BOSTON -- It’s been roughly three decades since Hudson boys' hockey hoisted some MIAA hardware, as the Hawks snapped their 34-year drought by defeating Medway, 5-1 in Sunday's Division 3 state final at TD Garden.
“The kids took me on a magical ride,” Hudson head coach Mike Nanartowich said. “It’s like a dream come true right now.”
“It seemed like we were always missing something,” added Nanartowich. “We couldn’t get by that state semi-final game, and we finally got past that little hurdle [to get us to the TD Garden].”
Hudson’s “hurdle” began back in 2010, as the Hawks lost to Longmeadow by three goals, and then Westfield in the same round a year later. However, the Hawks eventually avenged their loss to the Lancers this past season, as they handed Longmeadow a 3-1 thrashing, which catapulted them to the title match.
“As a senior, I knew how it must have felt losing like the guys in the past did,” said Hudson senior Tyler Kirby, who finished the game with two goals and one assist. “We have a lot of returning guys, so everybody knew what it felt like, and we knew this was probably was our last year as a team to be able to get this far, and we knew what we had to do. We’ve been here so many times, so we know that one bad bounce can change the game."
Medway began the game with a quick strike, as senior Jake O’Rourke stole the puck from Hudson senior Tom Fahey in the Mustang zone, and then rushed down the ice to record the first goal of the afternoon.
“[The puck] hit my pads, just hit the board, and it was a blocked shot that I kind of got lucky, a lucky bounce, and it was off to the races and I was able to put it home,” O'Rourke said of his team’s only score.
The Mustangs attempted to extend their one-goal advantage a few minutes later when sophomore Josh O’Toole connected with freshman Mike Boldy, but Hawks junior netminder Shane Barry denied the opportunity.
Hudson then endured two consecutive power plays before they lit the lamp at 12:00, as junior Bryan Carter sent a back-handed pass to senior Tom Fahey, who deposited the puck past Mustangs goaltender junior Mike Narducci for the score.
That particular goal provided the Hawks with all the momentum for the remainder of the day, as Hudson registered four more strikes – one in the second and three in the third, which came off the sticks of Kirby, Carter and senior Blake Seymour.
“We wanted to throw the puck down, wanted create some chaos, as we talked about this the past couple of days – creating chaos in front of the net,” Nanartowich said. “I told these kids, they took me on an unbelievable ride, and I told them it was something that they’ll never forget, and I’ll never forget.”
“Obviously a disappointing result here tonight, but we knew going in that Hudson was an amazing team, and they showed it tonight,” Medway head coach Chris Ross said. “I’m extremely proud of my boys, and the whole coaching staff, and this is the furthest Medway’s has ever been and [I’m] just extremely proud of this year in general.”
Despite loss, it was an ‘Unbelievable Journey’
Sunday’s crushing loss was probably not exactly what the Mustangs envisioned once they punched their ticket to the state title match on Wednesday, Mar. 14, but according to senior captain Jake O’Rourke, it was certainly an “unbelievable” journey that he and his senior teammates won’t ever forget.
“It’s the best thing that I’ve ever been apart of [in] my high school career,” O'Rourke said. “[I’ve] played a few sports, been on a lot of teams, been around lot of guys and this is the best team by far, head and shoulders above anything. The journey has been unbelievable, and to get here is just unheard of and uncharted waters, which coach [said] and it was an unbelievable experience, and sucks it has to end like this, but that’s what it is [because] someone’s got to win, someone’s got to lose.”
Even head coach Chris Ross harped about his team, as well as the wonderful support by the community when he stated, “The town’s definitely been buzzing. Former players and parents and coaches and just people in the town really rallied around this team, and really came out, sent us off on the game [Sunday], but just showed their support all week long to these guys.”
Getting Past Longmeadow
Hudson senior Tom Fahey remembers quite vividly the night the Hawks lost to Longmeadow in the 2010 Div. 3 semi-finals.
“It’s very special [that we finally beat them],” he said. “I remember sophomore year, skating off the ice and I remember the minute I stepped off the nice, it was just like 'ugh.' So just to get over that hump was a big deal.”
Nanartowich said his team's recent struggles but eventual triumph over their Western Mass rivals provided Hudson with enough momentum to reach the Garden.
“The real momentum ride was the courage that my kids showed against Wachusett Regional [and] being down 3-0 at the end of one, and coming into the locker room, I told them I believed in them, I told them I loved them and I told them from that point forward we’ve got to do this together, and we came all the way back, won it 45-seconds into overtime and I think that I kind of propelled us,” said the head coach. “I think that was the spark we kind of needed.”
Following the win against Wachusett, Hudson spouted off 12 consecutive wins, which helped them earn their first state championship since 1978.
“It’s been a long ride,” added Fahey. “Two state semi-games, which we lost, [and] we were down in the dumps the next day, so it’s like a weight being lifted off because we wanted this for so long.”