Nauset Boys Look To Continue Building Momentum Before Div. 3 Tournament

by Brad Joyal
Nauset junior goaltenders Matthew Swanson, left, and Zach Coelho have been a formidable duo this winter. The pair have combined for eight shutout victories, with each registering four.
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ORLEANS – As successful as the Nauset boys hockey team’s season has been, second-year coach Connor Brickley recognizes there is still work to be done.

The Warriors have been atop the Division 3 rankings all winter, and Brickley is hopeful that the team will maintain its top position and enter the state tournament as the No. 1 seed.

“We’ve done a good job leading up to this point…but it really doesn’t mean too much,” Brickley said after Nauset improved to 13-1-1 with a 10-0 victory over Dennis Yarmouth/Cape Cod Tech/Cape Cod Academy on Saturday night at Charles Moore Arena.

“We’ve done a good job of putting ourselves in a No. 1 seed situation so far, but there’s still five games left and anything can happen. All we’re trying to do is focus on ourselves and make sure that we’re playing our best hockey going into states.”

There isn’t much that the Warriors haven’t done well this winter. Offensively, eight players lit the lamp in Saturday’s rout, with sophomore Jake Eldredge (2 goals, 1 assist) and junior Colin Ward (2 goals) leading the way alongside junior co-captain Logan Poulin, who tallied a goal and two helpers.

Defensively, the team has received strong goaltending from whichever netminder Brickley has turned to. On Saturday, it was Matthew Swanson’s turn, and the junior backup responded with his fourth shutout of the season.

“First and foremost, he’s been a great teammate,” Brickley said of Swanson, who has won each of the five games he’s started. “He’s showing up to practice every single day with a smile on his face, energized and ready to go. I think that carries over to every time he’s had an opportunity to get into the net. He’s made the most of his opportunities, he’s challenging himself every single day in practice, and he’s been ready for the moment.”

Junior newcomer Zach Coelho, a first-year transfer from Catholic Memorial, has handled the primary goaltending responsibilities. He’s made an immediate impact for the Warriors, winning eight of his 10 starts with four shutouts on his resume.

“He’s a pretty quiet kid,” Brickley said of Coelho. “He keeps to himself, but I think his calmness and his composure radiates within the team. He’s very calm and confident in himself and his ability, and I think that calmness and confidence instills confidence in everybody else as well.”

As dominant as Nauset has been — the team has outscored opponents 78-16 and hasn’t allowed a goal since its 3-1 victory at Falmouth on Jan. 24 — Brickley isn’t worried about whether his squad has been challenged enough during the regular season. He said the team built a strong, competitive schedule and that his players have passed the test so far.

“We put ourselves in a situation to play some teams that we wanted to see and wanted to face and we’ve done a good job responding to those games,” Brickley said. “The record speaks for itself, but what our coaches and I are looking for is that every single day we’re just trying to play the right way.

“The right way is every single shift is full speed, high intensity, smart decisions with the puck, making sure we’re on top of people and making sure we’re not an easy team to play against. They are doing that in practice and in games, no matter who we play.”

Nauset will face a few more tough tests in its remaining five games, including home matchups against Barnstable (Feb. 10) and Scituate (Feb. 17), the latter of which is the defending state finalist and is ranked No. 2 in the Division 3 Power Rankings behind the Warriors.

After suffering a heart-wrenching 3-2 loss to Watertown in last year’s state quarterfinals, Brickley said he and the coaches understand the challenges that come during the postseason. But for now, the coach is making sure his players remain focused on the task at hand: finishing the regular season strong and securing the top seed in the tournament.

“It’s our job to make sure they aren’t looking ahead, but they know what is ahead,” Brickley said. “They know the energy and excitement that lies ahead, they know the pressure within every single shift, they know the tightness that is within the games, so that experience will only help us. As coaches, it was our first [postseason] go-around too, so we understand the severity of every single shift, too.

“The next five games are really going to prepare us for the playoffs. We have some great teams coming up and it’s going to be a great environment that’s only going to help us get ready.”