By Mike Zhe
Third time’s a charm.
Right, Kimball Union?
If there was any doubt about whether KUA belonged in the discussion of the best teams in New England, a group often dominated by Independent School League and Founders League members, there isn’t now.
KUA is celebrating its first Flood-Marr tournament championship in 21 years after it beat three quality opponents during the annual pre-Christmas event hosted by Noble & Greenough and Milton Academy.
“It’s pretty exciting for the school, the alumni, the kids and the people who support KUA,” said coach Mike Levine. “We’ve come close a few times, but to finally get over this hurdle is nice.”
KUA (8-1) lost in the Flood-Marr final to Nobles last year and to Westminster in 2010. After going 2-1 in round-robin play, beating Salisbury (3-2) and Deerfield (4-0) but losing to Nobles (2-1), it found itself again matched up against Westminster in the final.
Goals by Jack Fitzgerald and Tristan Rai late in the first period flipped a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead for Westy, but it was all KUA after that.
The line of Nick Roberto, J.D. Dudek and Casey Miller scored the tying and go-ahead goals early in the second period. Dudek scored from the slot off a pass from Roberto to square things, and Miller connected from the right circle less than a minute later, putting the Wildcats up 3-2.
Roberto, a senior forward committed to the University of Maine, tacked on an insurance goal in the third for the final 4-2 margin and was named tournament MVP. He had two big goals, including the game-winner, in the opener against Salisbury.
“He was very good from the get-go,” said Levine. “He scored some big goals. But it wasn’t just the points; it was all the other things he was doing.”
Roberto is one of six Division 1 commits on the team. The others are defenseman Doyle Somerby (Boston University), and forwards Miller (UMass), Niko Rufo (Providence), Gregg Burmaster (St. Lawrence) and Dudek (Boston College).
The title should give some legs to the Wildcats’ bid to be selected for the Stuart/Corkery (elite) tournament at the end of the season. They went 27-4-4 last year but were nudged out of the eight-team field on the final weekend of the regular season, their overall strength of schedule holding them back. They went on to win the Piatelli/Simmons (small school) tourney.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” said Levine, “but honestly, we’re just focusing on the next game.”
The Flood-Marr title was a pleasant achievement, though not a surprise.
“I don’t know if it’s surprise because I certainly knew we had the ability,” said Levine. “But in a tournament format like that, against three tough opponents, you never know how things are going to work out.”
This year, for KUA, they couldn’t have worked out any better.
New England Prep School Power Rankings
To read Mike Zhe's analysis of each team in the top 20, head to our prep school power rankings page.
1. Kimball Union (8-1)
2. Belmont Hill (7-0-1)
3. Cushing Academy (7-1-1)
4. Salisbury School (8-2)
5. Avon Old Farms (5-2-2)
6. The Gunnery (6-0)
7. Westminster (6-2)
8. Dexter School (6-1-2)
9. Kent School (5-1-2)
10. St. Sebastian’s (6-2)
11. Choate (5-2-1)
12. Noble and Greenough (3-2-1)
13. Lawrence Academy (3-2-2)
14. Governor’s Academy (3-3-1)
15. St. Paul’s School (3-4)
16. Rivers School (3-2-1)
17. Brooks School (3-1-1)
18. Canterbury (4-1-1)
19. Berkshire School (3-2)
20. Phillips Exeter (3-2-3)