For three seasons, Stephen Nicholas skated in a lengthy shadow.
He was the perfect little brother on the ice, big enough to overpower they upperclassmen and mouthy enough to deal with the needling. The ability to wind up and send a puck whistling into the net quickly set him apart.
It was only a matter of time before the spotlight found Nicholas.
He is the headliner now at Scarsdale, which is breaking in a number of talented underclassmen after winning back-to-back Section 1 championships. He is no longer identified solely as the little brother of a headliner who collected all-state honors in three sports.
James Nicholas is now at Yale, playing football and golf.
“It has been different for him,” Raiders coach Jim Mancuso said of his senior captain. “Stephen has been wonderful, though. He is so good about getting the younger kids to understand how to play the game.
“He’s vocal. He’s physical. He takes control on the ice. He takes control in the locker room, on the bus. It’s good to have somebody like that around.”
There has never been a sibling rivalry.
“I’ve always been impressed with his game,” James said. “We know each other so well and I really enjoyed watching him grow as a player and captain this year. Stephen has really put the team on his back and helped the younger kids adjust quickly. He’s a big, strong presence who has the best shot in the state.
“He shoots at least 200 shots a day in the offseason and has ripped holes through five nets in our driveway.”
They’ve always looked out for each other. Go after James and Stephen plants you on the ice. Go after Stephan and James gives you an earful.
Physically, they are different players.
“A lot of people talk about me living in James’ shadow,” said Stephen, who is heading to Franklin & Marshall in the fall to play football. “I’m proud of that. James is an all-star on and off the ice. It’s an honor to be in his shadow, if that’s where I am. It’s something special because he’s a great player, so if I’m right behind him that’s good for me.”
The lines of communication are very much open.
“We’ve been playing together since we were 2 or 3 years old in the backyard,” Stephen said. “We taught each other how to skate. It’s tough without him because the chemistry isn’t there. I have Sam Stemerman and Jonathan Schwartz on my line now. We’re building chemistry. They are trying to replace James and Devon Schell and that’s a huge task for anyone, but I think they are stepping up.
“I get a text before every game, encouraging me and telling me what I need to do. I come home and he’s like, ‘Are you kidding me? Your stamina is horrible.’ James was out there like 45 minutes a game. He was nonstop, so he is pushing me to be the best player I can be and I’m thankful for that.”
No pressure, though.
A third consecutive sectional title is kind of a long shot. The Raiders did beat contenders like Suffern and Clarkstown this season, but have been struggling down the stretch.
Stephen will not go quietly.
“He really hasn’t changed,” senior forward Stemerman said. “Stephen is always yelling in the locker room, in a good way. He’s the leader on our line. He’s looking to score. He’s looking for me and Jonathan.
“Stephen has always kinda been loud and on us. James led by example. Stephen leads by voice and by example this year.”
He’s especially outspoken following a bad shift.
“We go at it pretty good sometimes on the bench,” Mancuso said. “I’ll mention something. He’ll come back at me, things are discussed and then we move on.”
“Stephen has to be the physical presence and the playmaker,” James said. “That’s a lot to ask one kid. I’m proud of him and think he’s done a great job of adjusting. Hopefully, he can pull out some wins and make the Scarsdale puck family proud.”