A freshman again helping Souhegan hockey to the top
Thursday, March 7, 2013
And a freshman shall lead them.
That’s nothing new for the Souhegan High School boys ice hockey program, which had a freshman scoring sensation a year ago in Steve Upton. But he left for prep school.
Enter Joe Nutting, a 5-foot-8-inch freshman who maybe weighs 130 pounds soaking wet, but sure can find the back of the net. His 28 goals lead the Sabers, who finished the regular season 13-5 and begin a quest to win their first Division III crown in five years when they host local rival Hollis Brookline in the quarterfinals at Conway Arena in Nashua on Saturday.
“A pleasant surprise,” Sabers coach Dan Belliveau said of Nutting. “He plays both ends of the ice all night long from the first shift to the last shift. You can’t ask for that much more from a kid.”
Nutting played a higher level of youth hockey known as Pro Ambition Selects, so he wasn’t exactly an unknown when he arrived on the first day of practice.
But Nutting, who also has 22 assists to give him 50 points, says he’s surprised at what he has done.
“Ahhhh, yes, to be simple,” he said. “It’s great to play with (linemates) Mike Hayden and Matt Wilson. They make me a better player, and it’s fun.”
The line had a combined 147 points. Nutting said the transition was made easy by his youth hockey level, “But the speed of this game is much faster. You get a couple of kids on every team that would blow kids out of the water from the other (youth hockey) league.”
Nutting is pretty humble in his approach.
“I just want to help the team win,” he said. “It’s not about me, it’s trying to win a championship and playing for the rest of this team.”
Nutting knows Upton, and he said he thinks the former Saber sometimes wishes he were here to team up with his friend and Hayden to produce a super scoring trio.
Nutting says he wants to stay a Saber and not leave the program. Meanwhile, he has responded to the hard work demands the Saber coaching staff has made.
“It’s that hardworking attitude that he has, and that maturity level that he has, much the same as Stevie Upton had last year,” Belliveau said. “It’s uncanny for a kid at that age. He comes to play every night, whether it’s practice” or a game.
“And he shows his leadership by his play. He’s not a big talker. He just goes out and does his job with 110 percent effort. We keep getting those young kids like that, with effort at both ends of the ice.”
If so, the Sabers will be successful for quite a while.
“They know I have potential and they want to get it out of me,” Nutting said. “It’s a lot of hard work. But it’s mostly my linemates. More than 70 percent of my goals are perfect passes and I just finish them.”
It’s a formula that works for the Sabers. A gifted player such as Hayden (17 goals, 34 assists) draws a lot of attention, and that leaves a player like Nutting open. And he’s almost always able to convert.
“That’s kind of Mikey’s role, and I stepped up and it worked,” Nutting said.
For a freshman, he’s pretty realistic. He knows he has to get stronger, as he will demand more attention from opponents.
“I’ve got to hit the weights,” he said, smiling. “I probably could have had a couple of more goals if I was a little stronger. Other than that, I just have to keep skating in the offseason and get better.”
As only a freshman, you’d have to think the sky’s the limit for Joe Nutting.