Nashoba Hockey Builds on Defense

Published in the January 21, 2009 issue of The Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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Forget kissing your sister. Last Wednesday's 1-1 tie with Lunenburg just might be a sign that the Nashoba Regional ice hockey team's season is back on track.

Despite the young Chieftains' 1-6 start to the season and a painful 8-2 loss to Murdock on Jan. 12 , head coach Steve Kendall thinks the way the team played against Lunenburg is a sign of good things to come.

“It was a huge tie,” Kendall said. “Sometimes a tie can be a win, sometimes it can be a loss. To get the tie after the way we lost to Murdock was good for the team's confidence. They saw what happens when they follow the game plan.”

The way the Lunenburg game started was most definitely not according to the Chieftains' plan, as Blue Knights defenseman Derek Shorey beat Nashoba freshman goaltender Nick Riseman just 1:57 into the first period.

“They scored on the first play from center ice, and I was thinking, 'Here we go again.' But the kids really stepped up,” Kendall said.

Nashoba redoubled its efforts on defense, which Kendall says is the team's strength. Stow senior captain Craig Doran has led the Chieftains defensive efforts all season, along with Stow juniors Joe McGillicuddy and Zack Guerrette, Bolton sophomore Sean Foster, and Stow sophomore Drew Rosen. But the difference against Lunenburg was the defensive play of Nashoba's offensive players, including Stow juniors Ian Nelson, Joe Magdaleno, Brandon Levesque and Matt Brown, and Stow sophomore Larry McGillicuddy.

“We really stress the defensive play of the forwards. The 21 shots on net we allowed in that game I believe is a season low, so the commitment to overall team defense really paid off,” Kendall said.

According to the game plan, better team defense leads to more scoring chances. And sure enough, Magdaleno came up with the equalizer near the end of the second period, a diving shot assisted by Stow sophomore Derek Herbst.

The Chieftains return only two seniors from last year's squad, Doran and co-captain Aaron Wassall of Stow, who has been the starting goalkeeper for most of the season. The lack of experience and a lack of size contributed to the team's slow start, compounded by a lack of confidence.

“If anything, these kids are a little too unselfish, not confident in their goal scoring abilities,” Kendall said. “We're hoping to build some of that confidence. If you get in that rut of losing, you kind of get used to it, and it becomes self-fulfilling.”

But Nashoba broke out of that rut two weeks ago with an 8-2 win over Nipmuc, in which Nelson and Brown each had two goals to lead the Chieftains. The loss to Murdock was a letdown, but given the comeback against Lunenburg, apparently not a permanent one.

With three winnable games slated for this week, if the Chieftains can keep the positive momentum going into the tougher late-season schedule, Kendall thinks they still have a chance to improve on last year's 6-9-5 record and be a real factor in the Coughlin Conference.

“We've been competitive. The next step is to turn some of those competitive losses into wins,” Kendall said. “Obviously we'd love to get to the playoffs. We got off to a rough start, but we still have a shot. The next three games are really key.”

Nashoba was slated to host Hudson Catholic on Monday, and will visit Milford tonight. The next home game will be next Monday, Jan. 26, against Blackstone-Millville, with the puck scheduled to drop at 6:05 p.m. All Nashoba home games are played at North Star Youth Forum in Westboro.

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