A look at the wall above one of the goals at Brunswick School’s Hartong Rink shows the Bruins enjoyed a banner season last winter.
Brunswick proudly hung a championship banner on the wall at their home rink after winning their first NEPSAC title in March. Now, of course, the Bruins are aiming to display another banner for all to see.
Possessing skill and depth at each position, Brunswick hopes to build upon its historic 2017-18 campaign in which they captured the NEPSAC Division I Large Schools championship with a 4-3 overtime win over Thayer Academy.
“Every year it seems likes the Brunswick hockey team improves and we want to continue that trend,” said Brunswick starting goalie Dan Dachille, who is one of the squad’s four senior captains. “We have the same expectations, to win a title. Maybe this year we can win the Elite Eight (Tournament) title after winning the Large Schools (Tournament) last year.”
The Bruins began their season with a 3-3 tie against visiting NEPSAC rival Loomis Chaffee School. Brunswick claimed a 2-0 first-period lead, then Loomis Chaffee stormed back, scoring three second-period goals to take a 3-2 advantage. Determined not to lose in their season-opener on their home ice, Brunswick forged a tie, with sophomore forward Ryan St. Louis tallying the equalizer with 1:55 remaining in the third period.
“Our first game was a pretty good test and a good learning experience for us,” said Bruins senior senior forward Aaron Aboodi, who is also one of the captains. “Loomis fought back to take the lead, then everyone came together on our team and we knew that we had to fight back. I think we’ll progress from it.”
Aboodi skates on the squad’s second line, along with sophomores Paul McGroarty and Paul Davey. Senior captain Charles Shaffer anchors the first line, which includes St. Louis and sophomore Michael Salandra.
“I’m confident in our team’s potential,” Shaffer said. “We’re young up front and our defense is incredibly sound. We have three or four returning defensemen and Dachille back in net. He (Dachille) was lights out in our first game and was one of the reasons why we won the Large Schools tournament.”
Senior Cooper Moore, also a captain, is one of the experienced defensemen the Bruins bring back.
“We have a very strong defensive core,” Moore said. “We have added some new guys to the mix that will round out our defense. Having Dan in net and Alex (Rohlf, backup goalie) there as well — we have so much confidence in our goalies. It gives us confidence knowing if we get beat, our goalies will bail us out.”
Guiding the Bruins is Mike Kennedy, who took over the coaching responsibilities from Ron VanBelle. After 13 successful seasons and more than 200 victories, VanBelle stepped down as head coach. The final game he coached was the Bruins’ thrilling overtime win over Thayer Academy for the NEPSAC championship at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.
“It’s not something I take lightly,” Kennedy said of taking over the helm. “The program is in a very good spot after the success we’ve had the past few years and I want to keep it going.”
Brunswick (0-0-1) plays New Hampton School at the Phillips Exeter Invitational Saturday at 4 p.m., then faces defending NEPSAC Elite Eight Tournament champion Kimball Union Sunday at 2 p.m. at Phillips Exeter.
“Winning the title last year might have heightened our players’ expectations a bit,” Kennedy said. “It was a sweet feeling to win the championship and the guys want to do it again. We want to keep the program moving forward. Winning games is important, but we want everyone to get better every day, represent the school in a positive way and compete.”
AT THE HELM: Kennedy takes over the team, after serving as an assistant coach on VanBelle’s staff since the 2005-06 season. The Bruins finished with a record of 18-12-4 last season and played their best hockey during the postseason.
Brunswick didn’t win more than two straight games its first 30 games last season, then won its final regular-season matchup and went 3-0 in the NEPSAC tournament.
Kennedy is an English teacher and associate director of institutional communications at Brunswick.
WHO’S GONE?: Graduation claimed defenseman Ryan Carmichael, who assisted on the game-winning goal in the NEPSAC Large Schools Tournament final. Carmichael, who registered eight goals and 22 assists a year ago, will play hockey at Notre Dame next season.
Forward Christian LeSueur, who served as a captain, along with Carmichael, also graduated. He tallied 18 goals and 24 assists as a senior and finished his Brunswick career with 71 career goals. He is playing on the hockey team at Dartmouth.
Jack Forrest, a forward, who tallied the game-winning goal in the NEPSAC final, graduated as well. Forrest contributed 15 goals and 19 assists in 2017-18. Also departing were Patrick Burkinshaw, Wilson Stephenson, Nick Boardman, Tim Carter and Brendan Gregoire, all of whom had productive senior season for the Bruins.
FORWARDS: Shaffer, Salandro and St. Louis have the potential to provide plenty of spark offensively from the first line. Aboodi, McGroarty and Davey, have, as Aboodi said, “good chemistry going.”
Senior Edward Glassmeyer, junior Henry Foster and senior Andy McBurney skate on the third line.
“We have a good mix of grinders, people who get the job done, which is important and a couple of lines with offensive firepower,” said Shaffer, who notched 15 goals and 25 assists last season. “Our biggest thing is to stay consistent and handle the ups-and-downs that happen with every season.”
DEFENSEMEN: Moore and senior Henry Hill will be relied upon to fortify the defense. Junior Jack Griffin is a returning defensman, while Shayan Farjam (junior), Connor Sullivan (junior) and Jude Brower (junior) are among some of the defensemen.
GOALIES: Dachille recorded two shutouts in the NEPSAC tourney last season, then made 32 saves in the championship game against Thayer Academy. He stopped 31 shots in the Bruins’ season-opener against Loomis Chaffee on Thursday. Juniors Rohlf and Chris Wack are also goalies.
“With good goaltending you can go a long way,” Kennedy said. “We’re more experienced on defense, so if we keep opponents to low scores and give our forwards a chance to mature, we’ll be in a good spot.”
STRENGTHS: “We are a fast, skilled skating team and all of us play to that style,” Moore said. “We mesh well together, especially on defense, and our forwards are really starting to mesh as well.”
Said Aboodi: “Depth is one of our main strengths. We have a lot of young guys learning from the older guys, which is going to help us as the season goes on.”