Brunswick School

Brunswick defeated by Kent in finals of NEPSIHA Large School Tournament, 4-2

Photo by David Fierro: Brunswick goalie Brendan Holahan covers up the puck with plenty of traffic near the net during the championship game of the NEPSIHA Large School Tournament against Kent School. Among some of the players on the scene are Brendan Giles (No. 19) and Lucas St. Louis (No. 26). Kent posted a 4-2 win over Brunswick to claim the title.

Brunswick concluded its hockey season with an impressive 21 victories and needed only one more win to claim the program’s second New England title.

The Bruins had a chance to capture that one more win they were seeking today, but unfortunately for them, it was Kent School that ended the 2021-2022 ice hockey season with a victory.

Scoring two goals in both the second and third period, second-seeded Kent skated to a 4-2 triumph over top-seeded Brunswick in the championship game of the NEPSIHA Large School Tournament, at super crowded Hartong Rink.

Brunswick School, which advanced to the tournament’s final with a 3-2 home win against fourth-seeded Noble and Greenough in Saturday’s semifinals, finished its highly successful season with a record of 21-8-1.

“One loss doesn’t define our season,” Brunswick coach Mike Kennedy said. “The boys showed up at the rink and every day for four months they always worked hard. They were committed to always improving, getting better and being as competitive as we could be.”

Photo by David Fierro: Brunswick was edged by Kent School in the New England Large School final, 4-2.

Forward Cole Watson scored two goals, while Dante Palumbo registered one goal and one assist for the Lions, who edged the Bruins during the regular season, 5-4.

“This is a pretty special group of kids, we had a great year,” Kent coach Dale Reinhardt said. “It’s kind of a mix of older guys and younger guys and the older guys really stepped up from a leadership position this year. Everyone was in it together. Right now, the team playing the championship of the Elite 8, we beat them twice, so we feel like we could have gone toe to toe with everyone this year and I’m glad that they were able to get rewarded at the end.”

The host Bruins received goals from senior defenseman John Burdett and sophomore forward Luke Drury, both of which came during the third period.

“We’re disappointed obviously, to lose, but the way we played is emblematic of who we are,” Kennedy said. “We didn’t give up despite being down a couple of goals late in the third, we still believed we could come back. It’s one loss and as disappointing as it is, we made sure they knew we were proud of them. We loved coaching them and loved showing up at the rink every day.”

Brunswick senior forward James Shannon reacts after nearly scoring a power play goal against Kent School.

Both teams were a bit conservative in the first period, in which seemed like a feeling out process by the Bruins and Lions. Brunswick earned two power play opportunities thanks to Kent tripping penalties. The visitors, meanwhile, went on a 5-on-3 power play, behind two Brunswick tripping infractions, but the Bruins held them off the scoreboard, behind key saves from junior goalie Brendan Holahan off shots from the wing by Palumbo and Watson.

“We felt pretty good coming into the room after the first, especially after that 5-on-3 kill,” Kennedy said.

“It was a little bit of a feeling out for both of us, both teams were playing a little bit safe,” Reinhardt said. “It was a really good, structured period for us.”

Gathering a loose puck in the slot, Watson, a senior, finished a wrister, giving Kent a 1-0 lead with 13:35 remaining in the second period. Sophomore Alexander Bates and senior Max Resnick each assisted on the game’s opening goal. With 6:11 left in the second frame, Palumbo tallied off a pass from behind the net by Watson, giving the Lions a 2-0 advantage. Senior Eugene McEnery was also credited with an assist.

Brunswick goalie Brendan Holahan gets ready in front of the net, as teammate Colin Eschricht, a defenseman attempts to clear traffic in front during the championship game of the NEPSIHA Large School final at Brunswick’s Hartong Rink.

“We’ve been saying all along, we’re a second period team and I don’t know why that is, but all year long, we must have won the second period 75 percent of the time, so that’s been kind of a turning point for us,” Reinhardt said.

Brunswick got plenty of pucks to the net in the second period, as junior defenseman Lucas St. Louis, senior forward Hank Cleaves and junior forward James Shannon each registered shots on goal, but sophomore goalie Aiden Hopewell was up to the task.

“He played great,” Reinhardt said of Hopewell. “He and Harrison Fogel have played great all year, they made it challenging for us to decide on who we were going to play all year long. Today, Aiden had one of his best performances all year.”

The Bruins got exactly what they need when Burdett scored from the left wing with the team on a power play, cutting the Lions’ lead to 2-1 with 12:19 to go in the third period.

“Once we scored that goal we thought we had them,” St. Louis said. “We had good chances.”

Brunswick nearly scored the equalizer several times after Burdett’s goal, but Kent maintained its one-goal edge. Then a pair of power play goals stretched the visitors’ advantage to 4-1. Watson scored with 8:57 remaining and senior Joseph Sciabarra tallied with 5:27 left to play in the third period.

Brunswick gathers following its 4-2 loss to Kent in the championship game of the New England Large School tourney.

Facing a three-goal, third period deficit didn’t cause Brunswick to give in though. They pulled Holahan from goal with just less than three minutes remaining and closed to within 4-2 when Drury tallied with 1:23 left to play. Sophomore forward Sean Gibbons and Shannon each assisted on Drury’s goal.

“That shows a lot about our group and never quit attitude.” Kennedy said. “We were close in a lot of games this season. I don’t think there was one game in the last six or seven minutes where we looked up and said we can’t win this one.”

The matchup marked the final game for Bruins seniors Maxime Sauve, Cleaves and Burdett.

“They are each big in stature, but they had big impacts on the program,” Kennedy said. “For their contributions on and off the ice, we’ll certainly miss them. We look forward to watching them play wherever they’re heading next.”

One of the juniors on the squad, St. Louis enjoyed this season and is looking forward to his senior year.

“We grew some really good friendships throughout the year,” St. Louis said. “I feel like a lot of us got better and we learned so much from this season. I learned so much from the seniors and my coaches.”

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