January 9, 2013

Prep Journal: Gunnery finds formula for success

By Mike Zhe

Dawson Sprigings has been a wall in goal for the Highlanders. (Photo: Philip Dutton/phototrophies.com)

Among the goals coach Chris Baudo sets for his Gunnery hockey team each game is this one: Only permit the opponent 27 or fewer shots on net.

In 12 of 16 games so far this season, the Highlanders have accomplished that goal. That’s translated to a 12-2-2 overall record, one of the best in New England.

You do the math.

“It hasn’t been a surprise,” said Baudo. “Our younger guys have developed a little quicker than I thought they were going to. That’s been real important for us, especially on the blueline.”

When top defenseman Dakota Ford, a Division 1 college prospect, opted to play juniors this year with the Middlesex Islanders, the Highlanders got a lot younger and murkier on defense.

Seniors Kai Frankville and Matt Williams, and junior Dominic Rovero were the known quantities in front of standout goalie Dawson Sprigings. The unit has also been bolstered by newcomers Nick Quillan, who played for Team Canada in the World Under-17 Championship; Mike Lee, Marty Rubin and Max Luukko.

“The whole corps has been steady and solid for us,” said Baudo. “They’re not giving us a lot of scoring but they’ve been neutralizing teams.”

Up front, Skidmore College-bound Marc Cibelli, Rob Darrar and Anthony Bird are the top scorers, and UConn commit Brendan Shane is another player who draws attention. But it’s the way everyone has played responsibly, getting back in transition, that’s been critical to their success.

“Getting back on ‘D’ has been a key,” said Baudo. “We force a lot of teams to dump pucks. We haven’t given up a lot of odd-man opportunities.”

The schedule gets tougher, not easier, going forward. Later this month Gunnery has back-to-back games against Kent and Salisbury, and it closes out regular-season play against Westminster and Berkshire. All four of those team currently reside in New England Hockey Journal’s top 10.

But so far, it’s on track for a return to the Stuart/Corkery (New England elite tournament); it lost to Exeter in the quarterfinals last year, finishing 21-8-2.

The Highlanders did not select a captain this season, the first time in five years that’s happened; instead, they’re letting their seven seniors rule collectively. It’s a bit out of the ordinary, but you can’t argue with the results.

Especially when those shots on goal are 27 or less.

Game of the Week

Salisbury at Westminster, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Two of the elite teams in the Founders League collide at Westy, always a great match-up.

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 (14-1)
2. Cushing Academy (12-2-1)
3. Gunnery (12-2-2)
4. Belmont Hill (10-2-2)
5. Avon Old Farms (7-2-2)

6. Salisbury School (8-2-1)
7. Westminster (6-2-1)
8. Berkshire School (10-2)
9. Kent School (6-2-3)
10. Dexter School (7-2-3)

11. Phillips Exeter (6-2-3)
12. St. Sebastian’s (9-4)
13. Brooks School (5-1-3)
14. Choate (7-3-1)
15. Noble and Greenough (6-4-1)

16. Kents Hill School (10-4-1)
17. Canterbury (7-4-2)
18. Milton Academy (6-3-3)
19. Loomis-Chaffee (6-3)
20. Governor’s Academy (5-6-2)

Mike Zhe can be reached at mzhe@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeZhe603.