Boys Division 1 Prep Poll
Having graduated eight players and with only five seniors on this year’s roster, Brunswick head coach Ron VanBelle was a little concerned heading into this season about his team’s youth and inexperience, especially with the tough schedule the Bruins typically have.
But, after 18 games, Brunswick stands at an impressive 15-3-0. The Bruins won the Nichols/Belmont Hill tournament title over break, and this week posted big wins over top-ranked Loomis Chaffee (4-3) and Westminster (2-0).
This week, Brunswick stands at #7 in the latest HNIB News Boys Prep Poll.
“It is safe to say that we are very pleased (and a bit surprised) to have 15 wins at this point,” VanBelle said. “If I had to summarize our success so far, as corny as it sounds, it comes down to a coachable group of young men who are committed to playing hard for their school and their teammates. They are executing the strategies we put in place. Add to that a little bit of ‘puck luck’ and we find ourselves in a good position heading into the second half of the season.”
What have been the keys so far?
“Everyone is asking me what the difference is from a year ago, and it is hard to pick 1 or 2 things, but I would say the biggest difference is the level of compete this team is giving us,” VanBelle said. “We are winning more than our share of the 50/50 battles and we are executing our defensive and offensive strategies very well. The team has very good chemistry right now.”
Another plus for the Bruins has been the play of the team captains – senior forward Tommy Dunleavy and senior defenseman Michael Faulkner. They are the team’s top two scorers.
“Our captains have been outstanding leaders both on and off the ice,” VanBelle said. ” Tommy Dunleavy is playing at a very high level for us up front, and Michael Faulkner is consistently one of the most effective players on the ice every time we suit up. When your two captains are playing at such a high level, the younger players cannot help but be inspired, resulting in better play from everyone.”
Brunswick has also been blessed with not one but two standout goalies in Matteo Esposito and Brian Ketchabaw.
“There is a healthy rivalry between them since they both want to play every night so I think that they are pushing each other and making each other better,” said VanBelle. “During games, I have been impressed with the support they give each other, so even though they are competing for playing time, they do not let that affect their ability to be a supportive teammate.”
Brunswick will look to continue its success this week with games against Millbrook and Hoosac.
There is a new #1 in the HNIB News poll, as unbeaten and untied Phillips Exeter (12-0-0) takes over. The Big Red picked up wins this week over Brooks (3-2) and St. Paul’s (6-2).
Governors Academy (Wednesday) and rival Phillips Andover (Saturday) are up this week for coach Dana Barbin’s club.
Cushing (13-2-1) moves up to #2 after an impressive 5-1 conquest of Kimball Union behind David Cotton’s hat trick. Tabor (Wednesday) and Deerfield (Friday) will try to knock the Penguins off this week.
Loomis Chaffee (10-1-0) falls to #3, the Pelicans showed some resolve bouncing back from the Brunwick loss with a nice 4-1 win over Kent. Loomis hopes to continue its solid play against Deerfield (Wednesday) and Hothckiss (Saturday).
#4 Salisbury (9-2-0) returned from break with a 4-2 win over Deerfield and the Crimson Knights are off until Saturday when they battle Westminster.
Red-hot Gunnery (12-4-0) jumps up to #5 after wins this week over Kent, Canterbury and Winchendon. The Highlanders have the week off, not playing until January 19th against Trinity Pawling.
Kimball Union (13-3-0) holds down the #6 spot. The Wildcats have two tough battles upcoming this week with Vermont Academy (Wednesday) and Tabor (Saturday).
Nice wins over St. Sebastian’s and Thayer keep Nobles (8-3-1) solidly entrenched in the #8 spot.
#9 Choate (7-2-1) and #10 Westminster (7-3-0) round out the Top 10.