Nantucket Holds Off Barnstable For First Win Of The Season

David Creed •

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The Whaler boys hockey team ended the year of 2022 with a convincing performance against the Barnstable Red Hawks, beating them 3-2 to earn their first win of the season (1-3) against a strong Red Hawk Div. I program that now holds a record of 3-2-1 this season. It was just the second time in program history that Nantucket has beaten a Div. 1 program. The first time was in January of 2021, when the Whalers beat the Falmouth Clippers 5-4.

"I got to tell you these kids came out hot," Whaler head coach Jack Moran said of his team. "They caught Barnstable back on their heels. I think Barnstable expected us to kind of be soft but we came out hot and hard and played these guys just the way we wanted to."

Griffin Starr, Nantucket's junior goalie and assistant captain, led the way with 25 saves. Starr needed to be a star in the final two periods in particular to hold off a relentless Barnstable attack that came to life after a sluggish first period, combining for 21 shots in the final two periods after just four shots in the first period.

"I think the boys were hyped up after two tight games with one of the top teams that we will play all season (Sandwich) and that made us realize that if we can hang with them, we can hang with anybody," Starr said after the game. "(Ryan) Davis is starting to find his magic with some goals on his stick and the boys are starting to kill teams with our speed and conditioning."

The Whalers outshot the Red Hawks 13-4 in the first period and the goal scoring came from across their lineup. Junior center Ryan Davis got Nantucket on the board with an unassisted breakaway goal to give the Whalers a 1-0 lead with 7:06 to go in the opening period. It was his second goal of the season.

"It feels nice getting that first dub," Davis said after the game. "The boys loved it and it will happen more often now. We were rolling today and skating hard with a good team."

After being held scoreless in their season opener on the road against Nauset, Davis has two goals and an assist in his last three games. He said that he thinks the chirping coming from his friends and the pressure he puts on himself has helped him get back to putting the puck in the back of the net.

"It’s always tough getting that first one," he said. "But once you start (scoring) it becomes a common thing. Overall it was a hell of a game and a good battle fought by the boys in blue."

Just over five minutes later, the Whalers had the Red Hawks pinned in their defensive end thanks to some excellent offensive pressure and freshman forward Jeremy Jenkinson eventually put a puck that was loose in the Barnstable crease in the back of the net to make it 2-0 Nantucket with 1:32 to play in the period. Junior defenseman Braden Knapp and senior defenseman Michael Culkins were credited with the assists.

Not even one minute later the Whalers got back to work on the offensive end and it was their senior captain this time, Jack Billings, who scored for Nantucket. Freshman forward Canton Jenkinson let a shot rip from the slot that was kicked out by Red Hawk goalie Aden Mehta. The juicy rebound went right to Billings who gave Nantucket a convincing 3-0 lead entering the first intermission. Canton Jenkinson and Davis were credited with the assists on the goal.

"That was a huge win for the team and there will definitely be a lot more wins from now on," Billings said. "It felt really good to get my first goal of the season and hopefully with hard work there will be many more to come."

The Red Hawks committed a penalty with 32 seconds left in the first period, which left them with 1:28 of penalty time to kill to begin the second period. Barnstable got a shorthanded breakaway chance but were unable to score on it en route to the penalty kill.

As the penalty expired, Red Hawk forward Chase Field stepped out of the penalty box and took a pass from one of his teammates in the defensive zone with nothing but open ice and Starr ahead of him, deking out Starr and flashing his goal-scoring ability to make it a 3-1 game.

Starr answered with several stops immediately following Barnstable’s first goal to keep it a 3-1 game, and then the Red Hawks got a power play opportunity that led to nothing thanks to some strong goaltending by Starr.

"Our guys had some difficulty in the second period playing Barnstable as physically as they did in the first period, but they still played really good defense and move the puck," Moran said. "We let in some unfortunate goals, but these guys were able to hold them off. Griff was the star of the game as far as I am concerned. Barnstable had a couple odd man rushes that could have been bad for us but he stood his ground and made good things happen and thank God, because he was the game changer."

The Whalers were outshot by Barnstable 11-1 in the first 10 minutes of the second period, but they were able to limit the damage on the scoreboard. Nantucket had their best shift of the period with about four minutes left in the second period, led by Davis and Canton Jenkinson.

The Whalers went into the second intermission still leading 3-1 despite a 14-4 second period shot advantage for the Red Hawks. The third period was fairly even, but the Red Hawks cut Nantucket’s lead to 3-2 after Fields scored his second goal of the game.

"I would have liked to have seen some more goals in the second or third period but hey, Barnstable tried as much as they could to come back," Moran said. "They turned up the heat as much as they could and our main focus was our forecheck and keeping them pinned as much as we could, limiting their opportunities. That worked out really well for."

Just prior to Fields’ goal, Mehta made an excellent glove save on Jeremy Jenkinson’s bid for his second goal of the game, which kept the Whalers from extending their lead to 4-1.

The Red Hawks continued to put some pressure on Nantucket, but the Whaler’s team defense with Starr protecting the net as the last line of defense was too much for Barnstable to overcome. The win improves Nantucket’s record to 1-3 this season while the Red Hawks fall to 3-2-1.

"The momentum they should be able to take from this game is something that should steer them into the win column for the rest of the season," Moran said. "When you win against a team like Barnstable with the depth that they have, that says a lot about the determination of our guys. These guys are driven, they know what they want, and now that they have gotten a taste of it they are going to want to keep getting it every time."

The Whalers will be in action next on Wednesday, Jan. 4 when they host Old Rochester Regional High School at 5:15 p.m. before an island showdown against Martha’s Vineyard at home on Saturday, Jan. 7 at 2 p.m.

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