The Nottingham-Hamilton ice hockey team has gone from one win in the previous three seasons, to the CVC Valley Division champions this year (Photo by Rich Fisher)
By Rich Fisher
Feb. 6: As far as athletic program resurrections go, what has occurred with the Nottingham-Hamilton ice hockey team this year may be one of the greatest in Colonial Valley Conference history.
After three previous seasons in which it went 1-46-3 and lost 14 games by the 10-goal mercy rule, the Northstars have truly risen from the ashes.
Heading into Tuesday’s Mercer County Tournament, N-H is 6-10-1 overall, 5-5-1 in CVC play an 5-0-1 in Valley Division play. Nottingham’s 3-1 win over Steinert Jan. 31 clinched the Valley Division title for the Stars.
“That meant absolutely everything,” leading scorer and captain Conner Luckie said. “The last three years playing here hadn’t been what I wanted or the team wanted; so to get this in my senior year is just great.”
First-year coach John Patterson, a teacher at West, feels it was truly well deserved.
“It’s big,” Patterson said. “You don’t go through years of zero wins, one win, zero wins and then hang around with a program if you don’t just love playing hockey. These guys have come to the rink every day and let’s face it, some of the scores in the past have been just bad losses. Paul VI piled it on last year, 18-0, that’s a crazy score.
“But these guys (and one girl) keep coming back for the love of the game and finally all the hard work, all the seniors, they’ve worked and worked and worked and now they’re getting rewards for it. That’s a credit to every single one of them from the second line guy, first line guy, third line guy, every single one of them worked to make this what it is.”
One of the biggest keys to Nottingham’s emergence has been junior goalie David Thompson, who has saved 632 out of 700 shots. In Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Hopewell he was phenomenal with 42 saves.
“The kid’s an absolute stud,” Luckie said after the HoVal game. “He stands on his head every game, keeps us in every game. We shouldn’t have been in this game with how many shots they took. Every game you check his stats, it’s insane how much he stands on his head.”
Thompson has been the main cog around which the team has been built.
“The framework was there,” Patterson said. “It was just a matter of really looking at what we have, what each individual player’s strengths and weaknesses were, what’s the system we can build out that will take advantage of the things we have and sort of minimize the things we don’t have. We’re building it from the goalie, to strong D, strong defensive systems and timely goal-scoring from guys like Connor Luckie.”
Luckie leads the team with 20 goals and 6 assists, while senior Kathryn Truban has 3 goals and 11 assists. Also contributing are senior Kiefer Goss (6 goals, 3 assists) and juniors Anthony Dickinson (5, 5) and Kevin Kolczynski (3, 6).
Rounding out the roster are seniors Ethan Maldonado, Paul LaMothe, Nick Diaz, captain Trevor Bolton and Bryan Cooper, juniors Milton Novoa, Justin Van Horn and Connor O’Lone, sophomores Gavin Colon, Matt Fry and Ryan Thornton, and freshmen Warren Cox, Tyler McDonald, Isaac Acosta and Steven Shanahan.
It is a two-school cast that has come together in a co-op and the results are finally showing.
“I think we’re having an unbelievable season, thanks to the new coaching staff coming in, a bunch of guys in the lockerroom that are energized this year,” Thompson said. “They’re ready to come out and play and win. I just think we’ve been playing as a team together great.”
“Our seniors are playing really good,” Truban said. “We have a really good goalie, he’s doing everything he can every night. We’re all just coming together trying to put pucks in the net.”
For the first time in years, Nottingham is actually looking forward to competing in the Mercer County Tournament and winning its opener. “We definitely want to win our first game; hands down that’s the goal,” Patterson said. “We have to see what the seeding is, who we catch up with, talk about our game plan. I really feel we have a team, if David is on, which he has been every night, and our defense stays strong, we could potentially surprise somebody in the second round. From there let the chips fall where they may.”