EASTHAM — When the Nauset High School boys hockey team returns to the ice on Thursday night to face St. John Paul II at the Hyannis Youth and Community Center, it will do so under the eye of new Head Coach Connor Brickley. Brickley, who was pivotal in the resurgence of the girls varsity team in his lone year with the program, looks to steady the ship following a tumultuous albeit successful year.
Despite a mid-season change on the coaching staff, the Warriors managed to compile a 13-8-1 record last year before bowing out of the Division 2 State Tournament in the second round. But with 15 experienced upperclassmen on the roster, the return of sophomore starting goalie Matthew Swanson, and the loss of just four seniors from last season’s squad, they’ll be looking to go even further.
The new-look Warriors notched a pair of victories in preseason scrimmages over Dennis-Yarmouth and Old Rochester Regional. The performances showcased the speed and tenacity of the team.
“We always just have to keep telling ourselves we have an end goal, and that if we want to achieve that end goal we have to play at a certain level,” said senior captain and center Dan Deering, whose 20 goals and 10 assists led the team. “Coach Brickley has been preaching that there’s a certain level of hockey that we’re going to play, and there’s another level of hockey that’s unacceptable.”
Brickley ushered in a sense of professionalism during his short tenure with the Furies — the team that combines players from Nauset, Monomoy Regional High School, and Cape Cod Tech — from the style of play to the way the team carried itself on and off the ice. The expectations were fair, and everyone was held accountable.
“The guys want to work really hard for him,” said fellow senior captain and winger Cooper McIntire of Brickley. “It just seems like we’re a faster team in general.”
Four of the Warriors’ top five scorers, including Deering and McIntire, who combined for 34 goals, have returned this year. The duo were the lone players to tally double figures in goals, and they will be looking for help.
“I’ve been working hard on and off the ice to get ready for this year and I want to produce,” said junior forward Aaron Howard. “Obviously points aren’t everything, but if you can produce for your team, that can’t hurt.”
At the back end, Swanson started every game in net for the Warriors last season, posting a 2.05 goals-against average with two shutouts, while freshman backup goalie Arthur Figueiredo logged a strong season with the junior varsity.
The Warriors have also picked up junior defenseman Joe McManus from St. John Paul II and sophomore forward Logan Poulin, who returned to Nauset following a short stint at an off-Cape prep school. McManus is a big 6-foot-2 body on the blue line that fills the gap left by Zack Roberts, while Poulin brings a high level of skill and playmaking ability to a squad that already has depth.
That depth has given the Warriors, who won just three games two seasons ago, the belief that they can achieve more.
“At the beginning of the season we all wrote down the goals we had,” said McIntire. “Number one was to be Cape and Islands champions — to try and knock Falmouth off the top — and then we obviously want to make it to the Garden. The early exit last year didn’t feel good, but it’s definitely a motivator knowing it’s your last chance. We all have that bad taste in our mouths, and we’re all eager to not let it happen again.”
Thursday, Dec. 8
Boys Hockey: Nauset starts its season on the road at St. John Paul II. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 9
Girls Basketball: The Warriors host Monomoy Regional High School for a 5:30 p.m. tip-off.
Saturday, Dec. 10
Boys and Girls Swimming: The Warrior swim teams head to Sandwich High School for the Cape and Islands Relays at 10 a.m.
Boys Hockey: Nauset takes on Nantucket at Charles Moore Arena in Orleans at 4 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 11
Girls Hockey: The Cape Cod Furies face Pope Francis High School at Charles Moore Arena at 11:20 a.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 13
Boys and Girls Indoor Track: The Nauset track teams face Falmouth at Wheaton College at 3 p.m.
Boys Basketball: The Warriors welcome Nantucket High School, with tip-off scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
Boys and Girls Swimming: Nauset visits Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River for a 4 p.m. swim meet.
Girls Basketball: Nauset travels to Nantucket for a 5 p.m. game.
Wednesday, Dec. 14
Wrestling: The Warriors open their season at a tri-meet hosted by Northbridge High School starting at 5 p.m.