Patrick Jamross' move back was just what the Wahconah's hockey team needed to move forward this winter.
Jamross started the season as a forward, but with the Warriors struggling for consistency and staring playoff elimination in the face with a 3-6-1 record, the coaching staff decided to bolster the defense by shuffling lines and moving the senior to the back line.
"We decided we had to change things," Jamross said. "We started working to win."
For the rest of the regular season, and almost the entire postseason, that's what Wahconah did. The Warriors rattled off 13 consecutive victories, winning a Western Massachusetts Division III-A championship and reaching a state final in the process.
Jamross' effort in the offensive and defensive ends, meanwhile, earned him the All-Eagle MVP award.
Jamross was third on the team in points with 26. Most of them came from his 19 assists. Perhaps none of them would have been possible, though, if Jamross wasn't on defense to start plays.
"The big thing was breaking out as a team," he said. "We had a lot of trouble getting the puck out of our own zone, so that's one of the things I wanted to help change for us."
That's also what the Wahconah coaching staff wanted to see. Without Jamross, the defense didn't have that ability to start a breakout from its own end. Warriors coach Don Disbrow said that, once Jamross became a first-line defenseman with fellow senior Lance McColgan, the puck moved faster and more accurately out of the Wahconah zone and up to forwards Andrew Beaudoin, Hjalmar Gustafsson and Dan Flynn.
Mount Everett coach Aidan Gilligan said Jamross was always playing one step ahead of his opponent.
"We tried to dump the puck and get it wide, then we tried to skate by him," Gilligan said. "He'd force you to dump the puck and then shield you from getting ahead of him, which is huge."
"He could beat players, then make a pass," Disbrow said. "Now you've trapped a guy down low. And he was still getting his point per game back there."
If Jamross was getting his points, so were the Warriors -- no matter who was in goal. Due to a head injury, Roger Stedman missed much of the regular season, and Nico Romano filled in as goalie. Wahconah rolled right on, keeping its grasp on Berkshire County and -- with Stedman back in net -- running through the sectional tournament.
The run nearly ended in the championship game against Chicopee, which stunned Wahconah with four goals in the final 3:12 of the second period to take a 6-3 lead. Jamross and the Warriors, however, weren't broken.
"I made sure that I always said something to help," he said. "Against Chicopee, we went in and talked at each other, and didn't get mad at each other."
What they did was score. Jamross assisted on the first of the four third-period goals, just 1:05 in, as Wahconah rallied for the 7-6 win and the first sectional championship for a Berkshire County team since 1992.
Despite a 12-0 loss to North Middlesex a week later in the state championship game, Wahconah can build from the most successful season in the program's history. Disbrow only hopes the young defensemen learned from what Jamross was able to do on both ends of the ice.
"We need defensemen that can move the puck out of our end of the ice," the coach said. "You can have great defensive defensemen, but if you can't move the puck out of your own end, you're stuck back there.
"We've got a young corps of defensemen, and I think they absolutely saw what he did. ... Ninety-five percent of the time, Patrick was doing something positive."
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