Brendan Quealy: Bay Reps headed home too soon

Mar. 10—I really thought this was finally the year for the Bay Reps.

I already had plans in place for Saturday so I could make the 3-hour-and-35-minute drive down to Plymouth for the 3 p.m. start in the Division 3 state championship finals at the USA Hockey Arena.

Three-and-a-half hours there. Two hours, give or take, for the game. A couple hours to conduct postgame interviews, transcribe said interviews, edit photos, write an article about the Reps winning a championship, file the story and then get in my car for another three-and-a-half-hour trip.

So I was looking at being gone 11 hours at the least, and that's if I was hustling. Probably somewhere between 12 and 14 would have been a better estimate.

Knowing that, I needed to make sure my 2-year-old pup was looked after with food, water, treats and a few trips outside when nature was calling.

Fortunately, I have a neighbor who was kind enough to step up and take on doggie duty if necessary. And I really thought it would be necessary after watching the Reps play this season.

Not only had I made peace with a long Saturday of work, I was actually looking forward to it. And I wasn't the only one.

My colleagues here in the Record-Eagle sports department — senior sports writer James Cook and sports reporter Jordan Puente — had tossed around the idea of using one of their precious days off to also go watch the game in person.

I had plenty of podcasts lined up to listen to on the drives there and back. I had questions lined up, too, because — just like the Bay Reps players, coaches and fans had done — I was imagining a Reps state championship victory.

Had that come to pass, it would have been the first state title in the co-op program's 24-year history. Had the Reps won Friday, it would have been their first time playing for a state title. History would have already been made without a second coming off Saturday's game clock.

Even though neither of those things happened after a 3-0 loss in the state semis Friday, this Reps team was no doubt special — and whether or not they won a big championship trophy does not tarnish their specialness in any way.

You could see it right away when the season started. They played those first few games as if they'd never left the rink.

Grant Lucas made an early case to be our Hockey Player of the Year (which he is) as the Reps cruised to a 5-0 start that saw Lucas rack up 14 goals and five assists — an otherworldly pace that, had he kept it up, would have seen him score 81 goals with 29 assists. Lucas finished his senior season with 44 goals and 22 assists, proving himself to be one of the best players in the state.

But this team wasn't just Grant Lucas. Far from it.

The 2023-24 Bay Reps were stacked from top to bottom with talented, committed and unselfish players the likes of Thomas Boynton-Fisher, Ethan Coleman, Lars Millar, Ryan Lannen, Lewis Walter, Jake Dunphey, Aiden Fairbank, Hunter Ranier, Tyler Boynton-Fisher, Zach Gerlando, Carter Denoyer, Eddie Walter, Benjamin Newman, Tristen Kline, Michael Frederick, Andrew Thomas, Thatcher Beaudoin, Elliot Mason, Rowan Blain and Joel Ziecina.

The way they carried themselves on the ice set the standard for future players.

Hockey is a physical game that makes professionals pride themselves on their toughness and aggression. But the Reps played in a world of high school boys not yet at full maturity of either mind or body.

But they played the game like men.

They played it right. They didn't resort to cheap shots or dirty plays to get an edge. Truthfully, they didn't need to because their pure talent on the ice gave them the edge over almost any opponent they squared off against.

Hockey is far from a gentleman's game, but this band of brothers bonded through battle on the ice for 29 games and played like gentlemen.

And they won because of it.

Sure, they might not have won a state championship, but they won so much more that goes beyond a trophy.

I hope they know that.