As Brunswick School hockey coach Mike Kennedy said following Wednesday’s game against visiting Albany Academy, “this is playoff time of year, we need to have a playoff mentality.”
Knowing the postseason is approaching, the Bruins are aware they can’t afford to suffer a setback in its few remaining regular season games and they were especially focused Wednesday against a squad that’s given them trouble in the past.
Early this month, Albany Academy upset the Bruins by a goal, so Kennedy’s squad didn’t leave anything to chance in their second matchup of the season against the Cadets
Behind three third period goals, Brunswick broke open a close game and skated to a convincing 6-1 victory over Albany Academy at Hartong Rink. The Bruins, who dropped a 2-1 decision to the Cadets in Albany, N.Y., on Feb. 7, are 19-6-2 following the win. Brunswick entered the game ranked eighth in the NEPSAC and were on pace to qualify for the eight-team Elite 8 NEPSAC Tournament. Should they not qualify for the Elite 8 Tournament, they will make the NEPSAC Large School Tournament — which they won in 2018.
“We came into this game a little more prepared, a little more ready to play,” Kennedy said. “They had beaten us before, so we knew we couldn’t take them lightly. They work hard and they have good goaltending.”
Junior forward Michael Salandra and freshman forward Matthew McGroarty scored two goals apiece to help spark the Bruins offensively. The home team took a 2-0 lead into the second period on opening-period tallies by Salandra. Freshman forward James Shannon, junior defenseman Henry Dale and senior forward Will Forrest had an assist apiece in the first period. Moving the puck efficiently throughout, the victors displayed solid passing.
“When our guys are clicking, we can be the best team in the league,” Bruins senior forward/tri-captain Henry Foster said. “If we are connecting our passes like we can, we can score some pretty goals.”
The Bruins held a 38-24 shots-on-goal advantage on the Cadets and received 23 saves from junior goalie Alexander Rohlf.
“Our guys were looking for their linemates tonight,” Kennedy said. “There were good sequences.”
Albany Academy closed to within 2-1 at the 5:48 mark of the second period, as senior Nolan Towne converted a shot from the high slot. The Bruins, however, regained their two-goal edge, courtesy of McGroarty, who scored on a one-timer off pass from sophomore forward Connor Welsh. Sophomore Andon Cerbone also assisted on the tally.
In the third period, McGroarty added his 16th goal of the season, finishing in front off, while again being set up by Cerbone and Welsh 4:03 into the period. Senior forward Jakub Teply’s team-leading 27th goal made it 4-1 at the 8:50 mark of the final period and Welsh added a tally 10 minutes into the period.
As has been the case all season, the Bruins made it difficult for its foe to generate clean shots on goal. The rotation of defensmen, including Jude Brower, Shayan Farjam (senior captain), Ben Presley, John Burdett, Dale and Harry Tavlarios, were key again.
“We have kept the goals down against us all season,” Kennedy said. “It’s a credit to our goaltending and our defensemen.”
Up next for Brunswick, which is in prime position to compete in the postseason, is a Friday home game against Gunnery.
“Everyone is excited about the playoffs,” Foster said. “We have a young team this year, not a lot of kids have experienced playoff hockey, having missed it last year. I told the team it’s playoff hockey now and we are geared up and ready to go. We have to make sure everyone is locked in and focused.”