January 29, 2014

Prep Journal: Brooks sets sights on Eberhart three-peat

By Arielle Aronson

Brooks School won its first Piatelli/Simmons title last March, knocking off top-seeded Kents Hill in the championship game. (Photo by Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

One of the hardest feats to accomplish in sports is earning back-to-back championships. This season, Brooks is looking to take that challenge to the next level by completing the rarely accomplished three-peat.

Brooks won back-to-back ISL Eberhart Championships in 2011-12 and 2012-13, and it got off to a hot start on the 2013-14 campaign by compiling a 7-2-1 record in December. But Brooks cooled off considerably after the holiday break and struggled to find consistency while going 5-4 through their first nine games of the 2014 calendar year.

With just over three weeks left in the season, coach David Ries said he is confident his team can get back on track to possibly win the Eberhart for the third consecutive season.

One of the areas where Ries said his team has struggled has been in suffering momentary lapses in focus that come back to haunt them. Brooks has been in the game in almost every loss in January, but was ultimately doomed by just one poor period or a few sub-par shifts. In Brooks’ most lopsided result of the month, a 5-1 loss to Belmont Hill, the game was tied entering the third period.

“We played pretty well in the first and the second period, and then in the third period, [Belmont Hill] came out of the intermission with their A-game and we didn’t and next thing you know, we’re down 5-1,” said Brooks coach David Ries. “It goes back to that consistency piece where if you don’t come prepared to play every day and you go through those sort of ups and downs that we have this month, that’s when the results aren’t going to go your way.”

But an area where Brooks has plenty of consistency is in net, where junior goaltender Max Prawdzik has played almost every minute of every game this season. Prawdzik is a highly touted prospect who was selected in both the USHL and QMJHL drafts over the summer, and he has also attracted NCAA attention. This season, he has maintained a .902 save percentage while becoming the first goaltender in New England prep hockey to reach 1000 minutes in net this season, and his importance to his team shows thanks to the “A” he wears on his chest. 

Having a goalie serve as a captain can be unconventional, but Ries said it works for his team.

“I think the biggest challenge for a goalie as a captain is trying to balance being a goalie and being prepared in a way that goalies have to prepare to play games versus being a leader,” Ries said. “The players spoke and [Prawdzik] was one of the guys that they wanted to lead them. We trusted that vote and that he would be able to find that balance, and so far, he’s done a pretty good job of it.”

In addition to the consistency in net, Brooks is starting to see more consistent efforts across the board on the ice. Ries said his team has shown in recent games that it is focusing more on doing the little things right, and that effort is starting to pay off in the wins and losses column.

Brooks won three of its last four games before Monday’s matchup against Dexter, in which Brooks suffered a deceiving loss. Although Dexter won, 4-1, Brooks was the better team in much of the game. It outshot Dexter 15-5 in the first period, and fell victim to a power-play goal, shorthanded goal and empty-netter during the rare moments of the game that Ries said got away from his team.

“Across 54 minutes and across our lineup, I thought that despite the outcome, we were doing a lot of the things we need to do to be successful,” Ries said. “One was just the way that every guy was focused on what they needed to do within our team game, and then the other big thing was how hard our kids competed shift in and shift out.

“If we can play that way more often than not over the rest of the season, then we should be in pretty good shape.”

Game of the Week

Groton vs. Rivers, Friday at 4:45 p.m.

The Zebras and Red Wings are both in contention for the Eberhart crown, and with the league standings remaining tight as the season winds down, this matchup will be critical come tournament selection time.

Prep Power Rankings

Check out Arielle's ranking of the top 20 prep boys teams at our prep hockey power rankings page.

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