SOMERSWORTH - Equipped only with pads purchased for the program several years ago and a desire to help his team in any way possible, Matt Jacobson skated for the first time ever during the first practice of preseason. At that point Jacobson figured he was just filling one of the team's needs. The top two goalies for the Somersworth High School hockey team had left the program for one reason or another, and the Hilltoppers needed somebody to just block some space between the pipes.
Enter Jacobson, a lacrosse player who had never played organized hockey but wanted to spend some time during his senior year with his friends. Coach Wayne Sheehan loaned him some equipment and he started taking his reps from Day 1.
Fast forward a few weeks and now Jacobson is 2-0 in Division III. He opened the season with a 22-save effort in a 5-3 win against reigning champion Souhegan and then stopped nine shots during a 13-2 victory against ConVal.
"He's already surpassed our expectations," said Somersworth assistant coach David Terlemezian. "You see daily improvements. We continue to be impressed every time he hits the ice."
One area of concern for the Hilltoppers this season was its goaltending and defense. The team had plenty of firepower back from last year's squad that finished the regular season in first place. That is evident in the 15 goals Somersworth has put up in the first two games.
Then Sheehan lost his top two goalies, and all of a sudden there was a huge void in net. Just like that, Jacobson was No. 1 on the depth chart, which made Sheehan a little nervous at first.
Jacobson took his lumps during scrimmages mostly against Division II teams during the preseason and was up to the task for the opener against the Sabers.
"I did not expect him to be as consistent as he has been," Sheehan said. "His athleticism is amazing."
Terlemezian has worked with the Somersworth goalies since Sheehan took over the program. He helped develop Denis Messier and Bobby Howard. His most recent accomplishment is what he has been able to do with Jacobson in such little time.
"He's an incredibly athletic kid," Terlemezian said. "He's so filled with enthusiasm, a positive attitude and the desire to be there."
Jacobson himself is surprised at how far he has come along in his development.
"I love it. It's great," Jacobson said about playing hockey. "I wish I could have started playing earlier. Now that I'm in it, I love it."
He has become very dedicated to the sport as well. Jacobson takes private lessons and has even invested in buying some of his own equipment.
Since he works at Philbrick's Sports, he got a discount on his gear. Jacobson works in the snowboard department there, but now admits he likes spending time in the hockey department as well.
Next up for the Hilltoppers is Portsmouth on Saturday in Exeter at 7 p.m.
"He's been quite dedicated and committed to developing his skills," Sheehan said. "He has become a really solid performer."
The streak keeps going.
On Wednesday night the Spaulding hockey team beat rival Dover, 3-2, to extend its winning streak in Division II to 43 games. The game was a matchup of early-season undefeateds and the winners of the last five Division II titles (three for Spaulding and two for Dover).
The last time the Red Raiders lost in D-II was Dec. 17 of 2005, a 4-2 decision against Oyster River.
In other Spaulding news, the girls basketball snapped its 37-game Class L losing streak with a 42-39 win over Alvirne on Tuesday. The last time the Red Raiders had won before that was the in December of 2005 against Portsmouth.
The "Beware of Dog" sign hung on the locker room of the Berwick Academy boys' hockey team locker room door is not meant to be taken literally. Rather it can only be assumed that it is a play on words with the team's nickname - the Bulldogs.