EASTHAM — The Nauset athletics program had a big announcement as the high school sports season turned from fall to winter. The Cape Cod Furies girls ice hockey team, which brings together players from Nauset Regional, Monomoy Regional, and Cape Cod Tech, has a new head coach, Connor Brickley, a former professional hockey player.
Brickley is originally from Everett. He played professionally for eight years in the U.S. and overseas — for the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers in the National Hockey League and most recently for EC Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian Hockey League.
The 29-year-old comes from a storied hockey family. His father, Craig, played for the Los Angeles Kings; his cousin Michael was a member of the U.S. national team; and his cousin Andy Brickley is the color commentator for the Boston Bruins on the New England Sports Network.
The Austrian league’s season was cut short because of the pandemic in 2020, and Brickley headed home to the States.
“They shut down the season, and we had to leave in our first round of playoffs,” Brickley said. “We were facing significant pay cuts going into the next season and the cities were all on lockdown. It didn’t seem viable to go back to Europe.”
Brickley, who lives in Centerville, is keeping busy here and not just with hockey. He recently became a Chatham firefighter. And he has launched a hockey organization he’s calling Endless Potential Hockey Schools, which he runs out of the Charles Moore Arena in Orleans.
The idea is to offer hockey skills development locally so students and their families don’t have to go off Cape to get the exposure to high-level play that they need.
When he was growing up, Brickley said, “every Monday we were going to the Beanpot and watching the best college hockey teams in the nation.” Exposure to athletic teams like that may be lacking on the Cape, “but the athletes are here,” he said. “I’ve seen them.”
Brickley gained experience working with high school players through his new company, and that led him to taking the job as the Furies’ head coach after former coach Addie Weeks stepped down.
“There’s high expectations and a lot of positive momentum with this program, especially this year,” Brickley said. “I want to do my part to keep that going.”
The Furies hockey program has been growing gradually. The team went 8-8-5 in the 2019-2020 season, then went 3-5-5 in the 2020-2021 season. But last season was strange, with many canceled games because of the pandemic.
The team is a cooperative venture among three schools, but Brickley said most of the girls on the roster this year are Nauset students, with three or four players from Monomoy and none from the Tech.
With the Nauset High School renovation on the horizon, Brickley sees potential for the Nauset contingent to grow, not just in numbers but also in strength.
“There’s a lot of potential for the school to be an absolute powerhouse,” he said.
The Furies will face off in their first game of the season against Martha’s Vineyard at Charles Moore Arena on Thursday, Dec. 9.
Figure Skating and Hoops
Also competing on the ice this winter is the Nauset High Figure Skating Club. Parents Michele Tortora, Toni Philbrick, and Kristin Hoffman are running the club, which draws skaters from Nauset, Monomoy, Dennis-Yarmouth, and Barnstable.
The team had its first competition on Nov. 6 at the Family Ice Center in Falmouth, Maine. The team placed third out of eight teams in overall points.
The skaters’ next competition will be at Mount Saint Charles Academy in Woodstock, R.I. on Dec. 18.
Nauset girls basketball is poised to grow this winter, too. The team that went 12-2 last season will be a much younger one this year, having graduated four seniors, among them top scorers Avery Burns and Mikayla Hutchinson.
Burns, said head coach John Piemontese, could “shoot from Provincetown if she wanted to.”
This, year, the team does not have a single senior. But Piemontese said he’s not worried. “The nice part about it is we have eight returning varsity players,” a strong core to build on, he said.
Giving away a little of his strategy, he said, “We don’t have the offensive punch that we’ve had the last two years, but we’re still an athletic team and we’ll use that to our advantage. We’re going to focus on the defensive side of the ball.”
There’s a strong junior contingent, and the coach is excited to see how sophomores Zoey McCarthy and Jill Ernstrom come out of the gate this season.
As happened with fall sports, the MIAA has changed the postseason format for winter sports. At the end of season, teams will be thrown into one playoff pool in their respective divisions, and their seedings will be based not only on wins and losses but on a variety of factors, including strength of schedule.
“We think we’ve got a pretty good non-league schedule,” Piemontese said. The Warriors bolstered that by lining up games against Norwell High School, Bishop Fenwick, Tantasqua Regional High School in Sturbridge, and St. Mary’s in Lynn.
The girls basketball team’s first test of the season will be an away game against Plymouth North on Friday, Dec. 10.