By Dave Dyer
---- — From the depths of despair to the joy of a championship.
That’s the route that Andover’s Andrew Bruno took this winter for the Brooks hockey team and it’s one that has him brimming with enthusiasm as he begins the baseball season.
A captain and stalwart left wing for Brooks, Bruno suffered a concussion in mid-season against, of all teams, Middlesex, forcing him to miss nearly a month of action.
“It was tough missing the time and it was tough the way it happened,” said Bruno. “I got checked against the boards and it was similar to what happened my sophomore year. I got a concussion then, also against Middlesex.
“It was hard just sitting on the bench, cheering the team on and, when I was out, we weren’t winning games. That made it harder.”
There may not have been a direct correlation, but there was no doubt that the team missed Bruno according to head coach Dave Ries.
“Andrew was one of our key guys because of his energy, effort and leadership,” said Ries. “He is relentless on the forecheck, plays a very physical game and is one of our best penalty killers.
“He leads our team in blocked shots every year and even though he doesn’t score a ton of goals, he scores at clutch times in big games.”
With the team struggling to make the playoffs, Bruno came back with Brooks needing to win its last three games to win the league and qualify.
“Andrew came back for the Rivers game (the first of the three) and we were a different team,” said Ries. “He scored a clutch shorthanded goal that put us up 4-3 and we held on to beat them 4-3. The win started our run.”
And that led to three impressive playoff wins, concluding with a 4-1 win over Kents Hill for the N.E. Prep Piatelli-Simmons championship as Brooks finished off the season with an 18-7-5 record and the title.
From not being in the lineup a few weeks earlier, it was a perfect ending to a career for Bruno, who considers baseball his best sport and hopes to play it at Trinity College next year.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” said Bruno. “To win it all and close by in Salem (N.H.) was great. And I felt like I reached my highest level of hockey my last two weeks of playing. I felt really good out there.”
Ries couldn’t agree more and felt that the rest of his team followed his lead.
“The leadership that Andrew, co-captain Mitch Nylen and the rest of our seniors provided was the key to the championship run,” said Ries.
Bruno, who plays shortstop for Brooks in the spring and a number of positions for the Andover Legion team in the summer, will now turn his attention to baseball. The team leaves for a trip to Florida tomorrow.
“It’s not as exciting as hockey, and I’d rather watch a hockey game, but there’s something about baseball that I just love,” said Bruno.
Still, he knows that it’s going to be tough to continue his senior success. He was a member of the ISL-championship soccer team in the fall and then helped Brooks go a step further in hockey.
“It’s definitely been a great year so far,” he said.
Prep vs. Public Is there really much difference between prep school and public school hockey? Brooks senior Andrew Bruno of Andover thinks so. "The speed of the (prep) game is just much greater," said Bruno. "When I was hurt, I watched Brooks and Phillips play in the afternoon and then went to the Andover-Central Catholic game that Andover won. You could definitely see the difference."