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Northbridge Hockey Pushing Towards Playoffs

The Northbridge hockey team knew it needed to finish strong to make the playoffs, and that's exactly what the Rams are doing as the year draws to a close. The co-op program, which includes five players from Nipmuc, has won four of five coming into the week. At 8-9-2 overall, they are right back in the mix when it comes to qualifying for the district tournament.
"We have gotten healthier, and that's been a big help," said head coach Greg Ostopowich. "A lot has to be said for the underclassmen, they have stepped up and filled the gap."
Northbridge has had to rely on some of its younger players due to three season-ending injuries and three other significant injuries that have hampered the team's depth. All told, six of the 17 skaters on the roster have missed large amounts of time.
"As a coach, you hope to see your younger players get to the point in time where they don't play like rookies anymore," said Ostopowich. "They have been practicing and playing three to four times per week, learning the system, and now they are able to step up and contribute."
Nipmuc sophomore Drew Cannistraro is one of the younger players who is playing a bigger role. "Drew has done a terrific job filling in on the first line," said Ostopowich. "He's done an incredible job up there and that's huge. He started off on the JV team at the beginning of the season and now he is a key member of the varsity and producing for us."
Northbridge senior Michael Ferraro continues to lead the team with 32 points on 14 goals and 18 assists. Uxbridge sophomore Brett Bibeault is second with 13 goals and 12 assists for a total of 25 points. The story of the Northbridge surge, however, has been the defense. Over their past four wins, the Rams have permitted one goal twice and pitched a pair of shutouts.
"For a long time, we have talked about the concept of team defense and in the past several weeks, we have embraced that concept and played very well," said Ostopowich.
One player who has embodied the team defensive concept is Nipmuc junior Tyler Costello. "All season long he has been a steady team leader, both on and off the ice," said Ostopowich. "His play has been extremely consistency and he always plays his role. He has the discipline to embrace his role and play within the system."
If the Rams are a playoff team, Ostopowich stressed the team concept will be vital to advancing in the district tournament. This is especially true given the rash of injuries with which the team has had to deal this season.
"I hope to be a playoff team and a dangerous playoff team," he said. "We are going to be competitive. As a team, we have turned a corner and embraced team play and team defense. If we are going to be competitive, we have to do it as a team and not a group of individuals. Everyone has to play a role."




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