Tilton Takes Small School Title Behind the Support of Many
Neutral Zone attended the NE Prep Championship games at St. Anselm College, we tried to get comments from each of the winning Coaches. When our representative came back from the locker room area, she simply said “I can’t get near him or anyone on the coaching staff. It’s crazy down there.” Turns out it wasn’t reporters or security, it was the Tilton community celebrating a win 17 years in the making. We were able to catch up with Head Coach Brooks McQuade a week or so later after things settled in. He started off talking about the excitement and support after the win:
“It took a few days to get back to real life, this was a great moment for everyone in our community. Everyone had a part in this. Since Tilton won in 2002, we were able to get to three semi-final games but unfortunately came up short. The players and coaches that came before set the tone and paved this path of accountability and discipline. The alumni, faculty, and students supported us all year and especially that last week. No question our players felt that.”
We wanted to get more of a more detailed glimpse into Coach McQuade’s approach and his teams process this season that culminated in Tilton’s terrific season, a 22-8 record and first prep championship since Mike Walsh won the DII title in 2002. Tilton was perhaps a single win from gaining an Elite 8 invite, that’s how good the small school from New Hampshire played all year. He started by reiterating his learning from those who he worked with before at Tilton:
“Coaches learn from one another. I’ve had the privilege of working with some excellent coaches over the years. Former head coach, Pat Norton (now at Tufts) was a great mentor to me. My assistant coach Sean Doherty, who has been here for 11 years has also been instrumental in our success. Our kids know that what we are asking of them is serious. Being on time to class or any obligation, getting your school work done, lifting, nutrition, and sleep all make a difference. There are no shortcuts and we have standards that must be met in order to play. We had great players but our mission was very clear and the players bought in, which means everything at the end of the day. New guys learn quickly how it’s done. We try to get players that will trust in the process, the hard work and the commitment to a larger cause. When you do that, and you have kids whose parents in turn support our process, you can achieve in ways that far surpass wins and losses. The next stage of their lives is what we are trying to prepare them for.”
Our chat with Coach McQuade was quite refreshing. There is no question he has a “no crap” approach and players are held accountable. However, what is even more impressive is that his players understand what is expected and make sure everyone else does as well. They bought into the process. Parents supporting and trusting the process is also an important piece to their success. We know parents meddle but it doesn’t happen here.
We had seen Tilton play several times and came away impressed. From the goal out, they have plenty of talent and lots of grit. Played with intensity and we got the sense, win or lose, every team knew they had just played a detailed, talented and tough team. Tilton was as high as #7 in our Prep Polls just behind traditional, perennial large school powerhouses. Coach McQuade described his style of play:
“We want to be aggressive on the puck. Always attack the net looking to score with your stick on the ice. Two were of that variety in the final win over Holderness. All season, we told our players to take the shot you have, not the one you want.”
We often get questions about NE Prep schools and recruiting. How much do they do, where and how often. Brooks was pretty clear when we asked about his process with finding players:
“Everywhere and anywhere, that’s where we go. California, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Ontario. Quebec, etc. We go everywhere there are talented student athletes. Then we need to work to find out if the player is a good fit. We want players that want to be a Tilton. Players we can motivate.”
Tilton has always been competitive at the small school level and this season, they launched themselves clearly into the conversation with the big boys of Prep Hockey. Their process, attention to detail and extended support is a recipe for long term success. Coach Brooks McQuade and his staff are a bit of a throwback and we liked every minute of our conversation with him. Keep your eyes on the Rams as this type of success should be the beginning of even more. Recruiting, name recognition and players prepared for the next level should have them finding even more players who want to be at Tilton School.
Photo Courtesy of Tilton School