December 12, 2013

Prep Journal: BB&N hopes continuity pays dividends

By Arielle Aronson

The Buckingham, Browne & Nichols hockey team achieved a program-best 16-8-3 record last season. With its leading scorer and the core of a strong defense returning this year, the Knights appear poised to make more program history this season.

But for coach Terrence Butt, one of the team’s biggest accomplishments is simply the idea of it having continuity from last season to this one.

When Butt took over the BB&N hockey program nearly 10 years ago, continuity on the team’s roster was a pipe dream. All prep school hockey programs lose players each year due to graduation, but BB&N struggles more than most to replace those players with talented understudies because BB&N is a pre-K through Grade 12 coeducational school and therefore never adds in many boys in the upper grades. 

“At no point are we really having a mass influx of applicants or new admits into the school,” Butt said. “When you really look at only accepting single digit boys in each class with our biggest spikes being in Grade 7, it puts a lot of pressure on trying to fill those roster spots that we’ve turned over from year to year.”

The hockey team used to graduate 10 players on average each season and had a very limited pool from which to replace those 10 seniors. So in lieu of relying on recruiting talented eighth and ninth graders, BB&N worked to build up its middle school hockey program and started to develop its roster earlier by recruiting talented sixth and seventh graders. Butt also worked to establish enough roster diversity that the team could stop graduating 10 players per season.

The fruits of that system are just starting to pay off.

“One of the biggest things we have this year which we haven’t had in years past is some depth,” Butt said. “We have four lines, we have six D. I feel comfortable with putting everyone on the ice in any given situation.

“That depth not only helps us within the game, but it helps us from game to game as we’re able to save a little bit of the energy and stretch out the minutes for some of our players. I’m hoping that depth will allow us to be more consistent across our schedule for the 28 games.”

BB&N also has experience, as it graduated just four players last season and has the core of its talent returning in this year’s senior class. The seniors paint a good portrait of the system Butt has developed over the last few years to develop both depth and talent; some players, like co-captain Connor Hegarty, have been at BB&N for as long as five years while others, such as Bobby Mullins, are in just their second season at BB&N. All of them will be key to BB&N’s success this season.

Mullins was the team’s leading scorer last season as he tallied 47 points (23 goals, 24 assists) in 27 games last season. He is joined up front by Cam O’Neill, who also played his first season in a Knights uniform last yearHegarty leads the way on defense along with third-year player RJ Caruso and Brien Diffley.

After the Knights just barely missed out on a tournament spot last season, Butt said he hopes a combination of the team’s continuity and increased depth will be enough to earn the team some extra playing time at the end of the year.

“Last year it came down to the last game where we lost the last game to Brooks and they obviously went on to capture the small school title,” Butt said. “If we have an opportunity to put ourselves in that situation again, hopefully we’ll be able to make the jump. Sometimes all it is is a bounce here or a bounce there and hopefully we’ll work hard enough where we’ll get some of the bounces and the hockey gods will be smiling on the senior group.”

Game of the Week

Salisbury School vs. Kent School, 7 p.m., Saturday

This rematch of last season’s Stuart/Corkery championship game will be a great chance to see some of prep hockey’s best go head-to-head early in the 2013-14 campaign.

NEHJ New England Power Rankings

1. Salisbury School (3-0)

2. Phillips Exeter (7-1)

3. Kimball Union Academy (3-0-1)

4. Dexter School (2-1)

5. Cushing Academy (2-1)

6. Thayer Academy (1-0)

7. Taft School (3-2)

8. Brooks (2-1)

9. Noble & Greenough (2-0)

10. Kent (2-1)

11. Berkshire School (2-1)

12. Kents Hill (2-1-1)

13. Holderness (2-2-1)

14. Belmont Hill

15. Rivers (1-1)

16. St. Paul’s (2-0)

17. BB&N (1-1)

18. St. Sebastian’s (1-0-1)

19. Avon Old Farms (1-2-1)

20. St. Mark’s (0-0-2)

Twitter: @aharonson28