by Eva Midura, Staff Writer, February 2021
Bleachers shook, rumbling under the heels of students from every grade as they pounded on the metal seats, cheering in celebration of another Nobles goal. A crowd of high schoolers, decked out in green and red holiday themed outfits and apparel, banged on the window panes surrounding the rink. The Omni was a vessel of excitement and anticipation as the Boys Varsity Hockey (NBVH) team furthered its lead against Dexter Southfield, making the score 4-1 minutes before the final whistle blew.
Consistently one of the strongest teams Nobles faces every year, Dexter had defeated NBVH 5-1 in the 2020 season, and turning the tables in 2022 by a similar score was a proud achievement. Next to Dexter, Salisbury High School and Kimball Union Academy stand at the top of Nobles’ competition outside of the Independent School League (ISL).
As a marker of their early success going into the winter season, the team won the Flood Marr Holiday Tournament for the first time in ten years, beating Salisbury 5-1 to move forward to the championship game against Milton. “We played great team defense. We committed to every one-on-one battle for the puck and put pressure on the opponent when we had possession,” Assistant Coach Mark Spence said. This tenacious play earned a 4-0 record in the tournament, beating most of the competition by a significant stretch.
“The Flood Marr tournament is usually where we encounter our toughest competition, so having that out of the way is great and allows us to focus on our ISL games,” co-captain Aidan Lyons (Class I) said. Having competed in ten games so far, of which only two were league games, the team is well prepared to contend with ISL competition throughout the rest of the season.
Much of the team’s success can be attributed to the depth of its roster this season. Head Coach Brian Day said, “This is the deepest team we’ve seen. With 14 forwards, seven defensemen, and three goalies, we are able to play a fourth line this year.” Having a deep bench is particularly important this season due to COVID-19, as players can be sidelined for almost a week if they test positive or are considered a close contact. “Coach Day advised us that the team which is most successful this season may ultimately be determined by who can remain the healthiest. When consistently guys are out for a week or more, it can really interfere with our lines and the rhythm on the ice,” Will Canavan (Class I) added.
Notable talent in the freshman class has contributed to a strong roster. “In past years it’s been a struggle to have a lot of top kids, but our underclassmen this year are really skilled and all of them can be filtered into the top three lines, strengthening our depth offensively and defensively,” Brian Grant (Class II) said. In particular, starting goalie Thatcher Bernstein (Class IV) has been outstanding, coming up with huge saves every game and earning MVP of the Flood Marr Holiday Tournament. Lyons emphasized that the underclassmen really stepped up, with all six freshmen putting points up on the board early into the season. “When kids from every grade are contributing and putting in one hundred percent, it’s easier for everyone to feel comfortable holding each other accountable and taking responsibility for our individual and team efforts,” Canavan said. Being able to integrate all players smoothly into rotations during practice and games encourages everyone to perform at a high level and maintain intensity.
The team chemistry can be accredited in part to the reduced COVID-19 constraints compared to last winter, allowing for more time spent off the ice as a team, as well as admirable leadership from the seniors and their focus on bolstering team culture. Concerning the transition from the previous season, Day said, “Last year was important for getting an understanding of what we do and how we go about things and establishing a foundation for the success we’ve built this year.” The team has continued to focus on maintaining and improving that unity and groundwork this year, with greater opportunity to bond outside the rink. “Last year we were allowed at the rink only ten minutes before we got on the ice, and we had to remain six feet apart and only five kids to a locker room while dressing,” Lyons said. The time spent in the locker or team rooms prior to games and practices is invaluable when it relates to teammates bonding with one another and performing pregame traditions and warm-ups. Having been on the team the past two seasons, Bernstein considered increased bus rides and time in the locker room to be one of the best changes for the team.
Having two seasons affected by COVID, the seniors understand how easily their moments on the ice can be taken away, and it’s clear that motivation to make the most of their last year is influencing their attitudes. “Everyone wants to squeeze everything they can out of this season,” Lyons said. This ambition is evident among the senior class. Spence added, “ [The seniors] have done a great job leading so far, and the team is lucky to have a group of seniors who are as selfless, committed, and competitive as they are.”
In particular, senior captains Lyons and Roman Tacelli (Class I), are spoken highly of by their coaches and teammates. “Roman is super verbal and communicates well, and Aidan is a guy who really leads by example,” Grant said. Moreover, their combined leadership has played a large part in motivating and encouraging their team throughout adversity, and Spence stated that Lyons and Tacelli have done a fantastic job of bringing the team together. They are approachable and say what needs to be said in the locker room and on the bench.” Overall, the team is described as tight knit with a really good culture due largely to how much each player cares about the guy next to him. “The kids really enjoy playing hard for each other, and they take pride in what they do,” Day said.
The team had to remain resilient with the resurgence of COVID-19 cases following winter break, and will have to adapt to the changes in schedule and roster as the season progresses. “Staying focused on our goals and continuing to commit to the process of becoming a better team than we were the day before will be important,” Spence added.