By Tris Wykes
WEST LEBANON – If you spy a gentleman wearing a jaunty pirate’s hat with attached lengths of fake hair and ribbon in the Lebanon High hallways Friday, that’s just hockey goaltender Hunter Robb. The senior took advantage of a rare start Thursday against Kearsarge-Plymouth, making 14 saves to backstop the hosts to a 4-1 NHIAA Division III victory that improved them to 4-2 this season.
Known among the Raiders as the “Captain Jack Sparrow” hat, the three-pointed chapeau is awarded to the player of the game as chosen by the captains. Robb’s chance to wear it drew excited congratulations from his teammates, who know the Plainfield resident has shown impressive maturity the past two seasons.
Robb started every game as a sophomore before Toby Cromwell arrived last season and seized his job. At 6-foot-3 and with legitimate college potential, the sophomore newcomer was simply better than the incumbent, who barely played last season and isn’t likely to see much time again this winter.
“I’m not going to lie; it’s been pretty hard,” Robb said. “I try not to show it, but deep down inside I’m a little disappointed. I know I’m still a part of the team and I add to it even if I don’t get to play.
“Toby’s really good and he deserves to play, so I was mentally preparing myself for it to happen. When it did, I was sad but I was expecting it.”
In this day and age, from the big leagues to the little leagues, when a starter’s job isn’t in the offering, fewer players seem to stay the course and work harder. Pouting, acting out, transferring schools or forcing a trade have become normal behavior. They sulk and shout, blame the coach or just walk away from the sport altogether.
“He works hard every day with a good attitude and he’s a great kid,” said Lebanon-Stevens-Mount Royal coach Jim Damren. “He’s in a tough spot, but you don’t get a goalie like Toby all the time. Hunter deserved this start and there are no guarantees going forward, but he’s a great teammate and so supportive of the other goalies.”
Robb said he’s made practices his games, bearing down not only for himself but for his peers, whom he tries to stonewall at every turn. He plans to enroll at Endicott College near Boston later this year. The Gulls won the 2019 National Club Roller Hockey Association national title and Robb might take a shot at joining them.
Damren told Robb last week that he’d be starting on Senior Night against Kearsarge-Plymouth. The netminder said he was composed as the day approached, but not so calm once he reached the blue paint.
“I was pretty nervous once we started playing and I think that showed a bit,” Robb said. “The first period I did not see a single shot, which did not help with the nerves and I felt a little shaky. But I felt better in the second and third.”
LSMR led, 1-0, after a period on a Luke Greene shot from the point and 2-0 at the second intermission thanks to an Andrew Duany tally from the left circle. Aidan Yates and Griffin Auch struck during the final stanza and Cody Bannon got the Cats (1-3) on the scoreboard when he ripped a wrister past Robb from the right circle and off the rush.
“A well-placed shot,” said the gracious guardian. “It went over the leg pad and under the arm.”
Afterwards, Robb, Duany, Yates and classmates Jake Kriplin and Joe Roberts posed for photos and took the program’s traditional “senior lap” around the ice as their teammates and a small group of parents cheered. Robb was awarded his new lid and departed the rink wearing it and lugging his goalie gear.
“Our team this season is really good,” he said. “I’m mad we didn’t have a normal season, because I think we would have won a lot of games. I don’t know what’s changed but it feels like everyone on the team clicks together.”
The backup goaltender is a big part of that vibe.
Notes: Duany had two assists and Auch, Will McGee, Kriplin and Hunter Christian each had one… Damren said Kearsarge-Plymouth has only been able to practice twice a week, commuting up to the arena at Waterville Valley, where they’ll host the Raiders next Friday. The teams play again at Campion two days earlier… The Cats began the game with several players not complying with Covid-19 protocol that requires cloth, paper or plastic face masks to be worn under the facial shied attached to one’s helmet. That changed after requests from Lebanon athletic director Mike Stone, the rink manager and the referees. The zebras finally told the visitors that another violation would cause the game to be immediately ended, Stone said.
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