Photo courtesy of Amy Dachille Photography: Senior goalie Alexander Rohlf is one of the senior captains of the Brunswick School hockey team.
Brunswick School’s hockey team’s season usually features approximately 30 games, many of which are against heated NEPSAC rivals.
Yet like all teams, the Bruins’ winter schedule has been significantly modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NEPSAC canceled the championship tournaments in each winter sport and most teams have not played traditional winter seasons, because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Bruins’ 2020-2021 hockey schedule includes 10 games, mainly against teams from Elite Hockey Academy, which plays its home games at Northford Ice Pavilion in Northford.
“Typically, we play a schedule with teams all across New England, New York and New Jersey, we travel a lot,” Brunswick coach Mike Kennedy said. “The Connecticut restrictions have limited us to playing in-state opponents only. A lot of the boarding schools are hesitant to play us since we are a day school. They are trying to create bubbles, where they can play against other boarding schools. So we haven’t been able to arrange anything with traditional opponents.”
Kennedy noted that the majority of NEPSAC schools are not playing games, they are just practicing at their respective campuses. Schools such as Salisbury and Avon Old Farms have played against each other since the state lifted its restrictions on winter sports on Jan. 19 and other schools such as Westminster, Loomis Chaffee and Taft have not competed in any games.
“It has been tough, but we have been trying to send a message to the team that we are lucky to be playing and practicing,” said Kennedy, whose coaching staff includes Steven Mandes, Ron VanBelle and Max Fuld. “Some teams have had their seasons cancelled, so we try to share that perspective with them. We have been skating with each other and at the end of the day, we are playing hockey.”
The Bruins are captained by seniors Matthew McGroarty, Henry Dale and Alexander Rohlf. McGroarty is a forward, Dale is one of the squad’s top defensemen and Rohlf has helped lead the team in goal.
“We were coming into this year excited about our team with a good core of last year’s team returning,” Kennedy said. “We felt like we had a leader at each position.”
Last season saw the Bruins register 21 victories and advance to the semifinal-round of the NESPAC Division I Large School Tournament, where they lost to Loomis Chaffee. McGroarty, who has committed to play hockey at Quinnipiac University, recently competed on the U.S. National Under-18 team for one month. Connor Welsh, a junior who has committed to Boston College, has paced the Bruins at forward, along with sophomore James Shannon, senior Michael Salandra and senior Gary Claps.
Casey Raffone (senior), Hank Cleaves (junior) and AJ Cerbone (senior) have been among some of the forwards pacing the Bruins, while senior Ben Presley and John Burdett have helped anchor the team’s defensive play. Sophomore Brendan Holahan has effectively rotated in goal with Rohlf. Andon Cerbone and Beanie Richter, both of whom produced strong seasons last winter, have opted to play junior hockey. Cerbone is a member of the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League, while Richter plays for the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League.
The Bruins’ schedule has featured games/scrimmages against Elite Hockey Academy’s CT Premier U-18 team, South Kent School and the Connecticut Chiefs hockey program’s Under-18 team. Spectators are not allowed at Brunswick home games, but each home game has been livestreamed.
“It is not easy not having spectators in the stands and not having traditional bus trips that we had in the past – especially for the guys who have been with us in past years,” Kennedy said. “But everyone on the team is showing up every day, having fun and trying to do better. We are trying to give our team the best possible experience they can have under the circumstances.”