Montgomery Bell Academy hockey has routinely been at or near the top of the GNASH regular-season standings, placing first four of the last six seasons.
But the Big Red were never able to parlay that success into a postseason title. MBA lost the Predators Cup to Ravenwood in 2016 and 2017 and to Brentwood in 2015, 2018 and 2020.
That championship drought finally ended on Wednesday night at Ford Ice Center in Bellevue.
The Big Red defeated Brentwood 4-3 to earn their first Predators Cup trophy, wiping away sour memories from previous seasons.
“Finally,” senior forward Luke Haley said. “All those other years are in the past. We finally got it done this year.”
Haley scored what later proved to be the decisive goal with 1:40 remaining in the second period, even though MBA was short-handed after Will Morrison was called for interference. Haley slipped past the defense, threw a shot at the net and hammered the rebound past Brentwood goalie Devin Phillips.
“We have a lot of weapons,” Morrison said. “Everyone is on the same page, throwing shots and crashing the net. That’s what we needed. It’s about getting shots on net and getting the dirty goals.”
One of the Big Red’s most important weapons never touched the ice this season. That’s head coach J.P. Dumont, a 12-year NHL veteran who played right wing for the Nashville Predators from 2006-11.
Dumont was hired last August to take MBA to the next level. He adjusted how the team conducted faceoffs, line changes, penalty kills and power plays, along with ramping up the intensity in practices.
“He brought in a whole new world of hockey that we had never seen,” said Haley, the Mitch Mielnik MVP winner. “He changed all of our plays and it made the biggest difference in the games.”
MBA (17-1) responded with an undefeated regular season and a march through the Predators Cup that was only interrupted by a 5-3 loss to Brentwood on Feb. 10, which forced Wednesday’s if-necessary game.
Dumont insisted that “the structure was there.” The Big Red just needed to shake their playoff blues.
“I really believe they had a bad taste in their mouths,” Dumont said. “When you lose and come so close so many times, I just used that as motivation. You never want that bad taste ever again. That was the approach we took all year.”
Brentwood took a 2-0 lead before some fans had found their seats. Back-to-back goals from Nathan Zonarich and Kal Essenmacher in the first three minutes put the Bruins in the driver's seat.
But that momentum didn’t last long. Morrison and Otis Ditenhafer each scored to tie the contest by the end of the first period.
“The plan was to have a good start,” Dumont said. “It didn’t really happen. But we showed a lot of urgency and came back in the game.”
Tyler Laub’s power-play goal midway through the second put MBA up 3-2 before Haley added his insurance tally. Brentwood junior Ben Biron scored with 6:02 left in the game, but the Rig Red defense and goalie Matthew Thayer (24 saves) kept the Bruins from getting any closer.
The if-necessary game was originally slated for last Wednesday, Feb. 17. Snow and ice across the Nashville area pushed it back a week. Morrison said he stayed in shape by running up hills to go sledding.
MBA’s seniors – including Haley, Morrison, Ty Harden, Charlie Mason and William Myers III – weren’t going to miss their last shot at a title. They were ready when that chance finally arrived.
“We had to do it for all the guys that didn’t win before,” Morrison said. “My freshman year (2017-18) might have been the best team I’ve ever played on. All those guys are my brothers and they have been supporting us throughout our high school careers. To finally win and go out on top, it’s just amazing.”