In the practices leading up to the 2009 conference championships, Greenwich High School hockey coach Bob Russell drilled then-senior Brian Macken on one thing: shooting low.
Macken had been a top scorer for the Greenwich, Conn., Cardinals all season long, and his plan was to shoot high into the top corners of the net. Up until this point in the season, the plan had worked perfectly.
It was Macken’s senior season — the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference title was one game away and he’d be off to IU in the spring where he wouldn’t be playing hockey.
The team was facing the Trinity Catholic High School Crusaders in the second-to-last game of the tournament, and they were the best team in the conference, mostly because of their goalie. Against an expert goalie, you shoot low and hope for the rebound.
In the last moments of the game, the score was 0-0 and Macken broke through several defenders with the puck.
He accelerated into the attacking zone and headed straight for the goal.
“Shoot low,” Russell thought. “Shoot low, Brian.”
He shot low. The puck was deflected to his teammate, Ross Lawson, who shot it back in for the game-winning goal. The Cardinals went on to win the entire tournament.
“Brian was unselfish and giving,” Russell said. “They were able to win that game together.”
Macken died Tuesday following an incident at Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity house Friday, but Russell and friends like Dave Snopkowski will always remember Macken as an energetic, loving and loyal guy who cared about everyone like family.
While walking across Wright Quad at the start of his freshman year at IU, Snopkowski remembered seeing Macken from afar.
They had gone to high school together and though they weren’t close, it was nice to see a familiar face. Almost instantly, they became inseparable.
“We were so different,” Snopkowski said, “but we had that bond.”
They watched a lot of TV and played video games together in the early weeks of college. But they first bonded over music.
Macken was a musical ambassador, especially when it came to jam bands.
Sophomore Michael Reagan, who lived on Macken’s floor freshman year, said they always talked about classic rock and jam bands and argued about which were best.
He also took suggestions, like when Snopkowski shared his love of jazz while Macken introduced the Grateful Dead and Phish to him.
Soon, Macken was trying to find a car he could borrow so he could take Snopkowski to his first Phish show, a two-night set in Cincinnati. They sped there and booked a hotel on the road the day of the concert after borrowing a car from a friend of a friend.
“Those two shows were some of the best moments of my life,” said Snopkowski, who no longer attends IU.
Macken was always spontaneous like that, Snopkowski added. Like how they ended up getting obsessed with badminton.
In high school, they were told that anyone who could beat the gym teachers in badminton would get an automatic A, an impossible feat.
So Macken and Snopkowski decided to spend their freshman year at IU getting better at playing.
Unintentionally, they fell in love with the sport. They played often at the Student Recreational Sports Center, recruiting random people to play them in doubles.
Snopkowski said they became good, but not good enough to go back and beat the teachers.
Macken always had a strong connection to his home, as well as his team. He called the seven other hockey players he graduated with his family, and he talked constantly to them and about them. He loved his brothers, too, who are now playing for the Cardinals.
His team felt the same way about him. Russell said each time Macken scored, one of the assistant coaches would lean over to him and say, “I love that kid.”
And Macken’s loyalty to the people who cared about him was unwavering, Snopkowski said. His number-one priority in life was to be there for his friends.
Snopkowski always turned to Macken whenever he had a bad day — Macken could always brighten a room.
Bear hugs were his specialty. Friends, acquaintances, people who lived down the hall — everyone always got a huge hug.
“He had all the love in the world,” Snopkowski said, “and he’d share it with everyone. And I loved him for that.”
— MaryJane Slaby contributed to this report.
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