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Boys Varsity Hockey Wins Back-to-Back Christmas Classic

By Shane Gorman ’10
Boys Varsity Hockey won the Avon Christmas Classic in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. Goalie JP Mella, who was named MVP of the 2017 tournament and is now a senior, made all 18 saves as he posted a shutout in the championship game. The Gunnery won the 2018 tournament, held December 13‒15 at Avon Old Farms, 3-0-1.
The Highlanders were placed in a four-team bracket with Trinity-Pawling School, Kent School and Loomis Chaffee at the start of the 36th annual Avon Christmas Classic tournament. The Gunnery opened tournament play December 13 as they matched up against Trinity-Pawling at 1 p.m. Each round-robin game was composed of two 25-minutes halves with a five-minute overtime period followed by a shootout if needed.

The Highlanders got off to a great start as they dominated play for the first 10 minutes of the game. Possession was key for the Highlanders as they controlled the pace of play in the offensive zone. It was halfway through the opening half when The Gunnery struck first. On a skilled play, junior Alex Jefferies netted the first goal of the tournament. Five minutes later, junior Jimmy Rayhill added to the scoring on a backdoor pass from senior Robert Cronin, which allowed Rayhill to shovel the puck into the net. It was all Gunnery as the first half came to an end.
 
With the start of the second half underway, senior Ryan Trom drove to the net to put away a third goal, with assists going to junior David Andreychuk and senior Jake DiGirolamo. Trinity-Pawling scored their first goal two minutes later to make the score 3-1. Senor Riley Brennan extended Gunnery’s lead to 4-1 with a nice pass off an in-zone face-off play by Cronin. Trinity-Pawling responded with two more goals in the last 10 minutes of the game – a gut check for the Highlanders ‒ but they held on to notch their first win of the tournament with a score of 4-3. Mella came up big in goal as he made 19 of 22 saves.

The second day of tournament play, Gunnery faced Kent at 9 a.m. in their third matchup this season. Kent scored first off a deflection in front of the net and the score remained 1-0 through the end of the first half. Kent struck again early in the second half and put Gunnery back on its heels as time began running out. Gunnery got to work as junior Mark D’Agostino and Cronin each scored goals to even the score 2-2 with around 10 minutes left to play. Kent answered again to take the lead 3-2, taking momentum back from the Highlanders. With one minute left in the game, Gunnery’s goaltender was pulled. Gunnery attacked with the advantage and Brennan buried a goal on his backhand to tie the game 3-3 with 30 seconds left to play. The five-minute overtime period would not be enough for either team to win. The game ended in a tie for New England Prep School rules, but for tournament play, a shootout decided the winner. Gunnery, being the home team, decided to shoot second. Kent’s first shooter missed on a save by Mella. Jefferies, the first shooter for Gunnery, buried his shot as the pressure turned back to Kent. Mella came up big and made two more saves as he shut down all three Kent shooters and The Gunnery stole the game with a final score of 4-3 and a tournament record of 2-0.

The Highlanders had a quick turnaround as the third and final round-robin game would be played later the same day vs. Loomis Chaffee. Gunnery fell behind midway through the first half on a bad bounce that landed in the back of the Highlander’s net. That wouldn’t slow the Highlanders down as Trom buried a goal on a one-time shot from his offside. The first half ended with a tie score of 1-1.
 
At the start of the second half, Loomis came out with a hard shot from the left side of the ice, bringing the score to 2-1. Midway through the second half, Jefferies faked a shot and slid the puck past Loomis’s goalie to even the game 2-2. The score remained tied as regulation play ended and Gunnery played its second overtime game of the day. The Highlanders caught a 2-on-1 break down the wing as Jefferies scored and ended the game with a 3-2 win over Loomis. Goalie Carmine Andranovich, a junior, came up big for the Highlanders, making 13 out of 15 saves.

The following day, The Gunnery played for the first time in back-to-back championship games, having come out of the 2017 Christmas Classic with a double-overtime win over Kent. On December 15, they faced off against St. Paul’s. The Gunnery controlled the pace right from the start as St. Paul’s tried to trap in the neutral zone. The Highlanders struck first just a few minutes into the game. Senior Alex Coady made a beautiful play to Trom, who drove home to give Gunnery a 1-0 lead. The next goal came late in the second half as Jefferies ripped a puck past St. Paul’s goalie, giving Gunnery a 2-0 lead. The game ended 2-0 as Gunnery outshot St. Paul’s 48-18, giving the Highlanders their third Avon Christmas Classic championship win.
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Founded in 1850 by abolitionist, educator, and outdoorsman Frederick Gunn, The Gunnery is a coeducational college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades 9 through 12/post-graduate. Dedicated teacher-mentor-coaches challenge students to reach their full potential in a home-like setting where character and citizenship are valued as much as intellect and achievement. Individualized attention and high expectations help young learners develop not only the skills and confidence they will need in college, but also the moral compass and love of learning that will serve them well in life. The school attracts ambitious, academically curious students who will both shine as unique individuals and thrive as contributing members of a deeply connected community. By the time they graduate, Gunnery students have become well rounded, grounded young adults with a sharpened sense of who they are and who they want to become.