Weekly Preview: Wildcats Clawing for Playoff Spot

by Team Reporter Nate Gordon ’16

On December 19th, Williston Boys Hockey had a 1-5 record. It wouldn’t be until January 14th that the Wildcats returned to a .500 winning percentage. Since that date, the Wildcats have won five of six games, losing just once to Berkshire. This brings the Wildcats to a 10-7-1 record, one that puts the team in the middle of a race to reach the playoffs.

Most recently, the team gave the Williston Boys Hockey program one of its biggest victories in recent history. In front of a home crowd this past Wednesday, February 4th, the Wildcats stunned Loomis, beating the Pelicans, at the time the number two team in New England, 4-3. Just 23 seconds into overtime, sophomore JoJo Carbone gave the Wildcats  its first overtime victory since January 21st, 2009.

This win powered the Wildcats into the top fifteen New England prep teams, the first time Williston has appeared in a poll this season. Hockey Night in Boston’s February 8th Prep Poll ranked the Wildcats at number fourteen. USHR’s RPI (Rating Percentage Index) is a fluid ranking system that rates teams taking into account the winning percentage of opponents. Currently at number fourteen, Williston has had the toughest schedule of any team in the top fifteen. The Wildcats’ opponents’ winning percentage is .6053. To give this some perspective, the average winning percentage of the opponents of the top thirteen teams is is .512.

In this last stretch of the season, Head Coach Derek Cunha’s motto for the Wildcats has been: “our practices are our games and our games are our playoffs.” This emphasizes that the team must take advantage of every opportunity it has on the ice.   This hits home for a team that missed the playoffs last season by .004 of a percentage point.

Cunha told the team before practice on February 10th, “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We start thinking too much about March, we start thinking too much down the road, that’s when we’re gonna get ourselves in trouble. We have to stay in the [present], we have to make sure we are taking it one day at a time, one shift at a time.”

Luckily for Williston, the Wildcats’ remaining schedule only helps the team make playing in March a reality. With just eight games remaining, the Wildcats have previously defeated four of those opponents this season. Three of the remaining four opponents have a sub .500 winning percentage. The one opponent who the Wildcats have not beaten and who does not have a losing record is Westminster. Williston’s game against the Martlets was originally scheduled for February 2nd, but was cancelled due to weather. The game has been rescheduled for this upcoming Monday, February 16th, at Westminster.

Wednesday, February 11: Williston @ NMH, 3 p.m.

Looking for their eleventh win of the year, the Wildcats will travel to the Northfield Mount Hermon to take on the Hoggers (10-13-0). Last season, NMH finished with a 19-10-2 regular season record. They earned a spot in the playoffs and were quarter-finalists in the Large School Tournament. The Hoggers have lost their last two games this season to Kimball Union and Vermont Academy by a combined six goals. The team’s leader in goals (16) and points (28) is senior forward Peter Owen Hayward (#17). The team’s leader in assists (16) is senior forward Ben Freeman (#24). Freeman has committed to play Division 1 hockey at UCONN.

Saturday, February 14: Williston @ Millbrook, 2 p.m.

For the second time this season, the Wildcats will meet Millbrook (8-13-3) on Saturday. In the teams’ first match-up on January 28th, the Wildcats squeaked out a 4-2  victory at home. This time, Williston will travel to the Mustangs’ barn in southern New York.  Since the teams’ first game, Millbrook has lost two games to Brunswick and Gunnery to increase its losing streak to five. The Mustangs’ last victory was against Pomfret on January 17th. Since January 28th, Williston has won its two games; the Wildcats have won six of their last seven. Millbrook sophomore forward Matt Gosiewski, a Harvard University commit, is the Mustangs’ leader in assists (22) and points (27).



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