Ah, the 2020-2021 “season,” a season that will live in everyone’s minds as the year that teams were put together with chewing gum and duct tape as coaches tried to cobble together lineups out of their remaining players due to Covid protocols of some and the defections of others to junior and club teams. The weekend of February 19th proved to be just that for the Williston and Cushing hockey teams as both teams tried to figure out how to sweep the series with many in their pre-Covid arsenals missing. On Friday and Saturday, Williston would harness the hockey gods good will and take two from the Penguins, 6-2 and 4-3.
Friday night saw the Wildcats get on the board at the 11:08 mark when junior Gavin Havens (Franklin, MA) made a quick outlet pass to Connor Hagness (Guilford, CT) on the left wing who exploded through the neutral zone, broke left as he entered the zone and let a Hagness Howitzer go that beat the Cushing goalie over the shoulder on the short side. It was a nifty goal and his first of four on the night that gave him the opportunity to try out all his goal celebration moves that he crafted so carefully over the past five months.
Williston got on the board eight minutes later on the power play when Roscoe Eade made a pass from the left half-wall to Charles Monteith at the high point of the umbrella; Monteith let a low wrister go that was corralled by Riley Van Son on the crease. VS made a move, and buried his opportunity putting the ‘Cats up 2-0. Cushing made it 2-1 two minutes later.
Then, two minutes into the second frame, a puck was dumped into the Cushing half-wall and chased down by Van Son who won the puck and made a nice pass to Will Gaca. Gaca drove to the net and let a back hand go that beat the Cushing goaltender on the far post. Gaca would say that the goal was easier than landing a catfish in the North Carolina heat. His coaches looked at him funny but ultimately agreed.
Hagness got his second of the game when sophomore Joe “Beaston” Easton got him a puck on the right-hand side of the neutral zone. Hagness blew into the Cushing end, cut to the middle and let a little wrist shot go that somehow squeaked past the Cushing goalie. Williston was up, 4-1.
A little while later, senior Will Tripp got into the action skating in the Cushing zone, cutting right, and making a backdoor pass to a streaking who Hagness who took the pass, deked the Cushing goalie and beat him on a backhand. 5-1, good guys.
Williston went up 6-1 two minutes into the third when Havens made a pass behind the net to junior Dan McKiernan who skated into the right corner. Tripp scissored past him and D-Mak made a nice drop pass to the crafty defenseman who then made a seeing-eye pass to Hagness’ stick five feet from the crease. Hagness took care of the rest.
Cushing would get one more but it would not be enough. Williston won, 6-2. Of note was junior Ryan Hennigan who got the start. Hennigan made a number of saves that showed that he was ready to battle.
The next day, Williston traveled to Central Massachusetts to take on Cushing once again. Williston got on the board three minutes into a five-minute major power play when post-grad Ben Cheney grabbed a puck in the right corner, drove behind the net and fed Hagness in the low slot. The Cushing goalie made the initial save but Van Son plowed through the crease, gathered the puck, and slid the puck into an open net. Cushing tied it up a few minutes later and eventually increased it going up 2-1.
Hagness tied up the game off a pass from Havens who chipped the puck past a Cushing defenseman to a streaking Hagness who broke in on a breakaway, beating the Cushing goalie on a backhand.
Williston’s third goal had a bit of the dramatic touched with a bit of puck luck. Williston’s Tripp was called for a delayed penalty for, coincidentally, a trip. With the Cushing goalie pulled to gain an extra attacker, a purple forward made a pass to the point that split both defensemen and travelled the length of the ice and into the empty net. Cushing would challenge the play but to no avail. Eade was credited with the goal.
Williston went up 4-2 on a four-on-four when a Cushing player made a behind the back pass from the corner that missed its target and landed right on the stick of Hagness. Hagness was shot out of a cannon and raced down the left side of the ice with Gaca cruising down the right making it a 2-1. Hagness eyed Gaca the entire way but at the last second buried a wrist shot on the Cushing goalie who was a bit off his angle. Cushing would score to make it 4-3 but that was all for the day as Williston swept the weekend.
Williston was set to play this weekend but with Covid running amuck in Worcester and Williston with only eight skaters for the weekend, the athletic department and the Williston coaching staff decided to forgo a final game with Cushing Friday night.
This has been a difficult and trying year for not just Williston, but all hockey programs, and the coaching staff could not be happier with their group who worked hard all season on and off the ice. They came to the rink every day and focused on getting better.
So, hello baby, we’re gone, goodbye. Thank you for all your work and dedication, gentlemen. For those of you who are carrying on to other pastures: good luck, we will miss you. For those of you who will be coming back next year, and to the new crop of Wildcats that will be joining us in September, it’s a great day to be a Wildcat!