State Final Run Highlights Nauset Seniors, Motivates Returning Players

by Brad Joyal

BOSTON – As the Nauset boys hockey players emptied out of their locker room and waited to leave TD Garden following Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Marblehead in the Division 3 state championship, it was impossible not to think about the Warriors’ journey to the big time.

It was an especially windy round for the team’s six seniors — Aaron Howard, Aidan Anderson, Joseph McManus, Cam Connery, Sean Kipperman and Julian Krivos — a group of players that joined the program amid the COVID-19 pandemic as freshmen, underwent a tumultuous in-season coaching change as sophomores, and then helped lead the team to new heights, including the program’s first state final berth since 2004.

“It was hectic,” Connery said of the past four years, “but we adjusted pretty well.”

Although the team’s magical season ended in gut-wrenching fashion, head coach Connor Brickley was hardly disappointed in his players. Especially the seniors, a group that stayed the course and helped set the groundwork since Brickley took over at the start of last season.

After replacing former coach Drew Locke before the 2022-23 campaign, Brickley helped guide Nauset to the state quarterfinals in his debut season. This year, the program took another step in its maturation and was ranked first in every installment of the MIAA’s Division 3 Power Rankings throughout the season.

“I’m so happy for the seniors that they were able to experience this ride,” Brickley said. “Obviously, it’s definitely not the way we wanted things to go, but it was a hell of a run that they put on. They got to play as long as you can possibly play in this high school season.”

It quickly became clear that this was going to be a special season for the Warriors once the team began practicing in the fall.

As underclassmen carved out larger roles, newcomers Zach Coelho and Colin Ward — a pair of juniors who transferred to Nauset before the school year — established themselves as impact players at goalie and forward, respectively. Jack Martin, a junior defenseman who returned to the team after focusing on golf his sophomore year, added another layer of toughness and consistency to the blue line in his return.

But it was the battle-tested seniors, alongside junior captain Logan Poulin, who carried the brunt of the team’s leadership responsibilities.

“Every single one of them had a good role on the team and did their role the best they could,” Poulin said of the seniors.

“They were great leaders and great ambassadors for our program,” added Brickley. “The next guys up moving forward that are returning, they know our expectations and who we are as a team. [The seniors] are leaving the program much better than they found it.”

While the group of seniors will be remembered for spearheading the return of a winning culture to Charles Moore Arena under Brickley’s guidance, they will also be remembered for providing the Nauset and Lower Cape communities with something to be proud of.

The community met the team’s hard work, resilience and determination with support. The partnership resulted in a historic winning combination, including a perfect 14-0 home record at Charles Moore Arena and a 22-2-1 mark overall.

“It’s incredible all of the support we have,” said Poulin, a Truro resident. “From food being donated, to police and movie theater signs saying ‘Go Nauset.’ I think we’ve got the best support in high school hockey. We’re really happy that we had everyone along for the ride. It was awesome.”

Even in defeat, the state final run was something the players will never forget.

“It’s a tough way to end, but I’m happy with where we’re at,” said Connery, a Yarmouth resident. “I’ll remember every part of it. It’ll definitely be one of the biggest days of my life for a long time.”

For the juniors and underclassmen, the focus shifted to next year before the team even boarded its bus to make the journey back to the Cape.

“We’re going to come back next year with the same mentality that we’re coming back here,” Poulin said. “Just next time we want to win it.”