Pictured last year winning a puck battle against Wellesley, senior winger Connor McNaughton (21) will look to help lead Needham High School varsity boys hockey to a successful season in 2020-2021. Photos by Mike Flanagan.
By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Needham High School boys varsity hockey will look for a big bounce-back year in 2020-2021 after missing the Division I state tournament last season.
To do so, the Rockets will need to overcome the adversity of playing through the COVID-19 pandemic. A multitude of rule changes - such as a socially-distanced bench area, no locker rooms, wearing a mask at all times and not playing in front of fans - will require a lot of adjustment. The biggest change, however, will be playing a condensed Bay State Conference-only schedule with no postseason, washing away the ultimate goal of a state championship for all teams competing this winter. Nevertheless, the Rockets are eager to take to the ice and try to win some hockey games throughout the coming months.
Leading Needham in 2020-2021 will be a trio of senior captains: center Chris Kajunski, defenseman Jake McGrath and right winger Charlie Stevens. Two more notable returns from the senior class include defenseman Ty McGovern and right winger Connor McNaughton.
"One of our goals due to the loss of the state tournament is to obviously beat Wellesley," said McNaughton when asked about his team's general goals for this unprecedented season. "We have a great group of guys coming up from JV and we have a lot of talent coming back from last year. Our main goal is to go undefeated and really just to show the league that we aren’t the same team from last year."
A key part of any hockey team's success is good goaltending. McNaughton says he and his teammates are confident that junior Ollie Lamadieu will excel as the last line of defense in 2020-2021.
"One main key part of our success will be Ollie Lamadieu," said McNaughton. "Ollie has been on the team the past two years and has been a great goalie."
Not playing in front of fans will also be difficult, but McNaughton says that he and his teammates are ready and willing to adjust to the MIAA's rule changes to combat COVID-19.
"Playing in front of limited or no fans rule will be difficult because we love our fans," said McNaughton. "But, everything else will not be an obstacle to our path to an undefeated season."
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.