January 16, 2014

Prep Journal: Young stars playing big roles for Groton

By Arielle Aronson

Junior Ace Cowans (Beverly, Mass.) leads the Zebras with 30 points through 12 games. (Photo: Groton School)

For most teams, having too much youth on a roster can be a problem. But for Groton hockey, young stars are an asset.

The Zebras receive much of their production from their younger players -- three of the team’s top four scorers are sophomores. Junior Ace Cowans and sophomore Michael Brown are at the head of the pack.

Cowans, a Beverley, Mass. native, leads the team in scoring and has one of the best points-per-game ratios in the region with 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) in 1games. Brown is not far behind, ranking second on the team in scoring with 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 1games.

The pair share an ability to dominate the game offensively, but aside from that scoring touch, Cowans and Brown are two very different players.

Cowans is somewhat undersized for 1996 birth-year player, standing at 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in speed, footwork and stickhandling.

“He can shoot very quickly and moves laterally as well as anyone I’ve seen at this age level,” said Groton coach Bill Riley. “He’s had several wrap-around goals because when the puck is loose down there and he can forecheck well, he can quickly shift one way and go the other and surprise the goalie. He’s very good around the net in that sense because he can avoid checks, and I think the way he thinks the game and the cerebral approach to the game is his greatest attribute.”

The junior factored into every goal in Groton’s 5-4 win over Proctor on Wednesday. Cowans recorded a natural hat trick with three goals in the second period and added assists on the Zebra’s lone first and third period goals. The hat trick was Cowans’ second of the season.

Cowans has flown a bit under the radar in comparison to other high-performing juniors in the region due to his size and a broken wrist that kept him off the ice for most of last season. Now fully healed, Cowans’ stats stand as a testament to his dedication both on and off the ice toward becoming the best player possible.

The 17-year-old spends countless hours hanging out around the rink, working on strength and conditioning, and following a nutrition plan in order to be more effective on the ice.

He’s a rink rat; he loves being in the rink and loves thinking about the game of hockey,” Riley said. “He’s just one of those kids that he thinks a lot about how to get there and he does whatever it takes to get there. Hanging around the rink and stickhandling a ball in the hallway or working on his footwork before a game is one of those examples that he shows in terms of doing it.”

Where Cowans is small and shifty, Brown is tall and powerful. At 16 years old, Brown is already 6-foot-2 and 183 pounds. He caught Groton’s attention two years ago when he played as a freshman on the varsity roster for St. John’s of Shrewsbury. He arrived on the Groton campus last season to repeat his freshman year in order to play for the Zebras, and he led a young and battered Zebra lineup in scoring.

This season, Brown continues to be a go-to guy for Groton. He is tenacious in getting to and winning battles for loose pucks, and he also possesses a strong shot with a good release.

“He showed signs of being a power forward last year as a ninth grader and even more so this year,” Riley said. “He uses his size pretty well for a sophomore. He’s a little lanky, but he’s also very strong.

“His skating is the one knock on him where he doesn’t have a fluid stride necessarily so when his skating gets better as he gets older and grows into his body, I think he’s going to be frighteningly good.”

With the Brown-Cowans duo leading the way, Groton is off to an 8-3-1 start this year, taking just 12 games to surpass last season’s win total of seven games. Groton’s season is also a memorable one already thanks to the opportunity to play at Fenway Park as part of the 2014 Frozen Fenway series.

The Zebras lost to St. Mark’s, 2-1, on the baseball diamond after St. Mark’s scored two goals in less than two minutes in the third period, but the experience was one the Groton players and coaches will always cherish.

“We were fortunate enough to get that game as a home game which meant we were in the home dugout and the home batting cages and had access to the Red Sox clubhouse,” Riley said. “It was fun. It was enjoyable. We always love competing against St. Mark’s. We never like losing to them but we can tip our hat to them because they competed and played hard, and at the end of the day, the kids had a terrific experience.”

Game of the Week

Salisbury at Kent, Saturday at 2:45 p.m. 

The two top teams in the region will take a step toward settling who the current best in New England is when they face off on Saturday in what could be a preview of Elite 8 action.

Prep Power Rankings

  1. Kent School (11-1-1) – The Lions are riding an eight-game win streak and have scored six or more goals in each of their last six games.

  2. Salisbury School (9-0-3) – Third period woes haunted the Knights this week, as Salisbury blew leads in the final period against Westminster and Trinity-Pawling to settle for two ties.

  3. Thayer Academy (12-2-0) – The Tigers capped off a four-win week with a hard-fought win over Cushing.

  4. Cushing Academy (14-4-0) – A typically tight defense struggled against Thayer’s high-powered offense.

  5. Phillips Exeter (13-2-1) – Post-grad forward David White posted a five-goal performance in a win over rival Andover last Saturday.

  6. Kimball Union (13-4-3) – The Wildcats struggled for the first time this season with three losses in their last four games, but the tough week had one bright spot as their lone win came at Fenway Park.

  7. Dexter School (10-4-1)– After a rough showing in the Watkins Tournament, Dexter responded with wins over Rivers, New Hampton and the U.S. Women’s National team.

  8. Noble & Greenough (10-3-1) – The Bulldog offense is on fire with 26 goals in its last three games. Junior forward Miles Wood recorded at least three goals in each of those three games.

  9. Gunnery (11-5-0) – Gunnery’s early season struggles appear to have resolved as it is currently on a seven-game heater.

  10. Berkshire School (10-3-2) – The Bears have been bolstered by great defense, allowing just six goals against through their last five games.

  11. Williston-Northampton (8-4-1) – The Wildcats won six of their last seven games with the only loss coming in 2-1 fashion to Berkshire.

  12. Brooks School (9-4-1) – Brooks responded to consecutive losses for the first time this season with a 2-1 performance this week.

  13. St. Paul’s (7-5-0) – The Pelicans had a tough schedule last week with games against Exeter and Nobles, and it won’t get any easier this week as they take on Belmont Hill and Thayer.

  14. Northfield-Mt. Hermon (11-5-1) – The Hoggers showed heart this week by coming back from a 2-0 first-period deficit to top Avon Old Farms, 3-2.

  15. Groton (8-3-1) – Despite a 2-1 loss to St. Mark’s at Fenway Park, the Zebras salvaged the week with wins over St. George’s and Proctor.

  16. BB&N (10-3-1) – The Knights won nine of their last 11 games and will have a chance to avenge their only loss in that stretch with a rematch against Rivers scheduled for Saturday.

  17. Choate (7-4-2) – The Wild Boars came from behind in their last two games to earn ties in each.

  18. Rivers (8-6-0) – The Red Wings are on a three-game win streak with quality wins over BB&N, St. Mark’s and Brooks.

  19. Deerfield (6-5-2) – Senior forward Sam Lafferty (committed to Brown) scored two goals and an assist all in the third period to help the Big Green to a big win over Kimball Union.

  20. St. Mark’s (7-4-4) – The junior-sophomore tandem of Adam Lee and Zach Tsekos has been key for the Lions, who have just one loss in their last 10 games.

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