Boys Hockey Wins Home Opener 2-1

The Whalers boys hockey team found out one hour before their home opener Wednesday evening against the Dennis-Yarmouth Dolphins that fans would not be allowed in the stands. It forced a disappointed group of Whaler hockey players to quickly shake off the news and take the ice for an important home game against the Dolphins after losing to the Sandwich Blue Knights 5-1 last week to begin the season.

But the Whalers didn’t let that disappointment seep into their play or faze them. They carried the play for most of the game and went on to beat the Dolphins 2-1 to improve their record to 1-1 through two games.

“Tonight was a good win for us,” head coach Scott Corbett said. “It was a character win. Looking at the game, I’d say we spent three quarters of the game in the offensive zone. The forecheck was working today. But I think it is good for our character, our confidence that we had to fight the way that we fought (Wednesday). It is good for our young kids who aren’t used to these kind of games but our seniors are used to it. They’ve played in these games for years. I would have liked to see us bury some more of those shots though.”

The Whalers failed to convert on a pair of power plays in the opening period despite some strong offensive pressure. They eventually found themselves on the penalty kill ten minutes into the game hoping to dish out a similar fate to the Dolphins.

The Whalers made the kill and carried that momentum into their five on five play. Junior winger Jack Billings, who missed the Whaler’s game against Sandwich, was able to capitalize on a scoring chance around the net to give Nantucket a 1-0 lead with three minutes remaining in the period.

“Getting Jack back changed everything for us,” Corbett said. “That line of Billings and Camden Knapp on the wings with Cosmo Tedeschi as the center is a really good line. They are tough, they have skill, and now we are getting one of our first line wings Cole Evens back for Sunday. So when we can throw out Cole, (senior captain/center) Hudson Perry, and (senior wing) Riley Williams out there on the first line, and then have that second line, there aren’t many teams that can handle that. Those are two very solid lines and having all those guys in the lineup gives us depth and helps our third line.”

Nantucket appeared to be heading into the first intermission with the 1-0 lead, but the Dolphins scored with 9.4 seconds remaining to tie it 1-1.

“(Dolphin head coach) Lew Alberti does a tremendous job with that team” Corbett said. “They are much better than last year and they are going to surprise a lot of teams this season. We knew coming into this game they would play us tough.”

The second period was scoreless, but Nantucket carried the play for most of the period.

The third period was more open thanks to three Whaler penalties and one Dolphin penalty. But midway through the period, Tedeschi corralled a puck in the corner and fed Knapp with a pass, who was behind the Dolphin net. Knapp was able to get the puck through a tight window to Billings who was waiting in the slot. Billings buried the feed, giving Nantucket a 2-1 lead with just under eight minutes remaining in the game.

Nantucket went on an important penalty kill 20 seconds later, but made the kill thanks to strong goaltending from sophomore goalie Griffin Starr.

“He is a very, very good goalie,” Corbett said. “I mean it is easy to forget he is still growing into the position. He is still young and this is his first year playing at the varsity level. He made the saves we needed him to make, especially at the end there. Positionally, if Starr is where he needs to be, he can make a lot of saves because he is a big in net.”

The Whalers went on to shut down the Dolphins and win the game 2-1 thanks to strong play from the Whaler blue line, led by senior captain Evan Belanger and sophomore Michael Culkins, who picked up an assist on Billing’s first goal of the game.

“We haven’t had a practice yet with all of our players because of injuries and stuff,” Corbett said. “So we are excited to see how we are fully healthy and how these guys look when they are all on the ice together. We have a lot of seniors on this team, so while we may have some rust the chemistry should be there. It has just been a matter of getting them on the ice at the same time.”

The Whalers will travel to Martha’s Vineyard on Sunday, December 19, to take on the Vineyard at 12:20 p.m.

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