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With Breen back in goal, Windham hockey has pieces in place

Jan. 21—SALEM — Ben Breen missed it so much that he had to come back.

The Windham High School senior goaltender said he is playing the best he ever has in his first season since his sophomore campaign.

Breen, who also played soccer at Windham, took last year off from hockey but wanted to finish his career alongside his teammates, including his fellow 11 seniors.

"It's my senior year, we have a great team here and a bunch of great guys so I just wanted to come back and join them for this year," Breen said.

Breen earned his third shutout this season behind a 13-save effort in the Jaguars' 4-0 NHIAA Division I triumph over previously-unbeaten Londonderry Saturday night at the Icenter.

All proceeds from the game benefited Nashua-based charity Building Dreams for Marines and both teams wore special patriotic uniforms for the game. Players on both teams skated in honor of a service member of their choosing.

Building Dreams for Marines builds home or vehicle modifications, such as ramps and stair lifts, at no cost for Marine veterans or other service members living in New Hampshire who have mobility challenges, according to its website.

Breen played in honor of his great-grandfather, John Kane, who served in the Army and was stationed in France during World War I.

Windham coach Shawn Dunn said he could tell halfway through last season that Breen regretted his decision not to play.

Breen was in the stands for all of Windham's games as it went 14-4-0 in the regular season before falling, 2-1 in overtime, to Londonderry in the quarterfinals.

Breen played with Windham in the summer league that it competes in, out of Tri-Town Ice Arena in Hooksett, ahead of this season.

"He immediately wished he was here last year," Dunn said.

The Jaguars (6-2) were stoked when they heard Breen was returning, senior forward Austin Mulrenan said.

"He's our staple in net," Mulrenan said. "He's our anchor back there."

Breen, who has shared the net with Roberto Robles this winter, said games like Saturday are his favorite.

While the Lancers (7-1) tested Breen with flurries of shots at times, including seven in the second period, there were several stretches where Breen did not have much to do.

"These are the best games for me," Breen said. "They give me enough time to take a break and rest and it's just so much fun."

One of Breen's second-period saves resulted in Windham's third goal.

After Breen denied notable Londonderry scorer Owen Carey's backhanded shot at the end of a power play, Jaguars defenseman Casey Kramer scored on a counter rush 6:35 into the middle frame.

Dunn said Breen stood on his head when he needed to, which is what good teams get from their goalies. "He's been doing that all year for us," Dunn said.

Windham led, 2-0, after the first period behind a shorthanded goal from Hunter Marcin and a power-play tally from Joey Gilbert.

Marcin opened the game's scoring 1:14 into the first period with his top-shelf goal from the left circle.

Gilbert doubled Windham's lead with 1:44 remaining in the opening frame on his goal from the slot that trickled past Londonderry goaltender James Kircaldie's right pad.

Marcin's second goal of the night, which came with two minutes remaining, capped the game's scoring.

"Not happy with how we played," said Londonderry coach Mike Bears, who thanked Dunn, the Friends of Windham Hockey and Friends of Londonderry Hockey for their efforts in putting the charity game together. "Definitely got outplayed. Windham's a really good team."

Dunn said the Jaguars are working to create an identity.

When they are at their best, Dunn said, they're quick on pucks, take away time and space, wear their opponent down and utilize their speed.

"I think all of the goals that you saw tonight were the result of some turnover that was caused by somebody pressuring the puck carrier, forcing them into a bad play," Dunn said, "and that, at this level, leads to success."

ahall@unionleader.com