Varsity Maine Girls' Hockey Player of the Year: Brynn McKenney, Cheverus

Apr. 13—It's not the stats she piled up that made Brynn McKenney the best player in Maine high school girls' hockey this winter. It was the stats her opponents didn't collect when she was on the ice.

Consistently playing 30 minutes or more each game, McKenney, a Cheverus High senior, was the defensive leader for the Stags. In a season in which 10 players statewide scored at least 23 goals and 18 scored at least 30 points, nobody racked up big stats against Cheverus, which allowed just 23 goals all season on its way to a second straight state championship.

"That is Brynn McKenney. She is playing against the opponent's best player every game," said Cheverus/Windham Coach Scott Rousseau, "and by and large, she is better than them."

McKenney was the driving force in all three zones, shutting down every opponent's offense, getting the Stags in transition, and setting up her high-scoring teammates. For that, McKenney is our choice as the 2024 Varsity Maine Girls' Hockey Player of the Year.

"We put in a lot of hard work all season," McKenney said. "We pushed each other hard. My teammates, they helped me develop."

Practicing every day against teammates Mikayla Talbot, Lucy Johnson and Caroline Rousseau, who combined for 80 goals and 90 assists, prepared McKenney to shut down the top offensive players in the state.

"Lucy, Caroline and Mikayla, they're the best of the best. Competing against them in practice, you have to bring your A game," McKenney said.

Dave Intraversato, Yarmouth/Freeport's coach, said McKenney's passing ability make her a difficult two-way matchup.

"Brynn is very strong on her stick and plays with her head on a swivel," Intraversato said. "That makes it difficult to own the offensive zone."

What made McKenney the toughest defender in the state was her combination of skating ability and hockey IQ, according to her coach. Nobody could skate backwards or pivot as well as McKenney, he said.

"She has really good footwork in tight spaces. She anticipates and understands where (shooters) want to go, and she gets there before them," Rousseau said.

McKenney was 8 years old when she started playing hockey. She switched to defense quickly and loved the position.

"Just being able to see the whole ice and control things ... I just really enjoyed defense," she said.

McKenney was able to disrupt opponents without committing penalties, spending just four minutes in the box all season. She said her goal was simply to keep herself between shooters and the net at all times, and start breakouts from the defensive zone

"I just tried to block them off, letting them know I'm there, and direct them away (from the net)," McKenney said.

McKenney enjoyed the challenge of defending players such as Penobscot's Jordin Williams, who had 33 goals overall but only scored one in two games against Cheverus, and Gorham's Emerson Homa, who led the state with 45 goals but was held to two in three games against the Stags.

"I've played with Emerson a while. I know her moves. Our whole team does. Every time she's on the ice, we know it. We're like 'Emerson Homa is on the ice.' She has a wicked shot, probably the best in the state," McKenney said.

No player had the puck on her stick as much as McKenney, Rousseau said. That was by design. McKenney's decision making through the neutral zone was a key in getting the Stags in position to score. The results speak for themselves, Rousseau said.

"A good defenseman makes good forwards great and great forwards phenomenal," Rousseau said. "Brynn drives our power play. All our forwards, they're not scoring if she's not getting them the puck in offensive position."

Cheverus converted 15 of 40 power-play chances, an outstanding 37%. After a 2-1 loss to Yarmouth/Freeport on Jan. 13, Rousseau tweaked the power play, but with McKenney still quarterbacking it from the point. From then on, the Stags went 10 for 19 with the advantage.

"This is where her offensive skills really came to the forefront, quarterbacking that unit," Rousseau said.

McKenney finished the season with eight goals and 17 assists, setting a single-season team record for points by a defenseman. For her career, McKenney had 24 goals and 42 assists for 66 points, another record for Cheverus defender and seventh in all-time scoring for the Stags.

McKenney plans to attend Montana State University, where she'll play on the club hockey team.