In a year where Nantucket advanced to the Round of 8 in the MIAA state tournament, there were very few blemishes on the Whaler boys hockey team's 2021-2022 resume. But one clear dark spot stemmed from Nantucket's two matchups against the Sandwich Blue Knights, who went onto win the Div. 4 state title in March. The Whalers lost those two games by a combined score of 12-2.
But on Monday, the Whalers (0-2) were motivated to give the Blue Knights (2-1) a better game and flip the script this season. They went on the road to face Sandwich at the Gallo Arena in Bourne and took the game’s first lead early on in the second period. They eventually lost 2-1 following a pair of defensive mistakes, but it was a performance Whaler head coach Jack Moran was proud of and believes is indicative of what this team can be as they gain more experience.
“Those are state champs man,” Moran said of Sandwich. “There is something to be said about how these guys played. To me, that was a win just based upon the way that they played all-around. I can’t say enough about it. Everybody played their role so well. That is the best way to put it. Everyone had a job to do, and they did it really well. If they do that every game, we are going to be solid. No question about it.”
Freshman forward Canton Jenkinson scored the game’s first goal for Nantucket off an assist from junior forward Ryan Davis. It was Jenkinson’s second goal in as many games. He is leading a strong freshman core early in the season, a group that has accounted for all five Whaler goals so far.
Moran said Jenkinson’s goal was symbolic of how he wants his team playing and approaching the game offensively. He and his linemates were mixing it up in the front of the net, ready to pounce on a loose puck and do whatever it takes to get a greasy goal.
“You got to be where the dirty things are going to happen. We need to get guys in front. Their goalie was giving up some rebounds and if you don’t have guys there, you aren’t going to pick up the junk,” Moran said. “That is where we are going to get goals against these guys because they aren’t going to let you skate in on them. You have to be creative, get your sticks down. We had a lot of opportunities like that too moving forward right in front of the net. We had a couple of whiffs, wide-open net too. It could have been 3-2 easy but coulda, shoulda, woulda. It was a great game.”
The Blue Knights tied the game later on in the second period off the stick of senior forward Colin McIver. It was the first of two goals for McIver in the game, who has gotten off to a blazing start for the Blue Knights with four goals and eight assists for 12 points in three games. He leads the Blue Knights in scoring followed by junior forward Chris Cardillo with 10 points.
McIver sealed it for Sandwich in the third period and made it 2-1 off a defensive miscue that allowed McIver to get behind the defense and pot the eventual game-winning goal. Moran said the way his team is playing physically and staying true to the systems being put in place is what helped them go toe-to-toe with one of the Cape & Islands most consistent programs.
“We need to be knocking these guys off the pucks,” Moran said. “They are paying attention to the systems we are working with. They have been executing the breakouts really well. They were handling the puck well and cycling the puck well in the offensive zone. All of the things they were supposed to do, they did great. Their back-checking was phenomenal. They were picking up guys. Our defense was challenging Sandwich at the blue line and meeting them there, not letting them skate in and take shots on Griffin.”
Moran said he felt junior goalie and assistant captain Griffin Starr had a strong performance on Monday. Moran added that he has been impressed with Starr's mental toughness.
“Griffin made some superb saves. There were some he grabbed and I have no idea how he even stopped them,” Moran said. “He has bounced back well, but he is just that type of kid. Even though he got peppered during the first period in the Nauset game (a 7-4 Nantucket loss), he ended up settling down and regrouping himself mentally. That isn’t easy for a goalie. You give up four goals and it is challenging to shake that off as you are being peppered with shots. The confidence can go right down the tubes, but he has handled himself so well. Against Sandwich he was very sound positionally, controlling the puck and rebounds.”
The Whalers will host the Blue Knights today, December 21, at 5:15 p.m. for their home opener.