep everyone’s heads in the game and just focus on scoring goals,” Moran said. “Let everything else go by the wayside, which is something we have been so good at doing all the time you know what I mean? Emotions got the best of us but our guys still went out and did their thing.”
Nantucket found themselves in some penalty trouble early in the second period, but senior captain Jack Billings was able to get a puck with open space in the Lion’s defensive zone and ripped a wrist shot through on the penalty kill for a shorthanded goal to give the Whalers a 4-1 lead with 3:02 left in the second period.
The score would stand at 4-1 after two periods. Nantucket’s defense was much better in the middle frame, allowing just one SJP shot while the Whalers generated 14 of their own.
“Our guys were working hard. They worked the puck well tonight,” Moran said. “Some great neutral zone passes; they were fantastic coming out of the zone. They were very effective and crashing the net like crazy. The problem was we kept hitting the goalie with the shots and not picking the open spots.”
Less than two minutes into the final period, Jeremy Jenkinson got a golden opportunity on the penalty kill and found himself on a breakaway. He quickly approached the goalie and beat him with a wrist shot five-hole to expand Nantucket’s lead to 5-1 and cast some doubt on the Lions, who were hoping to trim the Whaler’s lead to two entering the third period with over four minutes remaining on a five-minute major penalty following an undisciplined hit by a Whaler forward.
The game was filled with good penalty killing for the remainder of the game. Neither team would score until SJP added another goal to make it a 5-2 game with just under four minutes to play. The Whalers were able to score one last time with 19 seconds left as Canton Jenkinson scored his second of the game. It was Canton's team-leading ninth goal of the season as he continues his stellar freshman season on Nantucket's top line off assists from his brother Jeremy and junior center Ryan Davis, who finished the night with two assists.
“Overall, I think we played well. I thought we played very well,” Moran said. “These are the kinds of games that happen every once and a while.”
Moran sought out Billings after the game to express his appreciation for his effort night in and night out. Billings has three goals and six assists in 10 games this season while serving as an excellent role model for the younger players on the team. He has embraced his role as the team's captain and has quickly gained the respect of his first-year head coach.
“Jack has been a true asset to the team,” Moran said. “He is a wonderful skater, a gifted skater. He is knowledgeable and a really good leader out there. He gives you his heart every single time. There were times like tonight where we really needed guys to step up and play. He is one of those guys who always does it despite how tired he is, how he is feeling, whatever it is. He is always the guy to go out and do it. He always delivers.”
“I am really proud of him but also proud of the whole team because despite all of the penalties, they were forced to really keep their cool, which they did, and obviously the scoreboard shows that. I was happy. You can’t be upset with a win.”
The Whalers will look to improve to 7-4 on Wednesday when they travel to Falmouth for a neutral site game as they will take on the 5-7 Old Rochester/Fairhaven Bulldogs, who the Whalers were able to defeat 6-3 on Nantucket earlier this month. Puck drop for this game is scheduled for 4:10 p.m.
NANTUCKET POINT LEADERS THROUGH 1/30/23
1) Ryan Davis, Junior, 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists) in 10 games.
2) Canton Jenkinson, Freshman, 14 points (9 goals, 5 assists) in 9 games.
3) Jeremy Jenkinson, Freshman, 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) in 10 games.
4) Colby O'Keefe, Junior, 10 points (6 goals, 4 assists) in 10 games.
5) Jack Billings, Senior, 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) in 10 games.