Hockey co-op team now in solid hands

NASHUA– It almost seems as if the Nashua High School North-Souhegan co-op hockey program has pushed the reset button.

The Saber-Titans ended the second year of their co-op marriage last February with a roster that was struggling, diminishing, and had no experienced goaltending. All that made it frustrating for former Souhegan and Nashua South coach John Coughlin. His experience and ties to both areas made him a great fit, but the Saber-Titans have won just four games combined the last two seasons.

Coughlin stepped down, reportedly amid a parental revolt that often goes with programs that have had difficulty winning. That in turn opened the door for former North assistant Pete Lacroix to apply for the job. Lacroix was a popular figure among the players for a couple of years when North was a singular program, and his hiring signifies a fresh start.

It’s a fresh start for him, too, as this is Lacroix’s first head coaching job.

“I love it,” Lacroix said. “I’ve wanted to do this the last couple of years. I enjoyed it, it’s great. I’ve got kids who want to step up and work hard. Every day will get better and better and better. We’ll keep supporting them, me and my staff, and we’ll take it from there.”

The program had about 21 players eligible to return when things ended late last February. But a sure sign of change was the large turnout for the first day of practice last Monday — note, practice, not tryouts, as you can’t make cuts from a co-op team. There were over 30 players on the ice.

“We get our foundation going and hopefully go from there,” Lacroix said. “I knew what was coming in (in terms of numbers).

“But a month ago I didn’t know that. A month ago I didn’t think we had any goaltenders (a big problem a year ago). So we’ve got the numbers, we’ve got some goaltenders, now it’s just a matter of putting everything together and going from there.”

Lacroix began coaching in youth hockey circles in Manchester after his son Cade began to play, was an assistant at Manchester Central, then was at Nashua North under Dan Legro. He moved to Londonderry with Legro a couple of years ago, then stayed there when Peter Bedford re-assumed the Lancer reins after Legro stepped away to spend more time with his family. Then the North-Souhegan job opened up and Lacroix didn’t hesitate.

“I wanted it,” Lacroix said. “I like North, I like the institution, Lisa’s (athletic director Gingras) good people, she takes care of us.

“As long as we’ve got kids who want to participate, give 100 percent, want to do something as long as it ends up on the ice or outside the ice, it’s all good.”

On his first day of practice, Lacroix said he was just trying to observe the players, see what he had on the ice, put in a couple of plays, drills.

His mindset is simple.

“How can I help the program?” he said. “How can I get better tomorrow? How can I lead them in a better direction so we can progress?”

The change at the top isn’t the only one for the Saber-Titans. The traditional North locker room, just down from the home bench at Conway arena in the corner, is no more. The Titans took over the dressing room used by the now-defunct Daniel Webster College program. It’s more spacious. It was slated to be ready by the end of this past week.

“Once we go into the locker room, it will be good for our program, for our kids,” Lacroix said.

Lacroix said that when he interviewed for the job he’d been told that there would be two more years of a North-Souhegan marriage, “and we’ll take it from there.”

The split, he said, is almost down the middle between North and Souhegan players, with a slight edge to North. He’s hopeful that for players on the roster who don’t see a lot of ice time, he can schedule three or four games at the JV level.

“With the co-op we won’t make any cuts at all, and when we still had just Nashua North, we didn’t, because

you just never know,” Lacroix said.

Lacroix’s son Cade went to Campbell and captained the Pembroke-Campbell co-op team for three years.

But his daugher Avery currently attends the University of Alabama, and Lacroix has taken in a Crimson Tide football game or two. He said Avery went back to ‘Bama after the Thanksgiving break despondent after the Tide’s loss to Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl clash.

“The atmosphere is amazing” he said. “Going up to the UNH games, it’s a great environment, they do a great job up there, but you to go the SEC, and it’s unbelievable. Unbelievable. It’s a very good experience for anyone.”

Lacroix wants this to be a good experience for his players and fans. He had one thought in mind when he knew the North-Souhegan program was now his.

“I’ve got to do something special,” he said. “I’ve got to do something good. I’ve got to put these kids in a position where they can succeed every night, whether it’s something emotionally, mentally, or something they go out and do physically.”

What everyone is hoping is that the Saber-Titans can go out and physically get some wins. That’s the best reset they can ask for.