Ashland High Sextet Aiming for Another Tourney Berth

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
January, 2020
Article Body: 

Trying to gauge how the Ashland High boys hockey team will fare this season is not an easy task.
Last year, the Clockers were one game away from playing in the State tournament, eliminated by Hopkinton in the Sectional playoffs, 6-2. They finished their campaign as Division 3 Sectional runners-up with an impressive 15-6-3 overall record.
This time around, however, there are questions. Ashland lost eight seniors to graduation, so does that deplete the team’s experience pool? Also, three of those graduates were defensemen but are there any up-and-coming blue liners? And, how will the Clockers match up with their opposition in the TVL’s Large Division?
Ashland’s coach, Mike Roman, is hoping these questions get answered sooner rather than later.
The squads in the TVL’s Large Division are first-rate. Hopkinton and Westwood played in the State tourney last year and Roman regards that pair along with Medfield, Holliston and Norwood as “teams with talent, tradition and numbers.’’
But, the blue-collar Clockers are like a GPS device — they usually recalculate and find their way, After all, since Roman became Ashland’s coach, his teams have qualified for tourney play six times in the last 10 years. And, twice he’s guided his troops into the Sectional finals.
“This year’s team has some strengths that we’re hoping will provide offense and enable us to pin our opponents in their zone,’’ Roman said. “We want to be reliable on defense.’’
The 40-year-old Roman likes his squad’s skating ability, it’s hockey IQ and it’s mental and physical toughness. “Our kids are coachable and the seniors on the team have experience since they’ve competed in the playoffs for the last three years,’’ he emphasized.
Where Ashland needs to shore up its attack is on defense. The Clockers lost some quality defensemen, like Cole Taddeo, Jack Merrill and Jackson Hornung to graduation. Sophomore Chris Moriarity, however, should provide some help. “Chris is smart, coachable, works hard and has a good skill set,’’ Roman said. “We’ve also got a group of freshmen who are battling for ice time.’’
Improving daily and qualifying for the playoffs continue to be Roman’s prime objectives. “Our goals are to be technically sound and improve daily in practice and in games,’’ Roman said. “We also want our effort and our results to improve from game to game. And, qualifying for the tourney is an objective that’s always on our list.’’
Two forwards who’ll set the tone for the Clockers and strive to build team chemistry are senior co-captains Brett Erwin and Jack Reap. Roman knows they’ll lead by example.
“Brett is very competitive,’’ Roman noted. “He’s a hard-worker who’s got speed and can score. His instincts and ice awareness are very good. Jack can be vocal at times. He’s got a very high hockey IQ and is able to handle a variety of situations. He can score and he’s also a lock-down defensive player.’’
Another senior who’ll be counted on is forward Jake Shapiro. “Jake has a solid work ethic, he can score and he’s tough in the corners,’’ Roman said. “High hockey IQ is high and he knows the game.’’
A trio of junior forwards — Nick Fish, Matt Milko and Nick Cibotti — have a plethora of assets and Roman likes what they bring to the table.
“Nick (Fish) has natural scoring ability,’’ said Roman, who played hockey at Bridgewater-Raynham and Suffolk University. “He’s a terrific skater who can fly. His ice awareness is good and he competes hard in games and practice. Matt has many of the qualities that Fish has. Matt is an assistant captain who leads by example and he’s tough and physical. Nick (Cibotti) works hard and he’s solid on defense. Mentally and physically tough, he’s very coachable and he can score.’’
Dom Boccelli will get his minutes because the sophomore forward has showed lots of improvement since his freshman campaign. “Dom has strong hands and his offensive instincts are very good,’’ Roman said. “He can pass and shoot.’’
Goalie Dante D’Avinzo played five games as a freshman last year but he’ll see action on a daily basis as the team’s starting net-minder. “Danta is aggressive, athletic, instinctive and technically sound,’’ Roman said. “He’s not afraid to challenge a shooter.’’
Two coaches who provide Roman with quality input and help in player development are Geoff Iadarola (varsity assistant) and junior-varsity coach Stephen O’Leary.
Roman is acutely aware that ice hockey can go a long way in helping players learn valuable life lessons and play a key role in their overall development.
“I stress to our kids to stay positive,’’ he said. “There’s always frustration and emotion in hockey and it’s important to maintain one’s composure and stay calm. Other lessons that can be learned are how to overcome adversity, how to develop mental and physical toughness, how to be better leaders and how to be accountable.’’
Roman also is a firm believer in a competitive philosophy that focuses on improving, reaching one’s potential, working hard and enjoying athletics. “If kids are giving 100 percent and doing their best, then winning will follow,’’ he emphasized.
The Clockers, who opened their season by losing to Norwood, 6-3, should not be taken lightly this season regardless of bowing in their opener. If they’re regarded in so-so fashion, then their opponents will quickly discover that Mike Roman’s roster has capable skaters with impressive attributes.
And, those characteristics would be players who possess mental toughness, a high hockey IQ, a coachable nature, skills and skating ability.
Those were the attributes that surfaced last year in the Sectional tourney.