H-K’s Nugent Showed Dedication as Netminder for Rocky Hill Boys’ Hockey Co-op
While he was a late bloomer to the sport of hockey, Andrew Nugent certainly sprung to a liking for not only the sport but also his teammates, which motivated him to produce between the pipes this winter no matter his position on the depth chart for the Rocky Hill boys’ ice hockey co-op team.
As a senior at Haddam-Killingworth High School, Andrew grew up playing baseball, basketball, and football in Wallingford before being encouraged to try out for the Rocky Hill hockey squad last season as a junior, later earning a roster spot as a backup goaltender.
Andrew, who also posted a save percentage of 80 in a 5-4 victory over Suffield on Senior Night, aided the Terriers to a 7-13 regular season and Division III State Tournament berth as the No. 15 seed in his senior campaign. There, Rocky Hill went on a solid run to the semifinal round by besting second-seeded New Milford (3-0) and No. 7 Tri-Town (6-1).
“I always watched the NHL and the Bruins and also went down to Bridgeport to watch the [AHL] Bridgeport Islanders and wanted to try the game out,” says Andrew. “The kids on the team were also up early for practices, and their devotion kept me in it and drove me to be ready to go out there if needed. My coaches really helped me out to learn the goalie position, and they helped me perform better than I thought I would this year in a few starts.”
Being a human backstop on the baseball diamond as a catcher certainly served Andrew well when it came to getting down his mechanics in the crease. He adds that his experience behind the dish also assisted him in being a field general of sorts on skates.
“It is fun skating as goalie because you have to always be on your feet and telling your teammates where they need to be,” Andrew says. “It is like being a catcher where you see the entire play and field. It can be hard, though, in getting down into the butterfly position and dropping down. You also have to get your hands in the right place so you do not give up an easy 5-hole goal.”
As Andrew saw his raw skills improve immensely from year No. 1 to 2, his peers also noticed his development within the rink, while Andrew also garnered crucial coping skills when the puck did somehow find its way past him.
“I have seen bigger changes in how I skate and how much better my form is. My teammates saw my improvements, too, and I saw it whenever I watched film,” says Andrew. “It was hard being the backup, but my teammates trusting me whenever I was out there was huge for me. My teammates really kept me in it. I always felt that it was on me if we won or lost a game. If I let a goal in, I tell myself that it obviously sucks but also that I have to keep going at it.”
Rocky Hill co-op Head Coach David Dubos explains that no matter how much or little ice time Andrew saw on a given day, one thing that was never volatile or questionable was Andrew’s loyalty to the squad under all elements and circumstances.
“Andrew (aka Nug) was our backup goalie. Andrew spent most games supporting his teammates on the bench, anticipating the moment when we would need him,” says Dubos. “Being a backup goalie is a selfless position, never knowing when you will need to step up, preparing yourself mentally and physically with a lot of uncertainty. This year, Andrew got his driver’s license and bought a car, except his car didn’t have any heat. He would come walking into the rink at 4:30 a.m. shivering from the car ride in. Commitment was never a question with Nug. Andrew always putting the team before himself is an attribute that is priceless but essential in order to create an environment of success on the ice. He put his heart into this team, not asking for much in return, and he will be deeply missed next year.”
In that signature Senior Night win and performance, Andrew experienced the microcosm of any given high school hockey team’s season with peaks and valleys. Yet he stayed positive, persisted, and prevailed as the Terriers emerged with the triumph.
“That Senior Night game was challenging, and we knew it would be a challenging one going in,” says Andrew. “I was happy to be in net. It was 2-2 after the first period, so Coach Dubos decided to sub me out, but then I went back in for the last few minutes. I did allow another goal, but my teammates again kept me in it, and I was able to make the saves to help us win.”
The Terriers’ late push to the state semifinals shocked everyone but themselves, as the squad was riding a solid wave of momentum and swagger heading into the state draw. They beat out two clubs with a combined 27 regular-season victories.
“At the end of the year, we were confident that we could beat any team, and the boys held each other accountable,” Andrew says. “It was a fantastic run and crazy to see us play and win against some of the higher-seeded teams. It was also fantastic to see our game plan play out. It was the craziest run I have seen in high school hockey. It was completely different from last year when we lost in the first round.”
In closing, Andrew details that even though it was a shorter stint than most of his teammates, his tenure with the Terriers will bolster him quite well as he moves towards the future.
“The team definitely made me feel part of another family,” says Andrew. “We had some ups and downs this year, but experiencing that adversity with the team showed I can take and overcome adversity in life. I just kept going at it. Coach Dubos told us to just keep overcoming adversity and that stuck out to me.”