If the formula works, why change it?
Shutdown defense and stingy goaltending has carried Nashoba Regional all season and it was no different in the state Division IIIA final.
Nashoba won its first state championship Thursday following a 4-2 victory over Chicopee Comp at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
Nashoba, the top seed in Central Mass., finished with a 17-6-0 record. Nashoba had not won a sectional title since 1980, and lost in the Central Mass. finals in 1979, 1981 and 1985.
“I’m in dream land right now,” Nashoba coach Trevor Short said. “The kids worked hard and deserved it. They fought, battled and never gave up.”
The Chieftains tournament run was nothing short of remarkable. Nashoba allowed only two goals during the postseason.
Luke Gilchrest once again stood tall in goal. He finished with 23 saves and stopped a penalty shot by Myles Hemingway with 6:31 left in the game.
The Chieftains used their speed and effective forecheck to foil a powerful Colts offense. They paid close attention to the high-scoring duo of Jeremy Lewis and Cam Kagan, who combined to score 53 percent of Comp’s goals. Kagan and Lewis did score for Comp. But it was back to shutdown defense after that and the Colts, who had only nine skaters, could not get any closer.
Kagan’s goal was an unassisted effort and it came 45 seconds into the final period. But Dan Kerbe struck at 4:19 to restore Nashoba’s three-goal lead, 4-1. Lewis scored 15 seconds later to get the Colts back in it, 4-2.
Kevin Gilchrest led Nashoba with two goals and earned the team’s “hard hat” award, which is presented after each game to the team’s hardest-working player.
“Being the first team to win a state championship makes it even more special,” Gilchrest said.
Hunter Boudreau also scored. Boudreau opened the scoring 2:10 into the game. He swooped in and powered a wrist shot past Parker Nunes to give Nashoba a 1-0 edge.
Just when it appeared the Colts would escape the opening period down by only one goal, Kevin Gilchrest scored with 11.3 seconds remaining in the period to give the Chieftains a 2-0 advantage.
“That goal was a killer,” Comp coach Rob Spear said.
Nashoba used another late goal by Gilchrest to move to a 3-0 lead. This one came with 1:30 remaining in the second period after he tipped a shot past Nunes (23 saves).
“It helped to get off to a lead,” Gilchrest said. “When you get down like that, it sucks the confidence out of you.”
Penalty killing was big for Nashoba. The Chieftains foiled two second period power plays by the Colts and only allowed three shots in the process.
“We’re a big physical team and killing penalties is something we focus on,” Short said.
Chicopee Comp, which celebrated its first sectional title since 1986, closed at 13-6-4. “We fought hard,” Spear said. “The kids worked hard for each other.”