It seemed impossible, but as rare as it was, the experienced Team Russo from Medford stormed out of the Loser’s Bracket and beat a hard-charging, impressive Charlestown team, fronted by Brendan Collier, two times to take the 2019 Kitchen Kup at Eden Street/McCarthy Playground (a/k/a/ The Kitchen).
The Russo team has been together for many years in the 16-year-old tournament, and while always being a tough out, had yet to win the crown. Adding a ringer from the University of Connecticut hockey team, Marc Gatcomb, and bringing in the steady goalie play of team founder Marc Russo – the team looked to be in contention.
However, early on Saturday, it was clear that Collier’s Charlestown team – with Pat Fidler and Torrin Snyderman, among others – had come to play. The team set themselves apart from everyone throughout the tournament – and it was a very strong field of 20 teams this year. Collier’s team highlighted the weekend with a Sunday win against Nolan Doherty’s team – which included strong play from Charlestown’s Sean Wrenn. That victory seemed to set Team Collier up for a roll to the winner’s circle.
But Team Russo had experience and stamina. They had to win twice against Team Collier, coming out of the Loser’s Bracket in the double elimination tournament, and they did just that.
“I think that’s only happened three times,” said Kup founder Joe Brennan. “You can probably count on one hand the number of times that someone has come out of the Loser’s Bracket and has won two times to get the Kup. That’s how hard it is…It was a very memorable Kup right down to the end. I think everyone anticipated and was excited to see if Collier’s team, with Hurley, Fidler and Brendan, was going to win it. But they lost two straight games in the finals. It’s very hard to keep the energy up – it’s two very long days and even when you’re not playing, you’re walking around or waiting to play. Russo has been playing here forever and he’s always solid in goal. Alex Vinneau and Tony Resendes have been good in this tournament for years. Then they went out and got a young gun in Marc Gatcomb. Everyone was focused so much on that Charlestown team and Russo came in and took it away.”
It was, however, the first time in a long while that the South Boston ‘Mooks’ team did not win – as they had won twice in a row. However, that team was different this year, and was led by Scottie Simpson and a band of the McDonough brothers from Dorchester. They seemed like they were poised to contend again even with the new crew, but ran into a buzz saw in the East Boston Lockhead team – which was one of several younger teams that surprised many.
“Scottie’s team is very good team,” said Brennan. “They won the South Boston tournament and the Dot Pot too. For whatever reason, they lost at the Kup. To be honest, the team they lost to – the East Boston kids – they brought it to them. They played hard and tough and were in the corners battling.”
Another surprising team that came to play was Nolan Doherty’s team, which also featured Kup Organizer Cam DelValle. That team fought through the Winner’s Bracket all weekend, but lost a monumental game on Sunday against Collier’s Charlestown team.
“Their team and Sean Wrenn and Cam DelValle and the Lockheads, they had the biggest impact aside from Russo coming back and winning it,” Brennan said.
Of course, no Kup would be the same without The People’s Team – a crowd favorite from Charlestown that has played together for years and is fronted by Nolan Carrier and John Humphreys.
A key storyline in the Kup was behind the scenes this year, and that story was of Brennan handing the organizing reins over to Hughie O’Donnell and DelValle. Both had helped Brennan out for several years, and this year stepped up and did a great job coordinating the Kup with support from their family and friends.
“Hughie and Cam did a great job,” said Brennan. “It’s their first time, but they did it. Cam’s family was down there helping, and Hughie’s family was there on Saturday. They picked up all the slack like my family did for so long…That was really what I wanted – the help from the families and kids in the community. That’s where the respect factor comes in and they get community support.”
Saturday afternoon was highlighted by a visit from Charlestown resident and Boston Bruin Matt Grzelcyk, who stopped by the Kitchen to check up on the tournament. Grzelcyk played for many years in the Kup, and he highlighted a team that helped to make the tournament a household name.
Grzelcyk visited with all his friends while there, including Collier and his team.
Grzelcyk brought an interesting storyline to this year’s Kup that tagged on with St. Louis Blues star Zach Sanford – a native of New Hampshire and also a former Kitchen Kup player. Both Grzelcyk and Sanford scored goals in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and both scored their fair share of goals over the years in the Kup as well.
Speaking of Sanford, Monday happened to be his day to party with the Stanley Cup, which he brought to New Hampshire for a private party. Sanford had played in the Kup with the Russo Team, and when he heard they had won, he invited Brennan and Team Russo up to unite Kup with Cup.
Brennan said he had hoped something like that might happen, but he had figured it would come from Grzelcyk. However, it didn’t turn out that way, but still, the Cups were united anyhow.
“It didn’t work out how we would all want it with the Bruins winning it all, but the fix was in because Kitchen Kup players were playing on both sides, and Zach was able to unite the cups,” said Brennan.
Team Russo had recruited Sanford years ago when one of their players – originally from Medford – moved to New Hampshire. Up there, he met Sanford playing hockey and convinced him to come to Charlestown for the Kup.
The rest is history, and the legend and lore continues.
“Really, it’s just the way of the hockey community,” said Brennan. “It’s so tight knit and close. Everyone knows everyone and that’s how this transpired.”
The Kitchen Kup will be played in 2020 during the first weekend in August.