Strong’s Green Knights Fall to Essex in Title Game
by Ken Brown
SOUTH BURLINGTON – Essex shut down top-seeded Rice last week to claim their second consecutive Division I boy’s hockey state championship at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Jackson Strong and the Green Knights split the regular season series with the Hornets, but a power play goal and an empty netter late was the difference in the title game for Essex as they prevailed 2-0 last Wednesday. Rice handed Essex their last loss on February 11, but the Hornets ran the table all the way to Gutterson for their fourth state championship in six years. Strong is the son of Hazen Union alum Jeff Strong, who was a standout baseball player for the Wildcats and went on to play four more years for Lyndon State College as their starting catcher. He is also the grandson of legendary Hazen coach Jack Strong, who led the Wildcats to their last state championship in baseball in 1982 and was head coach of the 1990 Vermont Twin State team. He also led the varsity girls’ soccer program to three straight state title matches from 1988-1990.
Jackson Strong was a standout soccer player for Rice this past fall as he was named to the Vermont All-State team. He led the Green Knights to 14 wins on the ice this winter and was named the Division I Player of the Year by the coaches for his stellar season. The senior defenseman led all of Division I at his position with five goals and five assists on the season. He led his team in ice time and was one of the top players on the Green Knights in plus/minus. His head coach Jerry Tarrant had nothing but glowing reviews for his senior leader.
“It has been an absolute pleasure coaching Jack over the last four years. That kid is a leader and a warrior. He has a tremendous attitude, work ethic, and he will be sorely missed. It is kids like Jack on the team that makes it hard to not come away with the championship as they most definitely deserved it. As a coach you could not ask more of a player. He was a leader on and off the ice for us, always willing to do whatever was asked of him to make the team better. It was obvious to most that he controlled the game for us when he was on the ice and the other teams focused on that. Jack understood this and still was one of the best players on the ice night in and night out. His parents should be very proud of this boy, he will do great things,” said Tarrant.