Gilbert, Brunelle on the ascent at Tahoe Hockey Academy
Sometimes the road less traveled turns out to be the most rewarding, and in the case of two hockey players who relocated from Southern California to Tahoe Hockey Academy, that couldn’t be more true.
Shane Gilbert and Jake Brunelle have been cornerstones of THA’s prep team this season, and their move from JSerra High School has been a fruitful one.
“It has been really great to see how successful Shane and Jake have been in Tahoe,” said Leo Fenn, Tahoe Hockey Academy’s president, director of hockey and varsity head coach. “It wasn’t an easy decision for either of them to come here as we’re starting just our second year, but I think they both quickly realized that the combination of a strong academic program and the intensity of the hockey program is really attractive.”
Gilbert – who is Fenn’s adopted son – and Brunelle have been friends since they were six or seven years old, hanging around local rinks while their older brothers played and keeping themselves occupied with various games they made up that honed not only their stick-handling, but their competitiveness and love for the game.
While Gilbert played for the California Stars, Ontario Eagles and California Wave through his 18U year, Brunelle skated for programs that included Orange County and the Yorba Linda Blackhawks.
They reunited for one season at the Bantam level and then again at JSerra, where they were a year apart in school. Brunelle played all four seasons for JSerra’s team in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League, while Gilbert skated for three seasons there before electing to try the Tahoe program for his senior year.
It was Gilbert’s convincing, in fact, that encouraged Brunelle to delay playing junior hockey by taking a post-grad year at THA.
“I just told him about how much you can develop at Tahoe Hockey Academy and convinced him that he could improve a lot before going to play juniors,” Gilbert said.
Added Brunelle: “He didn’t have to sell it that hard. It’s a great thing what’s happening up in Tahoe – I’m having a lot of fun here.”
Tahoe’s prep head coach, Mike Lewis, has seen some great things from both players.
“Jake has all the tools to become a dynamic, well-rounded hockey player,” Lewis said. “There’s no doubt that he’ll be playing hockey at the next level, so his stay at THA was more about refining and perfecting his skill set than anything else.
“Shane is a great kid who decided to take charge of his hockey future and step outside the box this season. You have to hand it to a kid who has spent his entire playing career in Southern California playing with friends to move to Tahoe to focus on his individual game. Shane is a kid you can’t help but root for, and it’s great to see that he’s building the foundation for a solid career at the next level.”
Both players share the same goals – to play junior hockey next season and use that as a springboard to earning a scholarship to play Division I college hockey while getting their education.
Gilbert and Brunelle felt that their best avenue for attaining those goals was by going to Tahoe Hockey Academy, where the academic program is strong and players have the opportunity to get considerably more ice time and training time than they might with other programs. That, in turn, leads to more advanced development, and both players have already noticed their skills sharpening.
“The opportunity for development is the biggest thing,” Gilbert said. “I already feel like I’m faster, bigger and stronger. We practice every single morning and work out every day after school, and the academics are held to a high standard. Everything’s been great so far.”
“I’ve already seen an increase in my speed and my strength,” said Brunelle. “And my hands are getting better.”
— Greg Ball
(Jan. 8, 2018)