By Michael James LeClair
Saturday afternoon’s matchup between the Nashoba Regional and Gardner/Murdock hockey teams was a battle of teams headed in opposite directions.
The postseason-bound Chieftains dominated from start to finish against the visiting Wildcats, striking for five first period goals and never looking back, on their way to an 11-0 thumping at the New England Sports Center.
Nashoba improved to 13-5 with the victory over its Coughlin Conference foe. The Chieftains currently have 26 points on the season and end the campaign with games against Lunenburg and Watertown before finding out its postseason fate next week.
As for the Wildcats, it’s been a season they’d like to forget. Gardner drops to 0-18 overall and 0-10 in the conference.
On Saturday afternoon, the Chieftains honored its senior class prior to the start of the game, recognizing five players for their hard work and dedication to the Nashoba hockey program over the last four years. Kevin Gilchrest, Luke Gilchrest, Hunter Boudreau, Jack Charbonneau and P.J Anastas are the Nashoba seniors on this year’s team.
“It’s a good group of guys, from the goalie on out. They’ve been here for four years and they’ve been working hard and producing,” said Nashoba first-year head coach Trevor Short of his senior crew. “It’s going to be tough to lose them but they’ve really set the tone for what is expected from the younger guys in the group. Today was a nice way to celebrate them with a win.”
Nashoba wasted little time going on the attack against Gardner on Saturday, striking for two goals inside the first two minutes as junior captain Brad Colvin and sophomore Dean Anastas beat Gardner goalie Klark Johnson at the 1:23 and 1:44 marks respectively. The Chieftains added three more goals before the first intermission as P.J Anastas, junior Brett Young and sophomore Bobby Denaro all tickled the twine in the back of the cage. Denaro’s tally, with 5:26 left in the period, was a shorthanded goal for the hosts.
The Chieftain offensive barrage didn’t stop over the final 30 minutes as the home team added six more goals in the final two periods, three in each frame. Nashoba spread the scoring out on Saturday afternoon as a total of 13 players earned points in the game. Goals by Colvin, sophomore Chris Benschneider and Boudreau highlighted the second period for Nashoba.
“We said from day one we aren’t taking anyone we play lightly, no matter what their record,” said Short. “We came out and set the tone early. We played our system and we executed. Our goal is to get to 15 wins. We have two games left to get there so we haven’t deviated away from that plan, and it’s still one of our main goals.”
In the third period, freshmen Bryce Chaput, Boudreau and Charbonneau all tallied goals to cap the scoring the Nashoba.
At the other end of the ice, Nashoba goalie Luke Gilchrest wasn’t challenged very often, but turned away the shots he saw, making seven saves in the shutout triumph.
“This group of seniors has been playing together since freshmen year, some of us before that, so I feel like we have the ability to be able to really work together and feed off each other on the ice. It’s a good group,” said Charbonneau after the game. “As a whole team, we started the season strong and I feel we’ve gotten better as a group. I feel we’ve really progressed this year.”
The MIAA cut-off date for ice hockey is this Friday, February 20, which means the Chieftains will know their playoff path of who and when the team will be playing by this weekend. Nashoba will be competing in the Central Mass. Division 3A Tournament.