Week 16 Games of the Week: GameSheet Prep Cup Takes Center Stage
Every year it seems that the popularity and participation in high school hockey around the United States grows. And while the level of play in many areas around the country also continues to improve, there is no doubt that Minnesota high school hockey and New England prep school hockey remain kings of the mountain.
High school and prep hockey are so important in Minnesota and New England that most of the club teams for high school-aged players begin and end their seasons before the school leagues get started. These split-season teams cram as many as 25 games into their schedules between late August and early November so their players can focus solely on their school teams starting in mid-to-late November.
State and district club champions even are determined before high school play begins, with club teams that win those championships often reconvening after the school seasons to practice and prepare for USA Hockey Nationals if they have qualified.
Public-school hockey also is a big deal in New England, and although the level of play there is as good or better than most other areas of the country, it isn’t quite up to the level found among the New England Prep League teams or among the Minnesota high schools.
A recent study of NCAA Division I college hockey rosters by College Hockey Inc. confirmed this. The study showed that of the 14 Division I players who went directly from high school to play college hockey, 11 of them came from Minnesota schools. Wisconsin sent two players directly from high school to the D1 level, and Ohio had a single player make the jump.
Meanwhile, 14 of the 30 players who moved directly from prep schools to play college hockey were from Massachusetts and six hailed from Connecticut. No other state produced more than one.
In Minnesota, high school games regularly are played in front of raucous crowds that include students and supporters from the local community. The high school teams are a sense of pride for each local community, and the state tournament semifinal and championship games routinely draw more than 15,000 fans.
The experience is similar at New England Prep games as student bodies often come out en masse to support their teams, especially for rivalry games. Even the Massachusetts state public-school finals, which are held where the Boston Bruins play at TD Bank Garden, have been known to draw nearly 10,000 spectators.
In recent years, a hybrid of the prep and high school hockey experience has burst on the scene in the United States as hockey academies have become more prevalent.
Academies offer a similar experience to the higher-end high school and prep programs, with players having access to ice time for practice, power skating and skills sessions virtually on a daily basis. The difference is that a hockey academy also can provide the opportunity to play a full-season AAA club schedule and compete against the top clubs in the country – and possibly play for a national championship.
Some of these academies have direct affiliations with bricks-and-mortar high schools, which the players attend just like any other student. Mount St. Charles in Rhode Island and the Bishop Kearney Selects in Rochester, N.Y., are two such academies.
Mount St. Charles and Bishop Kearney regularly place teams among the nation’s top 10 at the 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U age levels and are perennial national-championship contenders. Those programs also routinely send players on to play in the top U.S. junior leagues and ultimately at the NCAA Division I collegiate level.
Other academies have followed the MSC and B.K. model to varied degrees of success, which has provided more opportunities for talented hockey players who might not be quite good enough for the most elite programs. Some hockey academies are not associated with schools, but do provide classroom and study-hall time so their players can study and take online classes as well as on-site academic advisors and counselors.
Other prep-style programs such as Culver Academies, Gilmour Academy, Nichols School, Northwood School, NorthStar Christian Academy and South Kent School provide more of a traditional educational structure while offering a full-season AAA club schedule. Some of these school-based programs field national-bound teams that are eligible to compete at USA Hockey Nationals.
While the New England Prep and the academy worlds sometimes intersect, it’s not a common occurrence. That’s what makes this weekend’s GameSheet Prep Cup in Exeter, N.H. so special. Entering its fifth year, the Prep Cup includes eight teams that are a mixture of New England Prep schools, American AAA academy teams, U.S. school-based AAA programs and the top Canadian Prep program.
The tournament annually includes some of the top 18U and prep programs in the country and usually is attended by numerous college and professional scouts. Culver Academies defeated St. Andrew’s, perennially the top Canadian Prep program, in last year’s championship game, with a pair of New England Prep schools, Dexter Southfield and the Frederick Gunn School, skating to a tie in the third-place game.
This year’s event got underway Friday morning and runs through Sunday. The tournament field consists of eight teams competing in a win-and-advance format in which winners play each other and losers play each other each day until a champion is crowned.
A look at the field:
Dexter Southfield School – No. 16 NE Prep (7-4-1)
Kimball Union Academy – No. 6 NE Prep (11-1-0)
Frederick Gunn School – No. 18 NE Prep (6-3-1)
Culver Academies – No. 4 USA Tier 1 18U National Bound (15-5-0)
Mount St. Charles – No. 10 USA Tier 1 18U National Bound (19-10-0)
Northwood School – No. 11 USA Tier 18U Overall (23-6-0)
Nichols School – No. 39 USA Tier 1 18U National Bound (22-15-2)
St. Andrew’s College Prep – No. 1 Canada Independent Prep (13-6-0)
Friday’s Prep Cup Schedule and Results
Game 1 – Northwood (3), Dexter (0) at 9:20 a.m. (Rink 2)
Northwood scored once in the opening period and twice in the final frame to advance to the semifinals. Michael Peluso netted the last two goals, with Tanner McFaul also scoring. Devin Shakar earned the shutout in goal.
Game 2 – Culver (3), Nichols (1) at 10:00 a.m. (Rink 1)
Culver tallied single goals in each period to skate into the semifinals. Maverick Avent was the winning goaltender, while Zack Zhang, Luke Hogan and Keanan Hodson provided the goals.
Game 3 – St. Andrew’s (7), Frederick Gunn (3) at 12:00 p.m. (Rink 2)
St. Andrew's broke the game open with a four-goal second period and then cruised to the win to advance to the semifinals. Connor Arseneault paced the Saints' offensive attack with a pair of goals, with Jack Good, Luc Warner, Tyler Chiovetti and Dean Letourneau each scoring once. Liam Furey was the winning netminder.
Game 4 – Kimball Union (6), Mount St. Charles (3) at 12:40 p.m. (Rink 1)
Kimball Union tallied four goals in a six-goal opening frame and added two more in the second to push its lead to 6-3, which is how the game ended. Malcolm Baar netted a pair of goals for KUA, with Josh Phillips, C.J. Watroba, Sam Ledrew and Jack Sadowski also scoring once apiece. Ledrew also assisted on Watroba's goal Blake McMeniman earned the win in goal.
Saturday’s Prep Cup Schedule and Results
Game 5 – Dexter (4), Nichols (2) at 10:40 a.m. (Rink 1)
Cullen Emery's goal with 7:74 left in the second period proved to be the game-winner, and Henry Butte's second tally of the game in the third provided the insurance for Dexter. Tyler Hamilton gave Dexter a 1-0 lead in the first period, which Butte extended to 2-0 in the middle frame, but Thomas Bamrick and Tanner Wisniewski responded for Nichols to tie it. Colin Davis was the winning goaltender.
Game 6 – Frederick Gunn (1), Mount St. Charles (5) at 12:00 p.m. (Rink 2)
Mount St. Charles exploded for three first-period goals and then potted single tallies in the second and third frames to keep Gunn School at bay. Five different players scored for MSC: Patrick Fitzgibbon, Gates Omicioli, Hutchinson Rose, Kai Mencel and Miller Kay. Justin Bayers earned the win in goal. Mark Pizzo had the lone Nichols goal.
Game 7 – Northwood (2), Culver (0) at 2:40 p.m. (Rink 2)
Northwood scored in the opening and closing periods and got shutout netminding from Devin Shakar to record the upset and advance to the championship game. Ritter Coombs and William Schneid scored for the victors.
Game 8 – St. Andrew's vs. Kimball Union at 3:30 p.m. (Rink 1)
Kimball Union rallied to win in overtime after St. Andrew's stormed back with two third-period goals to force the extra session. Jack Sadowski scored with 6:45 left in OT to bring this semifinal thriller to a close and send KUA to the championship game. Corwith Simmers scored with 12:53 left in the third period to complete a hat trick and give Kimball Union a two-goal lead, but Connor Arseneault responded for the Saints 46 seconds later and Dean Letourneau tied it less than four minutes later. Letorneau had a pair of goals for St Andrew's, while KUA goalie Blake McMeniman earned his second win of the weekend.
Sunday’s Prep Cup Championship Game
Kimball Union (3), Northwood (4) at 12:10 p.m. (Rink 2)
Northwood opened the game with a pair of first-period goals from Jacob Brunton and Tanner McFaul and extended the lead to 4-1 on tallies by Ritter Coombs and Hayden Newman before holding off a late KUA rally to skate off with the championship hardware. Corwith Simmers and Sam Ledrew each netted their fourth goals of the tourney in the final frame, but Newman's goal held up as the GWG. Ledrew's tally was his second of the game. Devin Shakar earned his third victory of the weekend in goal for Northwood, finishing with 44 saves to hand Blake McMeniman his (26 saves) his first loss.
Sunday's Prep Cup Third-Place Game
St. Andrew's (4), Culver (2) at 11:10 a.m. (Rink 1)
The Saints overcame a 2-0 deficit with four straight goals over the game's second half to capture third place. Michael Dec, Dean Letorneau, Tyler Chiovetti and Jack Good each scored once during the four-goal spree to make a winner out of goalie Luke Brandon (23 saves). Vince Kalscheur got Culver on the board first early in the first period, and Jason Bourdukofsky extended the lead to 2-0 with a short-handed goal early in the second.
All games played at the Rinks at Exeter and streamed on LiveBarn.