by Jashvina Shah
After graduating from Hotchkiss, Conor Breen was still uncommitted. He returned home to play for the South Shore Kings, but he broke his arm and was in a cast for two months.
“It was really tough just because all my friends were getting committed and I couldn’t play,” Breen said.
But a hockey connection reappeared in the form of a previous coach, Dave O Donnell, whom Breen played under a few years ago with the South Shore Kings U18. O Donnell thought Middlebury would be a good fit, so he reached out. Middlebury’s current assistant coach Brian Phinney had also coached against Breen while he was at Salisbury.
“One thing led to another and next thing I know I was going there. It was all kind of last second,” Breen said.
With academics leading the search, Breen’s final options came down to several Atlantic Hockey and NECSAC Schools, but eventually, he chose Middlebury.
“It’s a really good academic school, it has a really storied hockey program and the campus and the feel of the school, it’s very similar to Hotchkiss, where I went to high school,” Breen said. “I really liked how the community felt and I felt really comfortable with coach [Neil] Sinclair and coach Phinney who coached against me at Salisbury so I had previously known him. I just felt really comfortable with the whole vibe.”
Breen will attend Middlebury next season after spending two years at Hotchkiss. Prior to Hotchkiss, Breen, who grew up in Rhode Island, attended Moses Brown and played for the U18 South Shore Kings. The ’97 played for the Kings in 2014-15 and transferred to Hotchkiss.
“It just seemed like a natural fit, my sister was there and was doing really well so it was just going to work out that I went there too,” Breen said.
The 6-foot-4 physical defender has worked on his skating each summer of over the past few years. In his first season at Hotchkiss, Breen netted 10 points. In his second and final season he scored 10 points. In 2017-18, he returned to the South Shore Kings for a season of junior hockey, where he played in 34 games and scored nine points.
“Coach [Mike] Traggio really pushed me to be the best player I could be, like the practices were really good, a lot of competitive small area games, also in games he just made sure we went out there and played,” Breen said.
“It was okay to make mistakes. That was the biggest thing that helped me. Just being able to go out there and know you can make mistakes and it’s ok. But everyone’s going to make mistakes, and that’s how you get better, is by making mistakes.
“When I first went to Hotchkiss I wasn’t great, and it was the first year at Hotchkiss that really helped me being able to play all the time and go out there. Even if I made a mistake, I would learn from it and he would work with me on that.”
Photo credit: Hickling Images