Brunswick School lost to Loomis Chaffee in its second game of the season and Saturday the Bruins suffered the same fate on the ice, but this time, the stakes were much higher.
Playing for their second berth in the NEPSIHA finals in three years, the Bruins hit a road block on their journey in the form of the Pelicans.
On the strength of a three-goal second period, fifth-seeded Loomis Chaffee registered a 5-2 win over second-seeded Brunswick in the semifinal-round of the NEPSIHA Martin/Earl Large School Tournament, before a big crowd at Hartong Rink.
The Pelicans advanced to Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. New England final, where they will play Cushing Academy at Trinity College at 2:30 p.m.
The Bruins, who did not qualify for the postseason a year ago, finished their 2019-2020 campaign with a record of 21-8-2.
“It was a great season for us,” said Brunswick coach Mike Kennedy, who concluded his second season at the helm. “After not making the playoffs last year, everyone who came back had a goal in mind to work hard and be a competitive team each and every game and practice.”
Loomis Chaffee (20-7-4), which trailed 1-0 late in the opening period, controlled the action during the pivotal second period.
“We just cleaned up our act in the second and third period,” Pelicans coach John Zavisza said. “Overall, we knew they were good in transition, so we wanted to make sure we had good gaps and make sure we had numbers back. I don’t think we did that well in the first period, but we did a much better job in the second period.”
Said Loomis senior forward/captain Cody Hoban: “We knew we had more in us after the first period. In the locker room we said that we knew we had to give a push and we came out firing in the second period. That led to a lot of our chances and helped us get the puck behind their ‘D.’”
Brunswick, which was edged by Loomis, 3-2, on the road on Dec. 5, had the momentum for much of the first period. Junior defenseman John Burdett converted a snap shot from the right face-off circle 12:35 into the first period, giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead on Loomis. Junior forwards Gary Claps and AJ Cerbone each set up the Burdett’s tally, efficiently moving the puck in the Pelicans’ zone.
The lead held up until the Bruins went on a power-play. The visitors scored a shorthanded goal, with Hoban getting loose on a breakaway. He skated in hard toward the net and put his shot by Bruins junior goalie Alexander Rohlf, making it 1-1 with 1:53 left in the opening period.
“That was a real momentum shift in the game,” Kennedy said. “It seemed like we were carrying the play, then they got a bounce on our power-play and scored a shorthanded goal. Then they seemed to find some extra legs in their game and had a quasi-dominant second period.”
Added Zavisza: “I think we were on our heels a little bit and that changed the momentum. The puck hasn’t always bounced our way that for us this year, but it was nice that it bounced our way when it mattered most.”
Rohlf kept the score knotted a 1-1 with several nifty saves during the first part of the second period, but the Pelicans, who spent a lot of time in the Bruins’ zone, eventually took the lead.
Shortly after a face-off in Brunswick’s zone, senior forward Alex Krause tallied for Loomis, going top shelf with his shot, which went over Rohlf’s shoulder, giving the visitors a 2-1 edge with 9:03 to go in the second period.
Senior defenseman Mathieu Schneider finished in front for the Pelicans’ third goal at the 14:08 mark of the second period. Ben Ritter a senior defenseman assisted on the tally.
Then with just 1.1 seconds remaining in the second period, Loomis took a 4-1 advantage on junior forward Luke Steele’s rebound goal.
“That was back-breaking goal at the end of the second period,” Kennedy said. “But give credit to our team, we battled until the end and pulled our goal and went hard to the net and got one.”
With Brunswick on a power play, it pulled Rohlf from goal, to go on a 6-on-4 advantage with four minutes to play. Freshman forward Beanie Richter brought the Bruins to within 4-2 with an unassisted goal with 2:42 remaining in the final period.
The Pelicans answered back, sealing the win with an empty-netter at the 15:58 mark. Rohlf made 25 saves in goal for the Bruins. Junior Kyle Chauvette had a stellar game in goal for the victors, making 28 saves.
“It was a total team effort tonight,” Hoban said. “Every guy was doing his job, playing winning hockey. “All year we have been harping on the details and all the guys did their job, which was huge. We didn’t even make the playoffs last year, and we definitely had some adversity this year. But just sticking together and trusting the process and playing together was our biggest thing. We’ll come out firing tomorrow.”
SENIORS SAY FAREWELL
The game marked the final matchup for Brunswick’s seniors, including captains Henry Foster, Shayan Farjam and Connor Sullivan.
“We had a great team, we battled hard every day in practice and it was a ton of fun,” Foster said of the season. “It’s a great group of guys to go out with. We battled hard and I’m proud of the effort we put in tonight. Hopefully, the guys left in the locker room will use this as motivation and raise the banner next year.”
LOOMIS CHAFFEE 5, BRUNSWICK 2
LOOMIS 1 3 1 – 5
BRUNSWICK 1 0 1 – 2
Goals: LC – Cody Hoban, Alex Krause, Mathieu Schneider, Luke Steele, Rory Andriole; B – John Burdett, Beanie Richter; Assists: LC – Anthony Cipollone, Steele, Ben Ritter, Krause, Oliver Flynn; B – Gary Claps, AJ Cerbone; Goalies: LC – Kyle Chauvette (28 saves); B – Alexander Rohlf (25 saves).