Ashland Hockey Adjusts to PandemicJan 29, 2021 09:51AM ● By Christopher Tremblay
Last winter Ashland had a subpar season going 6-10-4 with no visit to the tournament, but this year the Clocker Captains believe the team has what it takes to get to the tournament. That is, if there were a tournament.
The Covid-19 pandemic has derailed all sports throughout the country in some form. According to Ashland coach, it looks as though the Clockers will be competing in 10 games this winter against the likes of Westwood, Norwood, Holliston, Hopkinton, and Medfield. The teams will play home/away games on Wednesdays and Saturdays against the same team.
“At this time, we know that we are participating in a 10-game Tri-Valley League season with the possibility of a TVL tournament at the end,” Ashland Coach Mike Roman said. “It certainly will be a disappointing season for the seniors as they’re always looking at playing in the tournament, but they’d rather have some sort of season than nothing.”
Guiding the Clockers into the abbreviated season will be the team’s tri of senior captains; wingers Nick Fish and Matt Milko, along with center Nick Cibotti. At the moment it is a possibility that the three seniors will all be playing on Ashland’s top line, but according to Roman you never know how things are going to shape out.
Prior to the abbreviated season being approved Fish, a Tri-Valley league All-Star who scored 31 points for the Clockers last year, along with his teammates were unsure that they would even have a senior campaign on the ice.
“It was definitely scary as it got closer to the season not knowing if we were even going to be playing hockey this year,” Fish said. “For most of us not to have hockey in our final year would have been rough.”
Cibotti’s mindset was on the lines of his teammates, but deep down inside he really believed that his senior season was going to be cancelled all together.
“Honestly at the start I had no hope at all for a season, especially when they moved the football season,” he said. I knew that if we were able to have a season it was going to be a short one, so we are fortunate enough to have a 10-game season instead of nothing.”
Not knowing if there was going to be a season or not, the Ashland trio got the players together and had five captains practice to get to know the players as well as be prepared in case the season was eventually slated to take place.
Now that there will be a season of some sort, the captains are going to have to work hard at making sure the team is focused on the task at hand, although a short one.
“Now having a season, I am going to need these three to lead the younger kids and we have a lot of them this year,” Roman said. “I want them to push them in the right direction so that we can continue to be successful in the years to come.”
Milko and Fish are very similar in terms of production on the ice. Last winter Fish netted 31 points, while his counterpart accounted for 26 points.
“Nick has a great stride and a nose for the net, and I would love to see him have another 30-point season, but with the shortened season that probably won’t be likely,” the Clocker Coach said. “Matt is a mirror image of Nick just on the other side. He’s a great skater who will play on the power play as well as the penalty kill. As a second-year captain he knows what needs to be done in terms of leading this team.”
Although at the time of this writing the season had yet to get underway Milko was very optimistic about his team’s chances.
“I think that we have one of the best offenses in the league,” he said. “Our defense is growing but it’s vey solid and they should be able to keep the puck away from our goalie.”
Much like the other two captains, Cibotti is also a good skater and works extremely hard and according to his coach is a solid two-way player. Last year Cibotti centered the second line and although moving onto the top line this year, he has yet to play on a regular basis with the two wingers.
While the season is going to play out unlike any other the trio has ever encountered (wearing masks underneath their helmets and getting ready in their cars in the parking lot before and after the game) the Clockers will figure out ways to keep this positive.
“It’s going to be a lot harder than any season we’ve ever played in, but we will get through it,” Milko said. “Not being able to be in the locker rooms at any times will not take away from our camaraderie, it’ll only make us stronger.”
Cibotti also believes that this year’s team, despite all the losses from last year’s squad, will still have a strong season.
“Things are shaping up and we’re making do with what they’ve handed us, we’re just hoping that the youngers players will step up,” the Ashland center said. “Coach Roman usually separates our season into four 5 games seasons throughout the year where we are looking to go at least 3-2 to be successful; it keeps us focused on the task at hand. This year it’ll only be two 5 game seasons.”
Having no Sectional and State Tournaments to look forward too will take away from the seniors’ season in some aspect, but they are not going to allow it to define their season.
“Not being able to play in the tournament definitely stinks, especially being a senior,” Fish said. “In years prior we’ve had fun and took the team deep into the tournament. I would have liked to see what this team could have accomplished under the captains.”
The team’s other winger echoed Fish’s sentiments.
“This is definitely not the way that I wanted my senior season to end,” Milko said. “We’re going to take to the ice and give it 110% and hope that they (the TVL) find some way so that we have a tournament of some sort.”