For the 11th time in their last 12 games, the Nantucket boys hockey team went home as winners. They improved their record to 11-4 following a 4-2 win over the Bishop Stang Spartans (5-10-1).
Head coach Jack Moran said his team was disappointed that they were unable to hold onto their three-goal lead, which would have netted them the maximum number of points in the MIAA’s tournament rankings. But overall Moran was happy with his team’s performance while shorthanded once again with top defenseman Michael Culkins and forward Jeremy Jenkinson still out of the lineup.
“It is kind of hard to sit here and be upset with winning because it wasn’t by three goals,” Moran said laughing. “I was telling myself on the bench you can’t be upset. A win is a win. I don’t care if it is a one goal win. We just got to keep this thing moving. This train is rolling boys and I don’t think there is any stopping it. It is chugging along at a fine pace.”
Midway through the first period Stang got a power play opportunity but the Whalers were able to make the kill with key shifts from junior defenseman Hunter Strojny and Davis, both of which were able to keep the puck in the Spartan’s zone for a large chunk of their man advantage due to aggressive penalty killing.
Shortly after the penalty expired, junior center Colby O’Keefe came streaking down the left side of the ice and after his initial shot was saved, freshman forward Canton Jenkinson was there to bury the rebound and score his 13th goal of the season to give Nantucket a 1-0 lead with 3:37 to go in the first.
A little over two minutes later, junior defenseman Braden Knapp had a solid individual effort which resulted in a scoring chance and an eventual shot on net. It created another rebound and this time it was junior center Ryan Davis in the right place at the right time, scoring his 13th goal of the year to give the Whalers a 2-0 lead they would take into the first intermission.
Nantucket came out buzzing in the second period. Davis scored his second goal of the game and 14th on the year 1:06 into the period off a beautiful side-angle shot. There was very little room for Davis to sneak the puck through but as he has done all year, he found a way.
Moran said he has been incredibly proud of what Davis has accomplished so far in his breakout season. Last season Davis finished with five points in 21 games. This year Davis leads the team in goals (14) and points (25) and is tied with O’Keefe for the team lead in assists (11) through 15 games.
Moran said not only has Davis become a great hockey player, but he has evolved into the leader of this team and someone who has learned to control his emotions while continuing to exhibit a high motor on the ice that comes from his passion for hockey and desire for winning.
“He is so smooth and he just makes things happen," Moran said. "I wish I had 100 of him because that is the kind of player that coaches just love to have. The same thing goes with (senior captain) Jack Billings. They are a great duo and work really good together like peanut butter and jelly. I love watching (Ryan). He has developed into such a strong player. It is a joy to watch him skate. I am so glad for him that he is having such a fantastic year.”
Knapp was able to score with just over 11 minutes remaining in the second to extend the Whaler’s lead to 4-0. It was Knapp’s seventh goal of the season and he is now fourth on the team in scoring with seven goals and seven assists for 14 points in 15 games while being one of Nantucket's most versatile players.
Knapp came into the year as a defenseman, but when Canton Jenkinson missed a game earlier in the year it was Knapp who moved up to wing, which is where he played last season. Knapp scored in that game, a 3-0 defeat on the road against Dennis-Yarmouth.
Now with Culkins out, Knapp has been asked to play heavy minutes and is leading Nantucket’s defense core.
Stang trailed 4-0 entering the third period but fought back to score two third period goals. Nantucket was able to hold on and while Moran continued to express his disappointment that his team was unable to secure a three-goal win as they make an aggressive push for that #4 seed, he said he couldn’t be more impressed with what his team is accomplishing despite playing just eight or nine players each game due to injuries.
“These guys are incredible that they keep pulling these wins out with the limited number of players that they have,” Moran said. “It is a testament to their fitness. If it wasn’t for the dry land training and the instructors doing their thing, we would be dragging right now. These kids have a lot of energy so kudos to them.”
Nantucket now has four total games remaining before the end of the regular season. Two are scheduled regular season games and two will be games played during the annual Jeff Hayes Memorial Hockey Tournament at the Gallo Arena in Bourne. The tournament games will count towards the Whaler's regular season record and official state ranking.
On Monday, February 13, the Whalers face arguably their biggest test of the season when they host the Nauset Warriors at 5:15 p.m. Nantucket will likely be without Culkins and Jeremy Jenkinson again, which makes the task of earning a win all the more difficult.
Both Nauset (11-5) and Nantucket (11-4) are the #5 seeds in their respective divisions (Nauset Div. 3; Nantucket Div. 4). Both teams are neck-and-neck with the fourth-seeded teams in each bracket, meaning this game could ultimately decide which of the two will earn that fourth spot in their bracket. The four seed would clinch home-ice up until the Final Four, which turns to neutral sites at that point.
While Nantucket is led by Davis and his 25 points, Nauset has arguably the best forward on the Cape & Islands in sophomore Logan Poulin, who returned to Nauset this year after a brief stint at Milton Academy.
Poulin has 23 goals and 17 assists for 40 points through the Warrior’s first 16 games. Nauset beat Nantucket at home 7-4 earlier this season. It was the Whaler’s first game of the year back on Dec. 10. Poulin had his fingerprints all over that game. He finished with four goals and an assist for a five-point night.
NANTUCKET POINT LEADERS THROUGH 2/11/23
1) Ryan Davis, Junior, 25 points (14 goals and 11 assists) in 15 games.
2) Canton Jenkinson, Freshman, 18 points (13 goals and 5 assists) in 14 games.
3) Colby O'Keefe, Junior, 17 points (6 goals and 11 assists) in 15 games
4) Braden Knapp, Junior, 14 points (7 goals and 7 assists) in 15 games.
5) Jeremy Jenkinson, Freshman, 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) in 12 games.