The rivalry between the Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard boys hockey teams is the best rivalry going between these two schools. Both teams have been some of division four's best in recent years and with the possibility of another tournament matchup between the two clubs looming, Nantucket didn’t want to leave any doubt as to who they believe everyone should view as the better team.
The Whalers (8-4) shutout Martha’s Vineyard 5-0 on the road to snap the Vineyard’s 11-game win streak (11-4) despite being without freshman wing Jeremy Jenkinson, who is the Whaler's third leading scorer.
Junior center Ryan Davis led Nantucket with two goals on Saturday and now has 10 goals and nine assists for a team-high 19 points through 12 games. Head coach Jack Moran said his team played the way they needed to after what he felt was a lackluster performance last month in a 3-2 defeat to the Vineyard at home in overtime.
“We said to them this is the turning point for you guys. You need to run them over right now and just keep going, don’t look back,” Moran said. “The game against them on Nantucket never should have happened. Today, every period they went out there they did better than the last and that is exactly what they needed to do.”
Both teams started out slow to begin the game with just five shots combined through the first seven minutes and change. But with 4:59 to go it was Davis who gathered a loose puck and simply flipped one on net from outside the attacking zone. The puck somehow found its way through Vineyard goalie Zach Mathias and gave the Whalers a 1-0 lead they would take into the dressing room after the game's first 15 minutes.
About two minutes into the second period the Whaler's chemistry was on full display again, something that appears to be growing gradually on a game-by-game basis.
Junior center Colby O’Keefe had the puck near the right faceoff dot when he spotted Nantucket’s leading scorer and his linemate Canton Jenkinson across the ice. O’Keefe let a slick saucer pass go and it found the freshman sniper, who was able to bury it and give Nantucket a 2-0 lead with 12:59 to go in the middle period on his 11th goal of the season in as many games.
Just over two minutes later the Whalers had another golden opportunity. This time it was Braden Knapp who found himself alone with Mathias. Knapp was able to bury it for his fifth goal of the year to make it 3-0 Whalers with 10:40 to go in the second.
The Vineyard got a scoring opportunity shortly after Knapp's goal but Nantucket goalie Griffin Starr was up to the task. Starr turned away the opportunity while his team was on the penalty kill to keep it a 3-0 game and avoid handing the Vineyard a sliver of momentum.
“All year he has been solid,” Moran said of his assistant captain in net. “He has been tested a lot and there have been a few games where our defense left him out to dry a few times, but he stood on his head to keep them in it. He is such a good goalie he really is.”
The Vineyard didn’t get any more chances in the aftermath of the save and eventually Nantucket went on the power play with 23 seconds left. Junior defenseman Michael Culkins grabbed the puck after a Vineyard clear, skated around the back of Starr’s net, and made his way up the ice with a burst of speed as the clock was winding down.
Culkins weaved his way through and around Vineyard defenders before eventually positioning himself in a good scoring angle where he was able to bury his fourth goal of the year to give Nantucket a 4-0 lead with four seconds left in the second period.
“Michael is very conscious of everything he is doing out there and he is just a hard player,” Moran said. “He plays as hard as he can. He came off of being sick for a couple of days last week so we thought he may be a bit off, but he came out screaming. He has always played hard. He is smart, knows how to make a play, and just one of those all-around defenseman that you know and you can trust to do the right thing in any given situation.”
The Whalers had an early third period power play but were unable to do anything with it and the game remained 4-0 with 10 minutes to play. About four minutes later Nantucket received another power play opportunity off of the Vineyard’s third interference penalty of the game. The Whalers didn’t score on the power play, but two seconds after it ended it was Davis potting his second goal of the game followed by an elated celebration in front of the Vineyard student section on one knee after making it a 5-0 game.
The Whalers are expected to leapfrog the Vineyard in the MIAA tournament rankings after this win, and they are positioning themselves nicely to be in the bracket’s top six as long as they continue to play to their level and not down to the competition.
“What this does for our team is it sets our focus on what we need to do the rest of the season,” Moran said. “This is how we have to attack every game. We can’t let up. We have to play better and better each game regardless of who it is and keep pounding forward. We have the momentum going now and I hope it doesn’t stop.”
“These guys taste it now. They have confidence and that is one of the biggest things they can take away from a game like this.”
The Whalers will be right back in action on Sunday, February 5 when they travel to Tony Kent Arena to play Mashpee/Monomoy at 4 p.m. Nantucket will attempt to improve their record to 9-4 and extend their win streak to seven games against a Mashpee/Monomoy team they beat 11-3 on January 25.
Mashpee/Monomoy has won two games in a row and is teetering on a tournament berth as the #33 team in Div. 4 (Top 32 teams make it along with any team outside the top 32 with a winning record).
NANTUCKET POINT LEADERS THROUGH 2/4/23
1) Ryan Davis, Junior, 19 points (10 goals, 9 assists) in 12 games
2) Canton Jenkinson, Freshman, 16 points (11 goals, 5 assists) in 11 games.
3) Jeremy Jenkinson, Freshman, 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) in 11 games.
4) Colby O'Keefe, Junior, 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) in 12 games
5) Braden Knapp, Junior, 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) in 12 games.