HARWICH – For the past several years, the winter sports season, particularly ice hockey, has officially gotten under way with game play between the Monomoy-Mashpee Monarchs and the Nauset Warriors. The same goes for this season. But this time there's a twist.
When the Monarchs and the Warriors face off on Dec. 14 at Charles Moore Arena, it will be part competition and part fundraiser as the teams aim to raise money to benefit the Lower Cape Coyotes Youth Hockey program in their first Lower Cape Showdown.
Monarchs head coach Chris Peterson said he was motivated to create the first, and hopefully annual, event upon realizing that youth hockey numbers were down, something that could negatively impact the Monarchs and the Warriors in the future. A family-friendly fundraiser seemed like just the solution.
“I talked with Sal (Manganaro, Nauset head coach) at the end of last season,” said Peterson. “I figured we should do something that's fun for the community. It's just a fun way to get things going.”
“He came up to me one time during the off-season and mentioned the fact that he wanted to do something to tie in the local community and the local youth hockey program, and we just started brainstorming,” said Manganaro. “He did a great job taking the lead and it just kind of developed from there. I think it's going to be quite a nice event for everybody.”
At the heart of the event is the annual kickoff game between the Monarchs and the Warriors, this time with a little something extra. The funds from a 50-50 raffle will benefit the Lower Cape Coyotes Youth Hockey Organization, and any youth player that brings in a non-perishable food donation will be entered into a drawing that lets kids join their favorite varsity players on the ice during the National Anthem.
Peterson said his hope is that the fundraiser will not only provide a financial boost to the Coyotes, but also give the program a boost by drumming up interest.
“We decided that we wanted to help boost those numbers by getting the younger kids involved,” he said, “by watching the older kids, to get them excited about that experience.”
Manganaro, who has been playing hockey since he was a toddler, loved the idea. Youth hockey, he said, offers prospective players a solid foundation through which to learn the game.
“It's one of those sports where you just can't pick it up and go play,” he said. “You can't just go out on the ice and jump in the middle of a hockey game. It's important to give the kids a good quality place to play, to learn the game and enjoy themselves, and learn from quality coaches. When you live down here that can be difficult sometimes, so it's important to make sure programs have what they need financially and in terms of volunteers.”
Peterson said what he appreciates most about the sport is the bonds it fosters between teammates.
“I think more than any other sport there's a real family bond to it,” he said. “Parents are always at the rink so they get to know each other pretty well. It adds a little extra spice to the things these kids do.”
“It's something that I've known since I was 2 years old,” said Manganaro. “My dad has a photo of me in a diaper with skates on, barely able to stand. It was embedded in me at a young age. It taught me how hard you have to work not only to get better but to earn playing time. You just have to enjoy it because it's a lot of hard work.”
With both teams having graduated a number of key players last year, the 2019-2020 season is a chance for the current seniors and underclassmen to shine. Peterson noted that the Monarchs have many new faces this year, all of whom are putting in the effort in practices to find their flow.
“They're just trying to get into a rhythm,” Peterson said, adding that there are several players vying for the position of starting goalie, including Jonah Tambolleo, Josh Lovely, and Dominic Tsoukalas.
Players to watch this season, according to Peterson, are Lucas Tambolleo, Lucas Garneau, Brant Butcher, and Max Abboud, whom Peterson said has “definitely shown some leadership,” along with Wyatt Archibald, Tristan Coomber, and Alex Tosi.
On the Nauset side, 12 seniors graduated from the 2018-2019 team. While their absences will be felt, Manganaro said this year's seniors will be the first group of players he's had for four complete seasons.
“I've got a little soft spot for this class,” Manganaro said, noting that his daughter played with many of them on the Coyotes before moving on to varsity hockey in high school.
“There was a time when I was wiping their noses and teaching them how to skate so it's kind of coming full circle this year,” he said.
Manganaro said he feels his team is going to have strong leadership from its new seniors, including Ryan Redihan, Nick Silva, and JT Tulloch, who steps in as the team's goaltender this season.
“He's been backing up Chase Holm as goalkeeper,” Manganaro said. “Now he's going to get the shot to be in the net for us most every night.”
Manganaro also gave nods to incoming freshman Payton Kender, whom he dubbed “skilled and ready to play,” and Ethan Keeney on defense, whom Manganaro said “is going to be really important for us, as well.”
The puck drops at 6 p.m. at Charles Moore in Orleans, with both coaches optimistic about the outcome.
“I think it's going to be a really close game,” said Peterson. “It's always a blast to play Nauset, especially first game of the season.”
“I think it's going to be a nice event,” said Manganaro. “I'm really looking forward to it.”