The Brunswick ice hockey team stood toe-to-toe with Salisbury, one of the best prep school teams in Division I, for nearly 40 minutes before the Bruins' fortunes turned. Brunswick, locked in a scoreless tie, surrendered two power-play goals and an empty netter in the final 5:55, falling 3-0 to the Crimson Knights Monday at Hartong Rink.
"They played hard, we played hard and I think we proved (Monday) we can play with anyone," Bruins head coach Ron Van Belle said. "My guys did a great job proving we could skate at this level."
The loss snapped the Bruins' eight-game unbeaten streak. Brunswick's last loss came at the hands of Loomis Chaffee on Jan. 6.
"Going forward I think this is going to carry us through the rest of our season," sophomore goalie Gryphon Richardson said. "It's a hard way to end an eight-game winning streak ... Start another one tomorrow."
With the two sides battling to a defensive stalemate, Brunswick was whistled for two penalties inside the 37th minute. A questionable tripping penalty on Tommy Dwyer left the Bruins in a 5-on-3 scenario on which Salisbury capitalized. Gunnar Hughes' pass through the crease was redirected into the net by Michael McCann to give Salisbury a 1-0 lead with 5:55 to play.
One minute later, in a 4-on-4 scenario, the Crimson Knights took advantage of the open ice to net an insurance goal. This time around, Hughes converted on a McCann pass off a 2-on-2 rush, making it 2-0 at 40:10.
Salisbury's Kevin Morris added an empty netter inside the final minute.
The final score is misleading when it comes to how well Brunswick's defense played. Led by Richardson in net, the Bruins stifled Salisbury's offense for nearly three periods.
Brunswick's first-period defense allowed just nine shots on net, all of which were stymied by the sophomore goalie. A combination of stick checks and shot blocking by Bruin defenders kept the majority of Salisbury's shots from reaching Richardson.
"We focus on that all the time -- defensive end play," Van Belle said. "They proved to me they've been listening."
Richardson caught fire in the second period, thwarting all 12 of Salisbury's shots on goal. The only puck to beat Richardson was waved off for high-sticking, as a Salisbury player batted the puck out of the air and into the net.
"He's a sophomore, so we didn't really know what to expect out of him (this season)," Van Belle said. "This is his first true test since January and he really came through."
Confident, Richardson (33 saves) said this type of game is not outside the realm of his abilities.
"I wasn't really surprised at all," Richardson said of his performance against a top tier opponent. "I've held myself to a high standard this year."
The Bruins had a few early opportunities they were unable to capitalize on, including two 5-on-3 power plays.
"We do have work to do," Van Belle said of the two-man advantages. "I think it's worth spending a little more time on in practice."
Midway through the second, Brunswick junior Bo Stafford got behind the defense on a breakaway, but couldn't beat Salisbury goalie Gabe Antoni (24 saves), who made a pad save while sprawling to the ice.
"We felt like we were right with them throughout the game," Bruins senior Brian DeAngelo said. "We actually had more chances than they had."
Brunswick will get its chance to start a new unbeaten streak when the Bruins host Portledge on Wednesday at 5 p.m.