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U16N & U18N are New England Champs; Heading to Nationals
Two of South Kent School’s hockey teams traveled to The Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts on the weekend of Friday, November 8-10 in hopes of claiming a New England Regional championship title. Selects Academy at South Kent—who is part of the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL)—began in 2011, with the U16 and U18 National teams competing in the USA Hockey New England Regional Tournament the past two years as well. With both of South Kent’s National teams making it to the finals this year, the school brought a bus full of students to cheer on their peers.
In the 2012-‘13 season, U16 National played in the championship match in order to be eligible for nationals as well. In that match, South Kent lost in the finals against Connecticut Wolfpack in overtime. Ironically, the Cardinals faced off against the same opponent this year in the Regional championship. With tournament rules, the matches included two 25-minute halves. In the first half of the finals, Selects Academy U16 National scored in the first 30 seconds. The Wolfpack fought back a few minutes later with a goal in the first half. The teams were neck-and-neck in the second half, with neither team scoring. Subsequently, the match went into a 10-minute “sudden death” overtime period. With 1:20 left on the clock, South Kent’s Tyler Augustinsen ’15 scored the winning goal, ending the match with a 2-1 victory.
“I think we played well throughout the whole weekend,” Augustinsen said. “We didn’t take our foot off the gas pedal and we kept on battling. We were all a little nervous in overtime, but we knew that through practice, we had the skills we needed to do what it takes to win and we did.” Selects Academy at South Kent Director and U16 National Head Coach Devin Rask later reiterated the hard work the boys put into the season. “Overall, battling through a long weekend, between some of the adversity we faced, the team stuck to it and did what they needed to do. They battled as a team and ultimately they won as a team,” Rask said.
Similarly, Selects Academy at South Kent U18 National participated in the New England Regional Championships last year, but lost in the semifinals. This year, U18 went head to head with Mid-Fairfield in the championship game. “Al Rogers [’14] was outstanding in net time,” U18 National Head Coach Matt Plante said of the skilled goalkeeper. Rogers consistently held off shots-on-goal and helped keep South Kent in the lead. After a competitive game, South Kent stayed strong on both offense and defense and won 2-0.
“This weekend is a testament to how we’ve grown as a group this year,” Plante said. “I kept thinking back to the Labor Day Tournament, when we lost late in the end 3-2. Then, I thought about this weekend and how hard these guys worked, how structured they were and how much they’ve learned.” Moving onto what this win means to him, Plante continued, “For me personally, it’s awesome. I am so happy that I get to experience it with this group of guys. We didn’t get it last year, but that group is part of it too because they laid the foundation. I think of a guy like Brian Farrell [’14] who has been here for four years and was here during the transition from Prep Hockey to Selects; I’m so glad he gets to be part of this.”
Plante highlighted some players who made excellent contributions for the weekend. “Anthony Siderio [’14] made some big goals, including the game-winning goal in the semifinals,” he said. “[Post Graduate student] Nick DeVito was outstanding all weekend, and had the big first goal of the day in the semifinals.”
DeVito chimed in that, “We got off to a slow start beginning of the weekend. We tied our first game, lost our second, but then came back with a win Saturday and ruled from then on,” he said. Of winning New England Regionals, he said, “It’s unreal. I came here because I hoped I could go to Nationals and the fact that we’re going all the way to Green Bay is awesome.”
Cheering fans—including teachers, staff members, parents, siblings and peers—sent the teams off with hugs and high-fives. “It’s a great accomplishment for the kids. They’ll realize down the road how big this is,” Rask said. “They stuck to it. They’re going to Nationals. I’m very proud – that’s an understatement.”
View the full photo album from Sunday's playoffs here.