Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 CMass Lax Preview: Nashoba Chieftains

The Chieftains were up-and-down in 2013, but they expect to break through this season.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Nashoba's opening round playoff loss to Shrewsbury served as a microcosm of the Chieftains' season under new coach Kevin McNamara.

The Chieftains fell in an early 7-1 hole, but fought back to even the game, only to see things slip away in the last few minutes. Nashoba showed flashes of brilliance, but lacked the depth and experience to break through against one of the best teams in Central Mass.

In McNamara's second season, he thinks his team is ready to change that.

"We feel like we're picking up where we left off," McNamara said. "Towards the end of last year we were really clicking, and we want to build off that."

The Chieftains will have to continue building without their top two scorers from a season ago. Not only did Trevor Pilkington and Kyle Elkins find the back of the net often, they also set the table for their teammates. This year's younger Nashoba squad features only six seniors, but one of them is the region's most unique attackman.

Mike d'Entremont, a powerful guard on Nashoba's celebrated football team, is probably the strongest player in the region. When he gets going to the cage, not many poles have the strength, or stomach, to stop him.

"He's one of the more unique guys around," McNamara said of d'Entremont. "I don't think many defensemen have seen someone on attack like him. We certainly expect him to create a lot for us."

Nashoba will also be counting on Eric Demmer, who led the team in assists from the midfield last year, to create for teammates as he moves up to attack full time.

Joining d'Entremont and Demmer up front will be a group of talented younger players. Sophomore Mike Czekanski is making the jump to varsity, and McNamara expects him to fill in as a starter immediately. His older brother Ben, a senior, is expected to contribute offensively from the midfield, and McNamara believes junior Casey Elkins could be one of the most complete middies around.

"Casey is Kyle Elkins' brother, but they don't have much in common, other than their love of the game," McNamara said. "Casey is a big, strong guy that can get the ball from one end to the other. He can really defend, and he can score once he gets down there too."

Last season the Chieftains relied largely on a zone defense, but McNamara expects this year's group to play more aggressive man-to-man. Last season, twin brothers Kraig and Kurt Arsenault worked in on defense as sophomores, each improving as the year went on. Now juniors, the twins will join classmate Ben Hurley on what should be one of the more athletic back lines in Central Mass.

Manning the net for Nashoba will be Robbie Atwood. The sophomore is talented, but short on experience. McNamara feels confident throwing him in, though, because of his continued improvement, and the defense in front of him.

"We're young, we only have six seniors," McNamara said. "But we have guys like Mike (d'Entremont) and other that have been around. We expect their leadership to carry a really strong sophomore and junior class."

Joe's Forecast

Nashoba was really hard to get a feel for last year, and that's to be expected from a young team with a new coach.

This year, the Chieftains are even younger, but I would expect them to be far better defensively, where they return the bulk of their experience and athleticism. The midfield looks solid, and with the d'Entremont and Demmer up front, Nashoba should put up enough goals to stay with anybody.

They won't have the firepower of the region's elite, but if this defense reaches it's potential and goalie Robbie Atwood grows up quickly, there's no reason Nashoba can't get into the district tournament and cause some problems.

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