A Band of Brothers: Lebanon Siblings Possess Ties to Program’s Past
From left, brothers Noah Gaudette and Dylan Gaudette leave the ice with teammate Ryan Damren at the end of practice at Campion Rink in West Lebanon, N.H., on February 25, 2015. Ryan Damren's brother Nate Damren is also on Lebanon's boys hockey team, and their father Jim Damren is an assistant coach. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon freshman Nate Damren takes a drink of water while sitting next to his brother, junior Ryan Damren, left, during a break in boys hockey practice at Campion Rink in West Lebanon, N.H., on February 25, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon junior Ryan Damren stands on the ice with his hockey teammates at Campion Rink in West Lebanon, N.H., on February 25, 2014. Damren's father Jim Damren is Lebanon's assistant coach. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
West Lebanon — After starting the season 5-10-1 in league play, the Lebanon High boys hockey team needed to win both of its final regular-season games last week to guarantee a spot in the upcoming NHIAA Division II state tournament. When it comes to family tradition, the Raiders have been tough to top all season.
Lebanon (7-10-1 league, 8-12-1 overall) carries two sets of brothers on its varsity roster, sporting familial chemistry on both its front line and defense.
Senior captain Dylan Gaudette and sophomore Noah Gaudette are defenders, while assistant captain Ryan Damren, a junior, and freshman brother Nate Damren are both forwards.
Augmenting the connections are that older relatives of both sets of siblings were teammates on the Raiders in the late 1970s. The Damrens’ father, Jim, and his twin brother, Jeff, were freshmen on the first-ever Lebanon varsity boys hockey team in the winter of 1978-79. That roster also included the Gaudette brothers’ uncles, Doug and Dave Dutille.
The lineage extends even to the previous generation before that as Jerry Damren — Jim’s and Jeff’s dad — helped co-found West Lebanon Youth Hockey in the early 1970s, of which the Dutilles were a part.
“We were neighbors with the Dutilles on Maple Street, and it truly was West Lebanon Youth Hockey. Lebanon had their own youth team,” said Jim Damren, a first-year assistant with the Raiders under fifth-year head coach Gary Smith. “Another neighbor, the Romanos, flooded their garden for us and that’s where we skated. We skated a lot outdoors. Then when Jeff and I were freshman, Doug (Dutille) was the senior captain and Dave was a junior on the first Lebanon varsity team. So there’s always been a kinship there.”
Unlike youth league — which groups children on teams of peers no more than one grade apart — getting on to high school has allowed both the Gaudettes and Damrens to skate as teammates for the first time.
Led by Ryan’s nine goals and nine assists — the former second on the team, the latter third — the Damren brothers have combined for 22 points while skating on the same forward line for much of the season. Ryan is a left wing and Nate a center.
Smith has noticed a natural cohesion among the siblings, one he hopes will blossom even more fully next year when Ryan is a senior and Nate a sophomore. “When they’re out there, it’s almost like you can tell they’re brothers,” said Smith. “They know where each other is.”
Ryan Damren has been enjoying the opportunity to not only watch his younger brother become a better player, but also benefit from his presence on the ice.
“It’s pretty cool because if I break out, he knows (my tendencies) and gets the puck to me,” said Ryan Damren.
Ryan doesn’t find himself giving Nate a lot of pointers, he said.
“I try to help out with what I can, but he’s his own player and he’s also learning on his own,” the older Damren said. “It’s been kind of a tough season, because we’ve had a lot of close games, some one-goal losses and things like that. (Nate and I) handle it differently. I always just try to see what I can work on, and he gets upset.”
Nate agreed. “I shout more,” he admitted. “But at the same time, I’m always working on my game.”
The Gaudettes’ relationship can be viewed as more of a true mentoring partnership.
As imposingly tall as he is experienced, Dylan Gaudette has been a varsity Raider since his freshman year and has learned a lot about defense along the way. While Noah isn’t shy to admit he tries to emulate his big brother, Dylan, in turn, isn’t shy about offering him instruction.
“We trust each other a lot,” said Dylan Gaudette, who is fourth on the Raiders with eight assists. “We’re partners on defense, and we talk a lot off the ice.”
Noah is always receptive. “Yeah, he tells me what to do, and I listen to everything he says,” the younger Gaudette said. “(Last Monday) after we lost to Winnacunnet, he told me about how to step up in the zone and play better defense. That’s stuff I always want to take in.”
As for sibling rivalry, the Gaudettes won’t even entertain the idea.
“We’re just not that type of brothers,” Dylan Gaudette said.
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.