The influence of senior forwards Max Moreau and Jack Breen on the ice has been indisputable for the Burlington High School boys hockey team: Breen’s 12 goals and Moreau’s eight account for ½ of the Seahorses’ goal haul for the season.
Off the ice, as salesmen for their team and their sport, the duo has been nothing short of indispensable.
And last week’s 7-3 win against Peoples — Burlington’s first of the season, snapping a 19-game winless streak — was the ultimate commission.
“It was relief for a lot of guys,” BHS first-year cocah Lou DiMasi said. “It was gratifying for the guys, with the hard work they’ve put in, to finally get the win.”
Part of a core group of Burlington hockey players, Moreau and Breen spent the last three offseasons lobbying their peers to join the team in an attempt to keep the program afloat. Growing up with the game wasn’t a requirement. It couldn’t be.
“I’d say over half of our team started playing hockey in their high school years,” Moreau said.
“We have converted athletes,” Breen said. “They’re all great athletes — lacrosse players who wanted to play hockey, basketball players who wanted to play hockey — all these different kids who wanted to play hockey and give it a shot.”
The pair said they approached more than two dozen students in the couple of years and convinced about 15 to pick up a stick.
Their sales pitch? The game.
“Honestly I don’t know how anybody could get introduced to it and walk away from it because it’s just awesome,” Breen said. “We’ve been doing it for our whole lives. It’s everything we love.
“It was mostly just going around school at first, then we’d bring them to a stick-and-puck. Most of them just fell in love with it right away, so they wanted to keep playing, keep trying it.”
After three consecutive one-win seasons, luring newcomers with victories — the kind that apply to the Lake Division standings — was going to be tough.
Day-to-day triumphs, though, have been plentiful and the team is “a hundred times better,” Breen said.
“It takes a special group of players and kids to be as determined and willing to work hard and learn when those records have been where the have in the past,” said DiMasi, the Burlington Free Press’ Mr. Hockey as a BHS senior in 1999.
“It’s been a lot of fun and very rewarding for us as coaches,” DiMasi said. “All 22 guys on the team work so incredibly hard that it’s been easy for us to teach them They’ve been so eager to learn and work hard and get better.”
Back-to-back ties earlier in the year showed the Seahorses (1-11-2) they weren’t far from winning. They grabbed their first VPA ranking points of the season in a 5-5 draw with Harwood on Jan. 11 after entering the third period trailing 4-1.
A 2-2 draw with Peoples four days later showed it wasn’t a fluke.
“Those games were a big stepping stone and there have been a lot of games since them that have been closer than the score revealed,” DiMasi said.
Finally, last week, Burlington broke through against the Wolves behind a hat trick from Moreau, a goal and three helpers from Breen and a goal and two assists from Grant Headrick.
There’s nothing saying the Seahorses, who play three of their final four games against teams in their half of the Lake standings, can’t notch another win, either — not that they need it to prove anything.
“The amount of skill we started with … you think of it as a big practice, the whole year, and then this year we’ve really emerged,” Moreau said. “You can look at our record and say something but that doesn’t really show how much progress you’ve made as a team.”