By Mike Zhe
SALEM, N.H. – The progression is complete.
Well, nobody from Brooks School is coming out and saying that, not with a bigger championship still out there to win one day. But with Sunday’s 4-1 triumph over top-seeded Kents Hill in the championship game of the Piatelli/Simmons (small school) tournament, the third-seeded Bishops are New England champions for the first time.
Four different players scored goals for Brooks, which got 14 saves from goalie Colin Langham and played an almost airtight defensive game at the Icenter.
“It means everything in the world to me,” said senior defenseman Mitch Nylen. “My first year was tough going but every year after that we got better. This is just the best payout possible for everyone’s hard work.”
Two years ago Brooks took a big step forward, finishing 11-8-3. Last year they were 16-11-1, sharing the title in the ISL’s Eberhart Division with Rivers and reaching the semifinals of this tournament.
This year, the Bishops won the Eberhart outright by beating Rivers, St. George’s and Buckingham, Browne & Nichols down the stretch, and then had to knock off another league foe – No. 6 Middlesex -- on the way to Sunday’s final.
“We talked about the last two weeks being two races to three,” said Brooks coach Dave Ries.
The Bishops (18-7-5) opened up a close game with a pair of goals in the second period, turning a 1-0 edge into 3-0. K.J. Moore scored a little over five minutes in, and Ian Speliotis tacked on a breakaway tally with seven minutes to go.
Kents Hill got one back when Drew Sommerhoff redirected a shot through a screen late in the second period, but Nick Vasilopoulos cleaned up a shot from P.J. Kelleher just 2:40 into the third to restore the three-goal cushion.
“The fourth goal really kind of settled things back down,” said Ries.
“Give them credit,” said Kents Hill coach Larry Cockrell. “They put a lot of pressure on us. They forced us to make some bad plays and they did what hey had to do to our best guys.”
Kents Hill, which won the Division II title in 2008, finished its season at 23-8-2 overall.
“Obviously, I don’t like the outcome, but I think the other team played outstanding,” said Cockrell. “They did everything right. … It reminds me of what we did (in 2008). They worked so hard in every zone.”
Defenseman Cam Armstrong opened the scoring for Brooks just four minutes in, his first goal of the season staking his team to a 1-0 lead.
The defense did the rest.
“We’re a very disciplined team defensively,” said Ries. “We take a lot of pride in taking away the middle of the ice and blocking shots.”
When the final horn sounded, Langham, a senior who’s split time with sophomore Max Prawdzik these last two years, was mobbed by his teammates, with defenseman John Gratton being the first to reach and tackle him.
“Seriously, the team played extremely well,” said Langham, still pumped half an hour later. “We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”