The Whaler boys hockey team went on the road to play a Bishop Stang program that always gives the Whalers a tough game. Nantucket's record against Stang the past three seasons was 1-3-1 and after Stang scored the game’s first goal, it looked like those struggles would continue during Saturday afternoon's game.
But this Nantucket team is different and has shown that through eight games. They battle to the final horn and make teams play a full 45 minutes in order to beat them. In this game, Nantucket kept battling back to the delight of head coach Jack Moran and went on to earn a 3-2 victory off the back of two unanswered third period goals to improve their record against Stang to 2-3-1 since the 2019-2020 season.
Moran said he needed to have a stern talking to with his players after the second period with his team trailing 2-1. He felt they hadn’t played a complete period of hockey through the game’s first 30 minutes and needed to begin increasing the physicality and energy in order to beat Stang. He challenged his team to play a great 15 minutes and force Stang to beat them with a 45 minute effort.
“We had to lay down the law to them,” Moran said. “I told them if you don’t start laying bodies out there is going to be a problem because that is the only way you are going to beat these guys. You have to beat them down and make them know you’re coming. You got to make them nervous. And they did exactly that and then some. I have never seen my team freaking lay bodies out like that ever. They were hitting guys, hip checking them in the open ice, it was just fantastic. It was just like ‘wow! This is what it’s all about.”
After Stang their early first period goal to put Nantucket in a 1-0 hole going into the first intermission, freshman winger Jeremy Jenkinson responded for the Whalers. He continued his fabulous freshman season by scoring his fourth goal of the year with under four minutes to go in the second period to tie the game 1-1.
The tie didn’t last long as Stang regained their lead with 1:45 to go in the period, putting the Whalers in a 2-1 hole going into the final period which prompted Moran's words of encouragement.
After being fired up by Moran, the Whalers came out fast and physical for the third period. They slowly began to wear Stang down and eventually scored the tying goal when junior defenseman Braden Knapp, who has been taking some shifts at wing, tipped a shot by junior center Ryan Davis (who had a two-assist game) with just over eight minutes to go in the game.
Less than three minutes later, it was junior assistant captain Michael Culkins scoring his first goal of the season to give the Whalers a 3-2 lead with 5:15 to go in the game off an assist from freshman Canton Jenkinson. Culkins has been a rock in the Whaler's back end all season and is one of Nantucket's most consistent players. Moran was happy to see him rewarded on the stat sheet with his first goal and said it couldn't have come at a better time.
“That goal was awesome man,” Moran said. “Michael played a great game. He is always solid. He plays hard every game. We were fortunate to walk out of there with a win. I had all the faith in these guys even though we started out slow. I believe that two-week period off sort of got us out of our groove. Once they got back into the swing of things, they were able to take over.”
Nantucket has now won four of their last five and they will be entering a softer patch of their schedule after playing the hardest schedule through eight games of any team in Div. 4 based off of the MIAA's state tournament power ranking system. These games could still prevent challenges if Nantucket gets off to slow starts similar to the one on Saturday on top of the fact that many of these games are close to one another as a result of early season postponements due to weather.
Their fitness and conditioning will be put to the test, but that is arguably this team’s greatest strength. Stacey Moran and Ally Check work with the players in their dry land training twice per week at space provided by Lisa Wisentaner. Moran believes that it has made all the difference in the world for his team.
“They never come out of those dry,” Moran said of his players. “I will always tell them as they are stretching that this stuff right here is why you are so successful. You work so hard. They never take a workout off man. They make me proud.”
The Whalers are now 4-4 this season and will have a couple days off before they host Mashpee/Monomoy on Wednesday, January 25 at 5:15 p.m.