EASTHAM — “They’re confident, determined, and focused.”
That’s how Jake Pickard, interim head coach of the Nauset boys ice hockey team, described his skaters as they prepared for a first-round matchup in the Division III state tournament.
The 13th-seeded Nauset Warriors will play the 20th-seeded North Middlesex Patriots at Charles Moore Arena on Saturday, March 5 at 5 p.m.
It’s been a tough end of the season. As the Independent reported on Feb. 17, Head Coach Drew Locke was fired on Feb. 10 after being accused of putting his hands on a student on the team. Locke denies the charge.
Nauset High Principal Chris Ellsasser told the Independent on Feb. 21, “Because it’s a personnel matter, the school is not in a position to talk about it. We have a responsibility to protect people’s privacy.”
The mother of the student involved in the alleged incident sent a text to a reporter on the same day, saying, “No comment. Thanks.”
Last week, attorney Bruce Bierhans, who represents Locke, said he had formally requested Locke’s personnel file as well as documents from the school’s investigation into the alleged incident.
As of Monday, Feb. 28, Bierhans said counsel for the school had acknowledged his request but he had not received any materials.
“For me, it’s been about keeping calm through rough tides,” said Pickard, who served as Locke’s assistant. “It’s been tough. I really appreciated Coach Drew and everything he’s put into this program.”
But the team kept its focus on the ice. The Warriors finished their season with three straight wins, beating Blue Hills Regional Tech 11-0 on Feb. 16, St. John Paul II 3-2 on Feb. 19, and Plymouth South 3-2 on Feb. 22. The team’s final record is 12-7-1 after finishing 3-8-1 last season.
“We’ve had to regroup, refocus, and keep our eyes on the prize,” said Pickard. “Our main objective is to go to the Garden, and everybody’s bought into that goal. Their work ethic is second to none.”
The Patriots come to Orleans as underdogs after finishing 10-7-1. Nauset is the stronger scoring team. The Patriots scored only 48 goals this season, while Nauset put 75 pucks in net.
Furies to Play Reading
After the boys game, the Cape Cod Furies will take the ice to play the Reading Memorial Rockets at 7 p.m. in the first round of the Division I State Tournament. The Furies are seeded 8th while the Rockets are 25th. There are 32 teams playing.
The game is a big one, as the girls hockey program looks for its first playoff win. The Furies were a combined 11 wins and 58 losses from 2015 through 2019. But in the 2019-20 season, the team posted an 8-8-5 record and reached the state tournament for the first time. They lost 4-0 to Woburn. After finishing 3-5-5 last year, the Furies hired Connor Brickley, a former NHL player, as their new head coach and the turnaround happened fast.
After finishing 13-4-3 this year, the team is back in the state tournament and looking to make history.
Warriors Beat Westwood
The Nauset boys basketball team will travel to Malden Catholic on Friday night for a game in the Round of 32 of the Division II State Tournament. The 33rd-seeded Warriors held on to beat 32nd-seeded Westwood in the first round on Tuesday night, 56-54.
The team started off strong, but Westwood closed the gap and led by four at the half. At the end of a back-and-forth second half, Nauset found itself up two points with just over 10 seconds left. Westwood had the ball but missed three shots in 10 seconds as the Warriors defense prevailed.
Malden Catholic will be a tough opponent in the second round; the Lancers are the number-one seed in the tournament after going 17-2 in the regular season.