LAWRENCE — Measuring in at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, Nick Gorski looks like a linebacker or burly MVC basketball power forward.
“I think my size can be a little intimidating,” said the Central Catholic hockey star with a laugh. “Going into the corner, a lot of people don’t want to be hit by me too hard. And sometimes I’ll line up next to a guy that’s maybe seven inches shorter than me and I’ll chuckle to myself a little. But I try to get over it before they drop the puck.”
His size may be his greatest advantage, but Gorski is far from simply a slow-footed enforcer.
Gorski has emerged as the captain and top defenseman and ranks No. 2 in points (6-16—22) for a Raiders team which, tomorrow, hopes to earn a berth in at least the Super 8 Tourney play-in round.
“There’s a reason just about everyone on the team voted for Nick for captain,” said Central coach Mike Jankowski. “He is a terrific leader and role model on and off the ice. He’s also always in the right spot, he has great hands and thinking ahead and playing the puck well. He has developed a LOT in the last three to four seasons.”
It been quite a journey for Gorski, who began his career as a member of Central Catholic’s lower-level JV “B” team. That’s a step below JV A. Now he’s starring and the team’s lone captain.
“I wasn’t the strongest skater,” said Gorski, a Sandown resident. “Skill-wise, I hadn’t developed. And I was shorter. So I was sent down to JV B, and I was a little rattled at first. But after a few days, instead of looking at it as a failure, I saw it as a challenge. And I’ve used that to push me though my career. I’ve never forgotten that feeling.”
A season later as a sophomore, Gorski earned the promotion to the JV A team, and even dressed for select varsity games, occasionally seeing playing time at the end of blowouts.
“Being on the (varsity) bench meant a lot to me because I met the older guys and it showed me what it took to play varsity hockey,” he said. “And just playing JV A told me that, if I could make it from the lowest level to the middle, why couldn’t I make it to the varsity team?”
Last season, Gorski did just that. The junior earned his spot on the varsity team as the Raiders became the first team in area history to advance to the Super 8 semifinals.
“I started the season on the third line, but down the stretch I was skating on the second line and seeing a lot of time in the Super 8,” he said. “I thought I would have a role, but I didn’t know it was going to be this big. It didn’t really hit me until after the season. I still felt like I was fighting for a chance.”
Gorski not only became a key cog on defense, he scored one of the biggest goals of the season, a key tally in Central’s 5-4 comeback victory over Springfield Cathedral to earn the trip to the Super 8 semis. For his efforts, he was named an MVC All-Star.
“When the lights were brightest, Nick became a star,” said Jankowski. “During the Super 8, he really stepped up his game against the best competition and made big plays for us. When we needed him most, he came through.”
That was just a preview of things to come.
Now a senior, Gorski has stepped up as Central Catholic’s top blueliner, and he has also taken on a more offensive role with six goals.
“I knew we lost a lot off last year’s team offensively so I knew I had to develop that part of my game,” said Gorski, who is planning to play a postgrad year next season. “Before I had always been more of a stay-at-home defenseman.”
Now he is hoping for good news tomorrow, with another shot at playing in the Super 8.
“There is nothing like playing in the Super 8,” he said. “I have been so lucky to do it twice, once on the bench and the other actually playing. But to have a chance to do that one more time would be the perfect way to end my career.”
Owls hope to move past controversy
The Timberlane hockey program has moved on from the ugly incident last Wednesday that led to it forfeiting a game to Merrimack.
While Owls athletic director Angelo Fantasia declined to go into detail about disciplinary action, Fantasia said that Andy Hebert has been retained as head coach, and was thrilled the Owls bounced back with a 5-4 win over Keene on Wednesday.
“These kids are so resilient,” said Fantasia.
After reported chippy play, Timberlane walked off the ice during the second period of its game against Merrimack, trailing 8-1, and did not return.
The Owls close out their season, weather-permitting, tomorrow at Winnacunnet.
Happy and almost healthy
His hockey season may be over, but it is still great news on the health front for Whittier’s Anthony Licciardello and his injured knee.
Licciardello learned from his doctor yesterday that he had suffered just a sprained ACL due to a blow to his knee suffered last week when the Amesbury/Whittier hockey team faced Lynnfield.
It was initially feared that Licciardello had suffered a torn ACL and MCL, and he could miss the baseball season. But he was excited to receive the good news yesterday, and expects to be back full strength once the spring arrives. He had scored 16 goals this season before the injury.
“I’m so relieved,” he said via text yesterday. “It’s going to be a great baseball season.”
See his story
For a video interview with Central Catholic hockey star Nick Gorski, along with highlights of his skills on the ice, visit eagletribune.com/sports.
1. Central Catholic 13-5-3
2. Londonderry 12-4-2
3. Salem 11-6-3
4. Brooks 11-7-3
5. Andover 9-8-5
Honorable mention: Pinkerton (10-8-3), North Reading (10-7-3)