Chieftains' Hockey Looking for the Net

Published in the January 03, 2008 issue of Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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The Nashoba Regional ice hockey team's solid defense, as expected, has kept the Chieftains in every game thus far this season. Whether the young team can score enough goals to win consistently, however, remains to be seen.

Saturday evening's effort against non-league foe Bellingham was the most recent example of the 2-4 Chieftains' offensive frustrations. Freshman Evan Pappas fed sophomore Brandon Levesque for a goal that knotted the score at 1-1 in the middle of the first period, but Nashoba failed to find the back of the net again despite six power play opportunities. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks scored three more, including an empty-netter in the game's final minute, to come away with the 4-1 victory and improve their season record to 2-4.

“Scoring's been the issue all year,” said head coach Steve Kendall. “We're just not getting the puck in the net.”

Following the second period, in which the Chieftains managed only six shots on goal despite two power play opportunities, Kendall moved senior defenseman Shane Foster up to the forward position, where he had played in his first two years with the team. Although the move didn't change the number on Nashoba's side of the scoreboard, the Chieftains' offensive production did improve in the third period, with nine shots on goal.

Kendall also praised his squad's defensive effort, particularly that of junior goalie Aaron Wassall of Stow, who had 24 saves on the night.

“We're playing great defensively,” Kendall said. “Aaron had a great game.”

In his first year as a varsity starter, Wassall has allowed 19 goals in six games, with a season-high 26 saves in the Chieftains' 4-1 loss to league rival Fitchburg on Dec. 26.

“He's doing very well,” Kendall said. “He gives us a chance to win every game.”

Protecting the Chieftain net in front of Wassall, junior co-captain Craig Doran is joined by fellow Stow residents Joe McGillicuddy and Zach Guerette, both sophomores, along with senior Steve Danowitz. It's a testament to their efforts that Nashoba already has half as many wins as in last season's entire campaign, which culminated in a disappointing 4-12-4 record. And with a 5-2 Dec. 19 victory over Northbridge evening their Coughlin conference record at 1-1, the Chieftains are still very much in the thick of the competition.

Offensively, the Chieftains have been led by senior co-captain Ryan Farrell (3 goals, 2 assists), sophomore Joe Magdaleno of Stow (3 goals), senior Geoff Rosen of Stow (2 goals, 1 assist), Pappas (2 goals, 1 assist), and Levesque (2 goals). Other offensive contributors have included Stow freshman Drew Rosen and Stow seniors Evan Cirioni, field hockey standout Molly Kelly, and football comeback kid Bobby Lombardo.

The even distribution of points among Nashoba players indicates unselfish team play and suggests that any one of them is capable of coming up with a score at any given time. But it also reflects the fact that the Chieftains—at least thus far—lack the type of natural scorer who has the ability to take over a game. That's why defense has been so important, Kendall said.

“Defense has been our main focus, because we knew offense would be a problem,” he said. “We know we have to work really hard for our goals, so we have to keep other team down. In the last couple of weeks we've been working more on power plays, shooting the puck, offensive strategies. But defense is priority one.”

With as many as eight or nine underclassmen logging significant minutes in each game, the fact that the Chieftains have stayed with some of the top teams in the region and come away with two victories is encouraging. If the team continues to improve at its current rate, Nashoba could very well be a team that opponents aren't looking forward to playing in February.

“I don't see anyone on our schedule that we can't play with,” Kendall said.

The Chieftains' next game is Saturday at 1 pm against Murdock Middle-Senior High in Winchendon; their next home game is Jan. 9 at 7:10 pm against league rival Littleton. Home games are played at the Northstar Youth Forum in Westboro.

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239