By Bill Gilman
NORTHBOROUGH – Family and hockey were two of Brian Arsenault’s great loves, and it was fitting that the Algonquin Regional High School boys hockey team’s annual tribute took place on Senior Night.
Before the Titans’ game against North Middlesex at North Star Arena on Feb. 1, Algonquin’s four seniors – Owen Cacciatore, Andrew Hodge, Jack Stiles and Nolan Yusikones – and their parents were recognized for their contributions to the program.
A short time later, Arsenault was honored with a brief ceremony featuring local country singer Mychael David performing “Some Gave All” by Billy Ray Cyrus, which pays tribute to the men and women of the armed services who have given their lives in service to the country.
Arsenault enlisted in the Army after graduating from Algonquin in 2004. He was killed in action in Afghanistan 2014, while serving in Company B, 1st Battalion 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
A memorial to Arsenault, featuring a bronze plaque, was erected at the entrance to the arena four years ago.
Each year since his death, the Algonquin hockey team has honored Arsenault with a game dedicated to his memory. For the game, the Titans wear specially designed camouflage jerseys, combining the two uniforms Arsenault took such pride in wearing during his life.
Representing the Arsenault family at this year’s game was Brian’s mother, Leslie, and his uncle, Jay Sebastian.
“It’s a wonderful show of support,” said Leslie. “He was just like [the current players.] He was a normal child, playing hockey, growing up in town. It was his favorite sport and to see them playing is great.”
Seeing Algonquin families packing the stands in a chilly arena on a frosty winter night brought back warm memories for Leslie.
“It’s family. Hockey families are our friends. We’re still all friends, no matter what,” she said. “It’s a very fun, family atmosphere. Players, families, cold rinks, hot chocolate.”
The annual hockey game isn’t the only way that Arsenault is remembered each year. According to his mother, every time he would be home from the army, one of the first things he did was grab his blades and head to the rink for a skate.
With that in mind, each year, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Arsenault’s high school friends, family members and others gather at North Star Arena for a skate. Leslie said each year the event has grown.
“It started out with just one rink, but now there are so many people participating, all three rinks are being used,” she said. “It’s amazing. His buddies and the teams and the players, they all love it.”
Algonquin falls to North Middlesex
As for the game itself, Algonquin suffered a 2-1 upset loss to North Middlesex.
The Titans outshot the Patriots, 30-9, but were stymied by the work of goalie Aaron Scarelli. Jimmy O’Keefe scored both goals for North Middlesex, which built a 2-0 lead through two periods. Nate Gulachenski scored 4:24 into the third period for Algonquin to cut the lead in half. Luke Harwich and Dylan Beard had the assists.
The Titans put heavy pressure on Scarelli late, but couldn’t net the equalizer.