December 15, 2011

Prep School Journal: Exeter climbing ladder

By Justin Churchill

Phillips Exeter Acedamy’s Brian Hart is one of New England’s best young hockey players.

The senior forward is committed to play for coach Ted Donato (Dedham, Mass.) at Harvard University next year and is currently a leader on a surprisingly strong Exeter squad.

Hart’s, standing at 6-foot-2, leads a group of talented seniors who seem to have the chemistry of a top New England team this season.
Exeter has gotten off to a 5-1-0 start, posting wins over two strong teams in Choate and Cushing.

The team’s current record must be appealing to coach Dana Barbin (Exeter, N.H.), considering its 12-15-0 record last season. Injuries and a midseason breakdown contributed to the sub-par record of the team.

“Last year we had Eric Neiley get hurt and that really hurt us at the start of the season.” Hart said. “We have a couple kids hurt right now, like two or three.”

Neiley, who is now playing at Dartmouth, was out for all of but 10 games last season. His value to the Exeter team can be shown by the 40 points he scored in the 10 games he played in last season.

This year's team has been led offensively by Hart and postgraduate forward Matt Beattie. Currently Beattie has the most points in New England and is averaging 3.50 points a game.

Captain and defenseman Will Goss has been very impressive so far this season. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound senior has garnered the attention of a few top colleges on the East Coast and has developed well.

Barbin’s team was recently a bit shorthanded in a game against Cushing, as the team only suited up 18 skaters total. Despite the short numbers the team played impressively and came away with a 4-1 victory.

Hart was humble about his team’s early-season success, but still optimistic for the playoffs in March.

“We’ve just got to win as many games as possible right now because we have found that these (early season) games are key right now.” Hart said. ““I think our goal is to just keep improving right now because we definitely want to be in Salem in March. “

There is still a lot more hockey to be played this prep season, so it seems that roster depth may become a problem if there are any more injuries this season, but for now Exeter is a hot team.

Game of the Week

The battle of the top two teams in the league saw Salisbury hold Kent’s star forward, Boo Nieves, to just one point on the night as they walked away with an impressive 4-3 victory in overtime. John Stevens played the role of hero for Salisbury, as he scored the game-winning goal one minute into overtime.

New England prep school power rankings

1. Salisbury -- Clearly the best team in the league. Loads of talent on this roster.

2. Kent -- Haven’t had the start I have predicted, but the team is still at the top.

3. Lawrence Academy -- Very good team so far this season with most of the team contributing on offense.

4. Westminster -- Might have the best offensive talent in the league.

5. St. Sebastian's -- A lot of young talent in the likes of Noah Hanifin and Cam Askew.

6. Phillips Exeter -- Brian Hart ranks at the top of the league for forwards.

7. Kimball Union – Off to a great start at 5-0-0.

8. Gunnery -- Has beaten Exeter, but tied Berkshire.

9. Noble and Greenough -- Good team should be tested by some better teams soon.

10. Albany Academy -- Continued on its success from last year.

11. St. Paul’s -- Great start to the season so far.

12. Trinity-Pawling – Win over Avon is impressive.

13. Cushing -- Had a tough loss to Exeter, but a lot of talent.

14. Avon Old Farms -- Always a good team to face.

15. Berkshire -- Tough early schedule but has hung with it.

16. Holderness – Easy schedule, but has done well.

17. South Kent -- Hasn’t played a lot but they are 2-0.

18. Tilton -- Even start. Deserving of this spot.

19. Choate -- Will start to get rolling soon.

20. Milton -- Rough spot for the returning New England champions

Justin Churchill can be reached at