March 4, 2012

Berkshire claims first-ever Martin/Earl championship

By Mike Zhe

SALEM, N.H. — Nothing came easy for Berkshire School this season, and that stayed true right to the end. 

Berkshire's overtime victory earned the school its first-ever Martin Early championship. (Dave Arnold Photography)

Senior Brendan McGovern scored a little over two minutes into sudden-death overtime, and the top-seeded Bears captured their first-ever Martin/Earl (large school) tournament championship with a 4-3 win over St. Sebastian’s at the Icenter on Sunday.

The Bears, who’d let a two-goal lead slip away in regulation, climbed over the boards and chased McGovern into the corner when it was over, piling on him and capping a run through the tournament that saw three one-goal wins.

“It’s just a great feeling,” said tri-captain Kevin Rooney (Canton, Mass.). “We’ve got a lot of seniors on our team, so it was great to win it with these guys. I don’t know when it’s going to hit me. It hasn’t yet — maybe when we get back to school. But it’s awesome.”

The Berkshire-St. Seb’s game was the second of three championships staged here today, and the second that went to overtime. The Stuart/Corkery championship (open) between second-seeded Noble and Greenough and No. 4 Lawrence Academy will be held later tonight.

Greg Smart had a goal and an assist for Berkshire, and was joined on the scoresheet by defensemen Corey Wisnowski (Salisbury, Vt.) and Gus Harms. Brian Brown collected three assists and Rooney finished with two.

St. Seb’s (17-8-2) got a goal and an assist from both Danny O’Regan (Needham, Mass.) and David Loughborough (Wellesley, Mass.). Tommy Kelley (Natick, Mass.) had their other tally.

The Bears (19-7-3) owned a 3-1 lead after Wisnowski jumped into a rush and snapped a wrister past goalie Gordon Donnelly (Medway, Mass.) midway through the second period.

But the Arrows got one back three minutes later when O’Regan collected a puck behind the net, curled out and beat goalie Patrick Feeley (Winthrop, Mass.) with a backhand.

The third period was all St. Seb’s. Handed its first power play, it cashed in at 6:59 when Loughborough pounced on a rebound and scored, then went jumping into the glass behind the net separating the game from his school’s large group of student fans.

“In between the second and third period we said, ‘Something’s going to happen,’” said Berkshire coach Dan Driscoll. “When it does, we want to stay with it.”

Twice more before the period was up Berkshire was whistled for penalties. But the best chance during those may have been Rooney’s shorthanded bid late, one Donnelly got a glove on to deflect away.

The Arrows lost forward Brendan Burke (Westwood, Mass.) to a separated shoulder in the final moments of regulation, but still seemed to have the momentum on their side heading to sudden death.

“I thought we had a very good third period,” said St. Seb’s coach Sean McCann. “You don’t want to change too much but you want to show patience. You want to wait for that opportunity and capitalize on it.”

In the other locker room, Driscoll was imploring his team to take care of the little things, which get magnified when it becomes next goal wins.

Sophomore forward Charlie Corcoran (New Canaan, Conn.) had the first good bid for Berkshire, getting sent in on a partial break but getting denied by the glove of Donnelly.

Sophomore defenseman Bryan Gersetenfeld (Fairfield, Conn.) got the title-winning play in motion when he threw a puck toward the net. The puck ultimately came out toward McGovern, who gloved it, waited and fired a puck toward a partially vacated goal.

“The amount of emotions going through my head … it’s unbelievable,” he said.

Both coaches lauded their teams’ resilience afterward.

“Two good teams that competed extremely hard out there,” said McCann. “Unfortunately, someone’s got to come out without the win.”

Berkshire has made a habit of playing close games this year. Despite losing standout defenseman and Colgate commit Jake Kulevich (Marblehead, Mass.) at midseason, it jelled and was playing great hockey as the biggest games loomed.

The Bears needed overtime to get past eighth-seeded Westminster, 4-3, in the quarterfinals, and then edged No. 5 Albany Academy, 3-2, in the semifinals here Saturday.

“We’ve been an extremely resilient team all year long,” said Driscoll. “I can’t even count how many games during the regular season — maybe 16 or 17 — that went to OT or were one-goal games.”

Mike Zhe can be reached at mzhe@hockeyjournal.com.