Author: Matt Gajtka

Hype for Humphreys & New Season Boost 15Os at NTDP Showcase

by Matt Gajtka

PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Christian Humphreys made BK Selects history this summer by earning a spot on the prestigious U.S. National Team Development Program, but his accomplishment is as much about the future as it is the present.

That goes not only for Humphreys, who burst upon the NTDP scene Sept. 9 with a stunning five-goal game, but also for players currently at BK, players who know a former Select is doing big things after training in the same program they belong to.

“There was nothing better than seeing him show up big in that first game,” BK Selects 15O forward Chase Jette (Lake Forest, Ill.) said. “Being able to be close with him, knowing he has a bright future, is a great thing.”

Coincidentally, the same weekend Humphreys went off in Wisconsin against the NAHL’s Janesville Jets, the 15O boys team was in southeast Michigan for an NTDP-hosted showcase tournament to launch their 2022-23 season.

The Selects went 2-2-1, including a 3-0 win over Chicago Mission in the team’s first live action of the fall, a performance deemed by Jette to be “a great way to start off the weekend.”

The end of the team’s stay in Plymouth was arguably as inspiring as the start, as Humphreys gave the guys a tour of the NTDP’s training facilities before they boarded the bus back to Rochester.

“He’s a great kid,” 15O head coach Shayne Stockton said of Humphreys. “Our returning players were pumped to see him. We have players here at BK with aspirations to go make the NTDP and higher levels of hockey and we’re hoping they see that it doesn’t just happen.

“A lot of hard work needs to be put in and that’s why they’re here at BK.”

Stockton added that Humphreys, who started last season with the 15O squad before getting moved up to the eventual national-champion 16Us, made a major impression on his peers at BK with his work ethic. That’s just the kind of example a coach likes to point at, especially when that young athlete will now be featuring on the international stage.

“The kids here for their second year were able to see what Christian did and something that stuck out was he was always one of the first guys on the ice for practice,” Stockton said. “He bought into what the coaches preached. He did all of the things that he needed to do to reach this point in his career.

“Hopefully these kids use that as motivation and help them reach their goals.”

As for the team’s goals over the first weekend of play — a difficult one both in terms of number of games and quality of competition — the 15Os kept it simple, considering it was just two weeks ago that they skated together for the first time as a group.

Along with dispatching Chicago Mission in shutout fashion, BK Selects also blanked Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and tied the Mid Fairfield (Conn.) Rangers, but lost in overtime to the LA Jr. Kings and in regulation to the Minnesota Blades.

The Blades Showcase arrives this weekend in the Twin Cities, with the USHL Fall Classic in Pittsburgh immediately following, so there will be plenty of opportunity for the BK Selects to improve the specifics of game execution in the near future. As for now, they’re hoping to build on a two-pronged foundation.

“We’ve gone over a lot during training camp that is new to a lot of the players,” Stockton said. “So going into the weekend we weren’t too focused on those aspects, but rather two things: Compete and play as a team. At this level the only way to have success is if everyone is working together.”

A Rochester native, Stockton is also excited about the opportunity to lead a BK Selects team of his own, following two seasons as an assistant under 14U head coach Ben McManama and Chris Collins with the 15Os.

He said he considers the BK Selects experience to be the hockey equivalent of Advanced Placement courses.

“My aim is for us coaches to teach the kids what it takes to get to the next level and create a culture that every player buys into,” Stockton said. “It takes a lot to play at the highest levels, and as a coaching staff it’s our job to prepare them for it, on and off the ice.

“From a hockey standpoint, the game changes every year as you get older. We are introducing concepts and habits that these young kids will hear a lot of in their hockey careers, wherever that may be.”

The author can be reached at matt.gajtka@gmail.com.

Fruits of Their Labor: 19Us Snag Trophy in Pittsburgh to Open Season

by Matt Gajtka

PITTSBURGH — Although it was the first event of the new season, the BK Selects girls teams couldn’t be accused of easing their way into 2022-23.

On the contrary, the second-annual Labor Day Girls Fest featured as competitive a field as one could imagine, considering every team is still finding their footing on the first weekend of September.

Not that you’d know it from looking at the BK Selects’ results: A championship for the 19Us and a runner-up finish for the 16Us.

What’s more, the 19Us ran the table in the Steel City, sporting a 6-0 record highlighted by a pair of extra-time victories over the powerhouse Minnesota Jr. Whitecaps. Junior forward Angelina DiGirolamo (Woburn, Mass. / Princeton University) scored the overtime winner in the second of those showdowns, delivering a 2-1 win in the 19U Gold Division final.

“The most promising part of the weekend was the progression of the team’s game,” 19Us head coach Paul Colontino said. “We had some good character tests early that set us up for a nice semifinal and final. Good to see how the team handled things.”

Senior forward Bella Vasseur (Waitsfield, Vt. / University of Wisconsin) tied for the age-group lead with eight points (5g, 3a), including two goals in a 4-1 semifinal win over the East Coast (Mass.) Wizards. She also netted a hat trick in a round-robin victory against the Kingston (Ont.) Jr. Ice Wolves.

Vasseur said the 19U returners gelled with the newcomers extraordinarily well in late August, setting up this impressive season-opening performance. She noted it took just one practice for the familiarity to start building.

“We all connected by the second practice, and our team energy was high this whole weekend,” Vasseur said. “Our instant chemistry as a team really played a role. We outworked everyone and worked together to create individual and team success.”

BK earned its first banner of the season, thanks to the 19Us. (CHRISTINA COLONTINO/BK SELECTS)

Lucia DiGirolamo, a Princeton recruit like her twin sister Angelina, scored in back-to-back wins over Mid Fairfield and Detroit Belle Tire. Lucia was one of four Selects with multiple goals in the event, along with her sister, Vasseur and senior Peyton Compton (Sanford, Fla. / Northeastern University).

Lucia said the transition from 16U to 19U was “nothing crazy,” adding that the coaching staff did well to prepare the newcomers for the increased pace and decreased space at the older level of play.

“I think the team performed great,” Lucia said. “We rose to the task at hand and did what was expected from our group. Based on last year’s seasons for both teams, everyone had high expectations for our squad and I think we’re on the right track to achieving it.”

Colontino and staff split the goaltending duties down the middle, with great results from senior Ava McNaughton (Wexford, Pa. / Wisconsin) and junior Michaela Hesova (Hovorčovice, Czechia). The former stopped 48 of 49 shots (.979 save percentage) with two shutouts and the latter denied 31 of 33 (.939 SV%) and one clean sheet.

While the players certainly had some expectations for the start of a new year, Colontino was sure to remind that the weekend was an exploratory mission as much as anything.

“You want to have a little bit of a base for the tournament and you want to grow,” he said. “I don’t think there’s concrete expectations. It’s simply learning about your team and each other. Figuring out what kind of tools you have in the toolbox.”

16U head coach Jake Anderson should be pleased with what he has at his disposal this season, too, if the result from the Labor Day Girls Fest means anything. A 1-0 loss in the Gold Division championship game to the Jr. Whitecaps was all that separated BK Selects from a double crown.

“It was a great weekend overall,” Anderson said. “Tough loss in the championship, but it was a great weekend.”

Denmark’s Olivia Olesen shined in her first BK Selects action. (CHRISTINA COLONTINO/BK SELECTS)

Along the way to the final, the 16Us prevailed in a pair of OT games, beating East Coast Wizards in the quarterfinal round and Minnesota Northern Elite Green in the semifinals. Sophomore forward Bella Fanale (Webster, N.Y.) and sophomore defender Miami Jones (Chevy Chase, Md.) scored the winners in those.

For the tournament, Fanale and Danish eighth-grader Olivia Olesen (Odense, Denmark) tied the team lead with three goals each, while Megan Meola (Long Valley, N.J.) and Morgan Walton (Geneseo, N.Y.) put up five points apiece.

Overall, the BK Selects contingent was pleased with the elevated level of play so early in the fall. Unlike in last year’s inaugural event, Canadian teams were free to travel, which added to what was already an attractive tourney in its first edition.

“It was extremely competitive,” Vasseur said. “All of the games were fast-paced and physical.”

And, to top it off, Colontino could smile about claiming a banner in the city where he won three College Hockey America conference championships as longtime coach of the Robert Morris University NCAA Division I women’s program.

“It’s great,” Colontino said “It’s run incredibly well in terms of everything, from communication to organization. And the quality of the teams you’re able to compete against, from Canada and the U.S., was great.”

The author can be reached at matt.gajtka@gmail.com.

Bishop Kearney Alum Re Heads Renewed Focus on Residential Life

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Justin Re had already been a large part of the success of the BK Selects hockey program, but he wasn’t satisfied.

Convinced he could do more, Re approached VP of Hockey Paul Colontino about an expanded role, beyond what he was already doing as the BK Selects’ Head Strength and Conditioning Coach since the program’s inception several years ago.

As it happened, Bishop Kearney was hoping to devote more time and energy to one particular aspect during the 2022-23 hockey season: Residential life.

With school leadership realizing the importance of making the BK student-athlete experience as complete as possible, Re was asked to be the new Director of Residential Life.

“I’m a detail-oriented person so we felt this was a great fit,” Re said. “I’m familiar with the BK facilities, plus I already have great relationships established with BK administrators, Selects staff and students.”

For Colontino, who enters his second season in charge of BK Selects, it’s comforting to have someone taking the reins of res life who’s already intimately familiar with the BK experience.

“Justin brings a wealth of knowledge to BK in a variety of areas,” Colontino said. “As a former student at BK he understands what the students are going through and what it’s like to be at BK.

“His passion for BK and the growth and development of the residential life department is immeasurable. We couldn’t be more excited to have Justin leading it.”

Re — who will continue to perform his strength and conditioning duties with the 19U and 16U girls teams — has already dug into what can be done to enhance the res life activities for BK Selects.

Among those ideas: Regular non-hockey recreational programming, dedicated communal gathering places and, in general, a more college-like experience.

With the students’ return to campus imminent, Re’s gears are turning in terms of facilities, especially. A self-professed proponent of “upgrades and improvements,” Re is keeping an open mind regarding what BK might pursue in order to flesh out its brick-and-mortar offerings.

Already, there are several projects near completion. The girls’ dormitory is in the midst of a significant renovation to the dining hall. The boys’ common area is getting upgraded. Both living areas are getting fresh coats of paint.

Also, on the hockey side, two new video rooms have been created, and the varsity weight room is getting a “huge” update, per Re.

“From the facilities to the staff, I want to make every aspect of the upcoming year better than the year prior,” Re said. “We’re also working to create non-hockey related gathering areas, like a student union, and study areas.

“I think a successful res-life experience involves balance,” Re continued. “These student athletes are playing at such an advanced level with high expectations that it can be hard to remember that they are still kids. They need time to unwind, decompress, build relationships, and most importantly, have fun.”

Those thoughts were echoed by residential hall monitor and hockey operations coordinator Mia Commendatore, now entering her second academic year at Bishop Kearney. From her observation, she said that extra attention should be paid toward the students’ every-day routines, so they can be grounded regardless of how the last game or exam went.

“Hockey and academics are always on the forefront,” she said, “however, I find it very important to give them time and space to be kids. Boarding away from home isn’t a traditional high school concept for most kids.”

That balanced approach also applies to Re’s mentality as he prepares for Season 1 in his new job. He said he knows he’ll have to adapt to changing situations and be flexible to what he’s seeing when the student-athletes are away from the ice.

“My first year in res life will be a challenging one for sure,” Re said. “I won’t pretend to have all the answers but I’ll work with my team to find the solution if I don’t.

“I will do my best to make sure each student athlete has a safe and fun experience. Much like my strength and conditioning sessions, safety is the number one priority, but I want the athletes to look forward to training sessions, so I’ll take a similar approach in res life. I want the returners to look forward to coming back to BK.”

The way Re sees it, his efforts can take advantage of the best of both worlds: The established education brand of Bishop Kearney High School, plus the relative freshness of the already-successful Selects program.

“The BK Selects program is still young, so we are able to mold and shape the program how we see fit,” Re said. “The teachers have embraced the Selects program and want (the student-athletes) to be successful both on and off the ice, (and) the BK administration has been very accommodating with what the Selects program is trying to accomplish.”

In that grander scope, Re’s assignment is one part of the holistic push toward making BK Selects a nurturing environment, one that inspires the very best out of the young people who choose to join the family.

Contact the author at matt.gajtka@gmail.com.

Dawes Brings Extensive International, NCAA Experience to BK Selects Staff

by Matt Gajtka

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Bishop Kearney High School welcomes Alex Dawes to the BK Selects family as the program’s new Director of Hockey Administration.

Dawes, who has been a hockey operations professional since 2008-09, brings more than a decade of experience from the NCAA ranks — both women’s and men’s — as well as multiple stints with USA Hockey, highlighted by a video coaching role for the men’s national team at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

“Alex brings a high level of experience, expertise and professionalism to BK,” said BK Selects VP of Hockey Paul Colontino. “He understands and knows what the end product is supposed to look like and consistently achieves the desired results.

“We are excited to have Alex as part of the BK staff, and share in his expertise and knowledge. He will most certainly be an integral part in the continued growth of the BK Selects hockey program.”

Prior to joining BK Selects, Dawes served nine seasons at Penn State University, most recently as the director of hockey operations for the men’s NCAA Division I team. Before that, he was an assistant coach and director of hockey ops for the PSU women’s team.

“I believe my experiences on the college and national team levels,” Dawes said, “will allow me to support but also elevate the BK programs to an even higher level.”

Alex is a 2012 graduate of Utica (N.Y.) College and a native of Utica, and his fiancée is currently working in Rochester, inspiring his move back to the Empire State.

Dawes said he sees a lot of the same qualities at BK Selects that made Penn State one of the biggest success stories in college hockey over the past decade.

“The reason BK was so attractive is that the folks working here, now and prior, have done a fantastic job laying a foundation and building really successful programs,” Dawes said.

“It reminds me of all the hard work that went into the Penn State programs, but I know from that experience that growth never stops.”

Dawes’ success in the video coaching realm, in particular, helped him catch the attention of USA Hockey as it prepared for international events over the past several years.

In addition to his Olympic assignment earlier last winter, Dawes was also selected as the video coach for Team USA at the 2019 and 2020 men’s World Junior Championships. He made his USA Hockey international debut in 2016 with the women’s U18 squad, which claimed gold at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s annual tournament.

On top of managing video for purposes of scouting and strategy, Dawes’ myriad duties at Penn State included day-to-day operations, game scheduling, road trip management, home game-day coordination and hockey technology.

Dawes began his hockey career as a freshman at the University of Vermont, aiding the Catamounts’ efforts as they made the men’s Frozen Four in 2009. From there, he transferred to Utica College and served as assistant coach and director of hockey operations for the men’s NCAA D-III team for four seasons.

Quartet of BK Selects Girls Shine at IIHF U18 World Championships

by Matt Gajtka

Spearheaded by Laila Edwards’ MVP performance for Team USA, the BK Selects girls were extremely well represented at this year’s IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships in Madison, Wisconsin.

Edwards, a Cleveland native who will attend the University of Wisconsin in the fall, led all USA players with four goals and tied for the team lead with eight points, en route to receiving both MVP and Best Forward honors.

Along with Bishop Kearney friends Finley McCarthy (Whitefish, Mont.) and Ava McNaughton (Wexford, Pa.), Edwards helped the Americans to a silver-medal finish at the annual tourney, won by Canada in a tight final.

“I had that success because I was also playing with some of the world’s best players, under some of the world’s best coaches and having a lot of fun while doing so,” Edwards said.

Add in the sterling performance of Czech goaltender Michaela Hesova (Hovorcovice, Czechia), who had the second-best save percentage in the tournament, BK Selects-trained players put on quite a show on an international stage.

“What a tremendous accomplishment,” BK Selects VP of hockey Paul Colontino said. “Watching BK players representing their countries at the highest level on that stage evoked numerous emotions. What an honor to say that these athletes are BK Selects.

“I can safely say that everyone at BK was proud, excited, and trying to find any way they could to support and cheer them on. From teachers to administrators to coaches, we are all so very proud of their accomplishments.”

With Edwards, McCarthy and McNaughton all competing internationally for the first time, Team USA went 3-0 in the preliminary round, capped by a remarkable 7-0 defeat of Canada. Edwards notched a goal and a primary assist in what tied for the biggest blowout of the entire event.

The Americans then dispatched Sweden in the semifinal round, 3-2, with Edwards assisting on the winning goal.

Edwards, who earned plenty of media attention for her performance in her future home rink, said she was “extremely excited and honored” to get the call from USA Hockey.

“It had been a goal of mine for a while,” she said of the selection.

Although the United States lost to Canada in the final, 3-2, McCarthy scored a second-period goal to help the Americans rally from three goals down. The Class of 2024 forward ended up with two goals and two assists in five games, tying for sixth on the team in scoring.

“Playing at BK for the past three years has more than prepared me to play and compete at that level,” McCarthy said. “I was definitely challenged and my time and space with the puck felt shorter, but I never felt uncomfortable.

“It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. Unlike any other hockey trip or tournament I’ve been to. I am so honored to have been a part of it.”

Hesova, another BK Class of ’24 representative, was also decked out in red, white and blue, albeit for the proud hockey nation of Czechia. With Hesova starting all five games, the Czechs swept the three-game preliminary round, outscoring opponents 12-2.

While the Czechs’ run ended with a 2-1 semifinal loss to Sweden, Hesova acquitted herself admirably throughout, posting a .944 save percentage, a 1.05 goals-against average and two shutouts.

“The whole championship was an incredible experience,” Hesova said. “It was fun to play against some other international teams, see how is our team doing compared to them, and now we know what we can improve on.”

“All of the small things that I or we did throughout the season added up and luckily came together at the right time.”

Hesova added that she was “super proud” of her BK teammates on Team USA, who came within a couple of goals of claiming gold. Czechia and Team USA did not face each other in the tournament.

Edwards will soon begin her Badger career, but McCarthy, Hesova and McNaughton will be back on the Bishop Kearney campus in several weeks, ready to build upon their time spent amongst the world’s best — and perhaps realizing they stack up as well as any young women on the planet.

“I gained so many lifetime friendships from the experience,” McCarthy said. “Through this tournament and the weeks leading up to it, I grew as a hockey player and a person.”

The author can be reached at matt.gajtka@gmail.com.

FEATURE: In Their Own Words, the BK Selects Big Picture

by Matt Gajtka

It’s worth remembering, when considering all that the BK Selects hockey-development program has accomplished, it hasn’t even been six years since the first player took the ice wearing the Bishop Kearney crest.

Backed by benefactor Tom Golisano, the 16U girls team began play in the fall of 2016, capping a multi-year effort spearheaded by Bishop Kearney board of trustees chair and Class of 1982 alum Rich Spencer.

When he spoke to me earlier this year, Spencer said the objective — first sketched out on a restaurant placemat during a meal with Golisano — was to create the “best girls hockey program in the world.”

Of course, Bishop Kearney now supports four boys teams in addition to two girls teams, but that initial ambition continues to drive all who have a hand in guiding the hockey effort.

“It’s a lofty goal,” Spencer said, “but as I sit here, I’d say we’re not far off.”

In case you think that’s hyperbole, consider the results: All six BK Selects teams finished in the top 10 of the USA Hockey rankings this spring — capped by the 16U boys, who became the first BK team to win the national postseason championship.

So, what’s made BK Selects such a success in its short history? Let’s hear it from the folks who’ve helped make it happen:

‘DO YOU THINK THERE’S A NEED?’

SPENCER: The academy was approached by a youth sports organization that conducted a girls hockey tournament. Their intention to start a girls hockey academy. They stopped in Rochester for an event and asked if there’s an academy in the area. They cold-called the school and the president reached out to me. He knew I was a hockey person.

He said, “I’ve gotta ask you a crazy question: Do you think there’s a need for a girls hockey program?” The need was great, because in girls youth hockey, she’s playing with a travel program that’s not afflicted with a school, because she wants to play at a high enough level to get exposure to Division I schools.

With no clear formula for combining hockey and school, you arrive at college ill-prepared for the academic rigors that you’re going to face. It was clear there was a dearth of opportunities for girls to prepare for the challenges of college.

CHRIS COLLINS, director of boys hockey/15O head coach: I give a lot of credit to the girls program. They were here five years before we started. They figured out a lot of the kinks that come up with a new program, with the relationship with the school as well.

SPENCER: There are certain prep schools where the teachers are not at all enamored by the fact that you’re an athlete. Maybe they take a dim view of the teacher having to bend over backwards because you’re a great athlete. I’ve heard from student-athletes (at other schools) who succeeded in spite of their instructors.

The BK teachers understand that the hockey program has helped the school to survive. They feel it’s incumbent to help the players. They’ll make themselves available so the players can get their assignments completed. They want to be a help, not throw obstacles in the way.

PAUL COLONTINO, VP of hockey/19U girls head coach: Something that stands out, especially when you have young programs like this, is the mentality of the staff and players is all hands on deck for anything. With new programs, adversity pops up every day in many different shapes and forms.

The mentality of the staff is simple: Adapt and overcome. They just find a way to get it done at the level they want.

SPENCER: If it were easy to start a prep hockey program, everyone would do it. It’s fraught with issues, from food service, to discipline, to dormitories. In order for us to get to the next level, we realize and we understand that we have the very best personnel possible to achieve greater heights.

Hiring someone like Paul Colontino (in 2021) in his role was a real coup. It brought decades of experience that we simply did not have. Having him in the room in any discussion, from hockey jerseys to dinner plans to tournaments to conditioning, every discussion is made better by having Paul in those conversations.

COLONTINO: You move forward a bit every year, but every year it seemed like they raised the bar and the benchmark of the type of student-athletes BK is evolving towards. The rate of growth is exponential.

SPENCER: I’m blown away by the level of success we’ve achieved. It’s blown past any expectations I had several years ago. We want to maintain our current level, but improve some things that sometimes fall through the cracks, the bread and butter of our daily lives.

It’s a dream to have a field house facility that will have both indoor turf fields and rinks. I’m hopeful we’ll get that; it’s a natural progression, especially with six teams. You don’t just wave a magic wand. You have to have the right people in place. Now we really have to shore up some of the things that’ll make us better.

There were many dark days, trying to get funding for construction. It seems when we need an answer, we get one.

CONFRONTING COVID AND OTHER CHALLENGES

COLONTINO: Last season was the first for the boys program, in the COVID year. Like everybody in this world, it was difficult, but they were able to do some tremendous things.

RYAN CONMY, forward, Class of 2023: Coming here was definitely a bit of a risk for everyone, not knowing exactly what to expect with COVID and it being only the second year of the organization.

SPENCER: Last season, there were prep schools that played almost no games. We made a decision that we were going to support the coaches and play as many games and practices as we could. We exposed ourselves to risk, but we put our faith in our coaches and said we’ll do what we can to play a full season.

NINA CHRISTOF, forward, Class of 2022: Everything that comes at me (in college), whether that is challenging academics, physical testing, or having a tough practice, I have already gone through. It showed me that I can overcome anything that life throws at me because I already have. 

CARI COEN, director of girls hockey/19U associate head coach: Our first class, they came in second year of the program and made the national championship game at the 16U level. The year after that they got to the national title game, and last year same thing. Then COVID cancelled nationals in 2020, but they were in position again.

They’ve been hit with many adverse situations and they’ve met them head-on with grace and kept pushing forward. 

GRETA BREZINSKI, forward, Class of 2024: I think it comes down to the passion of the players. Everyone at BK strives to get better. There are so many girls going the extra mile, not only to help themselves but their team as well. The coaches also know just how hard to push us. Nobody works harder than us or does more because, like coach says, the hungriest dog runs the fastest, and we are starving.

SPENCER: The players immediately rose to the top academically, and they’re up every morning at 6 a.m., many up before that to go into the shooting rooms for 30-45 minutes. Weightlifting, shooting pucks early. They start their academic day — rotating schedule for boys and girls — and go until 2 p.m. or thereabouts. Directly after that, they’re on their way to the rink. On the ice followed by (dry-land training), back to the dorms at 6 p.m., dinner and then study hall. BK has a very high standardized test score for the students, and that speaks to the course load the players are exposed to.

JAKE ANDERSON, girls director of admissions and player placement/16U head coach: The team becomes bigger than the individual. It showed with our willingness to compete, block shots, make some of the plays you don’t get any credit for. When kids have a bad shift, we’re good at picking each other up and getting through the tough moments — the ability to kill penalties and not complain about them being taken.

We gotta go out there and do it for the person next to you. They go from just saying it, to believing it. You just know it when you’re around it.

BUILDING THE #BKBRAND

SPENCER: The story can’t be told without the understanding why our school was there in the first place. An Irish man named Edmund Rice, back in the 1800s, lost his wife and was responsible for a special needs child. He started the Christian Brothers religious order, with a mission to educate the less fortunate. The Christian Brothers went on to found Bishop Kearney High School.

When I talk to the players and the parents in each incoming class, I tell them that I’m all about winning a national championship and getting on the honor roll, but I’m here to educate the less fortunate. If we hold true to that mission, good things happen. Our goal is one that benefits other people, not ourselves. That’s the history behind our school.

BEN MCMANAMA, boys director of admissions and personnel/14U head coach: On the admissions side, it’s becoming a lot easier for me, because a lot of people are reaching out. It’s insane the amount of people who want to come here. Everyone sees what we’re doing. Everyone wants to jump on board. The quality of players reaching out is outstanding. Before it was us trying to get them. The legitimacy of the program is obvious in the hockey world.

LUCIA DIGIROLAMO, forward, Class of 2024: A big thing going around the dorms right now is the ‘BK Brand’ and we don’t have that without all the teams being on board. It’s always exciting to see your teammates’ and friends’ hard work pay off.

DAVID ARDUIN, boys director of logistics and player placement/18U head coach: We just care. We care so much about these kids. We invest so much of our time into their betterment and becoming who they are. These kids are our way of showing that we’ve learned something in our lives and we want to give it back to someone else — a product of being around them all the time. We come to work; we think of them. We go home; we think of them.

CONMY: It has been life-changing. Everyone wants to be at the rink and in the gym every day, which makes it a good group to be around every day. The bond that you get to form with your teammates and even kids on other teams, is amazing. I know that I love my teammates like brothers and we will always be a part of the BK Family.

BREZINSKI: The chemistry and community that BK creates makes it feel like home and helps us get to perform at our best. The work ethic that BK has just attracts the right people to create a powerhouse program. 

SPENCER: When parents would show up at the school and look for a place for their child to play hockey, what they come away with is a real sense of community and family. They tell me this. The players need an education to go on, and we can provide that.

The hockey part of it, we just hired the very best people, not necessarily just the best coaches, who would be there for the players. We didn’t want some drill sergeant; we wanted coaches who really cared about the players and would help them grow as young athletes.

COLLINS: The staff and the people we have is huge. They’re elite hockey people and they’re good people. Everyone has different experiences. The No. 1 thing we want to build is culture. You have a good locker room, good kids … it makes winning a lot easier.

We’ve built something here that’s successful and it’s fun. You go to the rink every day and it’s a blast. The players and the parents feel it.

TYLER STERN, forward, Class of 2022: Everything about BK has been beyond special. The most amazing thing, however, is how much of a home the program has been for me. My teammates, my coaches, and members and coaches of the younger teams have become my extended family.

I have made bonds and friendships that will never be broken, and memories that will never be forgotten in my two years here. This is all thanks to the first-class atmosphere and culture at BK. It truly has been home for me.

The author can be reached at matt.gajtka@gmail.com.

A First for BK Selects: Humphreys Named to U.S. National Team Development Program

by Matt Gajtka

Christian Humphreys had already accomplished enough for two seasons — if not more — during 2021-22.

Not only did the Pittsburgh native earn an autumn move from the BK Selects 15O team to the 16Us, Humphreys ended up posting 121 points (43 goals) in 66 games as an underage player for a squad that won the program’s first-ever national championship.

But Humphreys wasn’t done when he kissed the USA Hockey trophy.

After an impressive performance at a March evaluation camp, the high-scoring center became the first BK Selects player to be selected for the Michigan-based U.S. National Team Development Program.

“Being with a group of like-minded guys who were dialed in to working hard, both on and off the ice, was a positive environment,” Humphreys said of his BK Selects experience. “The coaching staff at BK is one of the best groups of coaches I could ask for to guide me on the journey. They’ve all played at a high level and push us to make the most of the opportunities we’re given.”

Next comes another opportunity. Humphreys was one of 23 players chosen for the USNTDP’s Under-17 team, which will convene in the fall and compete in a schedule comprised mostly of junior Tier I USHL competition, in addition to international events.

“Christian is ultra-competitive,” said BK Selects director of boys hockey/15O head coach Chris Collins. “He has a fire inside him which allows him to play with an edge, shift-in and shift-out.

“Combining that competitiveness with his elite hockey mind is what makes Christian the exceptional player he is.”

The NTDP just completed its 25th season, with the goal to prepare student-athletes for participation on U.S. National Teams and success in their future hockey careers. The NTDP has produced 17 top-five NHL draft picks all-time, including five No. 1 overall selections, and almost every NTDP player secures an NCAA Division I scholarship.

You could say Humphreys has been on the NTDP’s radar since his 57-goal, 94-point output in a 45-game season for the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 13U team in 2019-20, but he took the next step upon arrival in Rochester, scoring 49 goals and an eye-popping 126 points in 49 games for the BK Selects 14Us.

After the 5-foot-11 right-handed shooter started the 2021-22 season with 34 points (19 goals) in 19 games at the 15O level, BK Selects leadership decided to bump him up to the 16Us. Humphreys admitted the jump was “a little bit of a struggle,” especially when it came to the pace of the game, but he clearly got up to speed in a hurry.

“His growth in maturity to where he is now impressed me,” said 16U head coach and BK director of hockey operations Dan Collins. “He really wants to be a complete hockey player and a winner. This year he took huge strides in both areas.”

Before taking up residency in the Detroit exurb of Plymouth, Humphreys will tackle his summer preparations with the guidance of USNTDP sports-science professionals.

“We are lucky to have a training and nutrition plan to make sure we are ready to go for the start of the season,” Humphreys said. “I have a great trainer in Pittsburgh who will work with the trainers at the program to make sure I show up in the best possible shape.”

Considering how he’s earned this chance to shine on a national stage, bet on Humphreys making an immediate positive impression with the NTDP. And bet the players, coaches and staff back at Bishop Kearney will all be pulling for him.

 

Contact the author at matt.gajtka@gmail.com for tips and feedback.

16U Girls Stopped in National Title Game, 19Us Make U.S. Quarterfinals

by Matt Gajtka

PITTSBURGH — When you make it as far as the Bishop Kearney Selects girls teams did, the end of a season often seems like a paradox.

Do you celebrate the achievement, in this case, earning your place in the knockout round of USA Hockey’s national tournament? Or do you lament how close you came to standing atop the mountain?

How about both?

Although the BK Selects 16U and 19U squads ultimately did not bring trophies back from Nationals — with the younger group getting closer by making the championship game — this season provided even more evidence that the program has established itself as a perennial contender in elite girls hockey.

“The girls put up a goal at the beginning of the year to play for a national championship,” said 16U head coach Jake Anderson. “This year showed all that work come to fruition. They bought in and played for each other and not themselves. Extremely proud.”

The 16Us, who finished the season with a nation-leading 55 victories, sustained their lone loss of the 16-team tournament Monday morning at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, with Minnesota Gray pulling away for a 5-2 win in the title tilt.

But the indelible, symbolic image of the tournament for BK Selects will undoubtedly be Greta Brezenski’s overtime game-winner in the semifinal round the day before. The 16Us trailed the Michigan-based powerhouse Little Caesars 2-0 entering the third, but goals from Lucia DiGirolamo (Woburn, Mass.) and Morgan Walton (Geneseo, N.Y.) in the third forced extra time.

Not only did Brezenski’s in-tight strike deliver the 16Us’ first win over Little Caesars in two years, it also happened with most of the 19U team standing 10 feet away behind the glass.

“I was so zoned into the game,” said Brezenski (Waunakee, Wisc.), who also assisted on Walton’s short-handed equalizer. “I was so laser-focused on scoring. I did not want the season to end without our team proving just how great we are.”

The older group had been knocked out of the tourney the previous day by eventual national champion Little Caesars 19U, but that disappointment didn’t keep them from being there to start the party.

“We got back to the locker room,” DiGirolamo said, “and the 19s were waiting in there to celebrate with us. That’s just a fun thing I’ll remember forever. We are one program and I think having both teams there made a huge difference.”

“You don’t plan those moments, but they just happen,” Anderson said. “The ‘BK Family’ is what we talk about and the programs have really embraced that. It becomes bigger than the individual.”

Brezenski, who scored five goals and assisted on four others in six Nationals games, also notched the sudden-death winner in the final game of round-robin play, vanquishing the East Coast Wizards and allowing BK to finish tops in its four-team group.

Finley McCarthy (Whitefish, Mont.) paced the national runner-ups with 10 points (3g, 7a), while twins Lucia and Angelina each netted four goals and three assists. Michaela Hesova (Hovorčovice, Czechia) started five of the six games, sporting a .902 save percentage.

Even counting the championship defeat, the 16Us won 18 of their last 20 games. Mind you, most of those games were played under postseason stress, plus the self-imposed pressure to deliver Bishop Kearney’s first girls hockey national title.

“We showed a lot of perseverance and resilience,” Brezenski said. “We were very much seen as the underdog by a lot of people and I don’t think they thought we would make the (national) final. I am so proud of us for showing everyone what the BK brand of hockey is.”

The fight for the top of an increasingly-deep girls hockey landscape will continue, with BK Selects one of a handful of programs who have proven to be there at the end year after year.

That, of course, goes for the 19Us as well. While head coach Paul Colontino’s group didn’t finish atop the nation, they did deliver another state championship along with two other tournament triumphs and a 44-17-3 overall record.

“Our last game was against the best, and we’re right there with them,” said Colontino, who wrapped his first season as Bishop Kearney’s VP of Hockey. “The part I liked was how hard we battled. A quarter-inch here and a quarter-inch there could’ve made a huge difference.”

Senior Laila Edwards (Cleveland Heights, Ohio/Wisconsin) wrapped up her BK career by leading the team with six points (1g, 5a) in four games. Junior Peyton Compton (Sanford, Fla./Northeastern) scored the Selects’ lone goal of the semifinal and finished with three in the tournament, pacing the squad.

Junior goalie Ava McNaughton (Wexford, Pa./Wisconsin) was strong between the pipes while playing every minute of all four Nationals games, posting a .924 save percentage.

“I’m still really proud of the team and how we always stuck together,” said German-born senior forward Nina Christof, who will attend RPI in the fall. “It’s still without a doubt a major accomplishment. A lot of time we lose this view because we are so focused on becoming the national champion.

“Our coaches do a great job of making sure that we know no matter what happens at the end of the year, we had a great season and have evolved as a person as well as a hockey player.”

From the holistic perspective, 2021-22 was a banner year for BK. All six teams — both girls and boys — qualified for Nationals, with the 16U boys breaking through for the school’s first USA Hockey crown.

Furthermore, all six teams made the national quarterfinals, with three teams getting as far as the semis and two advancing to the final game of the season. On the trail to the summit, Bishop Kearney has set up a sizable base camp.

“The rate of growth is exponential,” Colontino said. “We’re really pleased with the success of the teams and the program as a whole. A fantastic season.”

The author can be reached at matt.gajtka@gmail.com.

Sweet Sixteens: Bishop Kearney Selects Win Program’s First National Title

by Matt Gajtka

ROCHESTER, Mich. — With four seconds left in Monday’s 16-and-under USA Hockey national championship game and his Bishop Kearney Selects team up 3-1, Dan Collins called timeout.

But even though the ensuing faceoff was in the defensive zone, it was all but impossible for the Long Island Gulls to score twice and spoil the party.

In other words, this wasn’t about tactics. This was about recognition of what was about to happen. In a sport that seldom allows its participants to catch their breath, the head coach of the BK Selects 16Us gave his players the opportunity to savor the moment before The Moment.

“As a coach it was one of those things you dream about,” said Collins, still grinning 15 minutes after his team won Bishop Kearney High School’s first national hockey crown.

“At that moment they needed to know that they were about to win a national championship,” Collins continued. “It was a special moment for us to enjoy it together. Understanding the work we put in, (and) that we were about to get there. That’s what that was for. It was awesome.”

After the most raucous 60 seconds you’ll ever see from a team that hadn’t yet technically won, the puck was dropped and hacked safely to the end boards.

Officially, at a few minutes before noon, they had done it.

And gloves and sticks weren’t the only things that fell to the playing surface at Suburban Ice Rochester.

“I started bawling,” forward Matthew Lee (Fort Erie, Ontario) said. “Being out there with my brothers … Our thing was to be a family this year. To go in the (dressing room) and celebrate with gold medals on our necks, it was awesome.”

Ironically, the 16Us were the only BK Selects squad — boys or girls — to not win a New York state title last month. Collins’ bunch needed a (much-deserved) at-large bid to make it to America’s top youth hockey showcase.

“This year we didn’t even win states, so that’s the chip on our shoulder,” said goalie Paul Dalessio (Burlington, Mass.) after stopping 29 shots in the final. “It’s so special. We’ll never forget it.”

After arriving in this northern suburb of Detroit last week, the team known as the Rochester Saints for USA Hockey purposes swept their round-robin group, collecting wins against the Yale Jr. Bulldogs, Arizona Jr. Coyotes and Boston Jr. Eagles. The first of those came in overtime, with defenseman Josh Player (Thorofare, N.J.) scoring in the final minute of sudden death.

That portended the tight battles to come in the single-elimination portion of the 16-team tournament.

BK edged Culver Military Academy, 2-1, in Saturday’s quarterfinals, guarding the lead for 2 1/2 periods. Goalie Florian Wade (Anchorage, Alaska) denied 25 shots, including 14 in a batten-down-the-hatches third period. That allowed Mikey Bartkowski’s (Fort Mills, S.C.) short-handed tally late in the first to hold up as the winner.

The script was much less tidy in the semis, when Chicago Mission rallied from two goals down after two periods to force overtime. But it didn’t take BK long to rebound, as Lee set up Christian Humphreys (Pittsburgh, Pa.) for a nifty finish and a berth in the national championship.

“I think getting knocked out of states motivated us to do all we can do to win a national championship,” said Humphreys, who led the 16Us in scoring this season after getting bumped up from the 15O team last fall.

For all the talk of using a previous failure for motivation, a success might have actually been more impactful for the 16Us — at least when it came to the last game. Back in February, BK defeated the Gulls in the final of the Northeast Pack playoffs, successfully protecting a one-goal lead in the third period.

This time, BK was in front for the final two frames, after scores from Jack Plandowski (Halifax, Nova Scotia) and Owen King (Webster, N.Y./Providence) in quick succession overcame an early 5-on-3 goal for Long Island. Plandowski redirected a Player shot during a power play, then about a minute later, Nicholas Shaw (Fulton, N.Y.) stole the puck in the neutral zone and sent King away on a partial breakaway.

Remarkably, the 16Us didn’t allow a single odd-man rush the rest of the way, and defenders did a wonderful job fending off Gulls attackers intent on bulling their way to the net.

“It was comedy,” Lee said of the familiarity between the final combatants. “We knew their system. They knew ours. It just came down to details.”

Dalessio was rock-solid throughout, but much to his teammates’ credit, he didn’t have to come up with anything spectacular to preserve the lead. By the time Brendan Boring (Waxhaw, N.C.) guided home an empty-netter with a minute to play, the virtuoso defensive performance was complete.

“They did exactly what we asked,” Collins said. “We had to take (the Gulls’) number one option away, which is to get to the interior. The boys bought in and packed in the house. Ultimately, when you’re up, you shouldn’t be giving leads back if you’re focused.

“We knew that’s how the game would end up being, so I’m not asking them to change anything. I was asking them to execute exactly what we’ve talked about. Very, very happy for these guys that they got that reward at the end for all that hard work.”

Allowing just eight goals in six games, the 16Us (44-16-8) were indeed playing their best structural game at the most important time of the season. Lee (3g, 4a) and Humphreys (2g, 5a) co-paced the team in points across the tourney, while captain King was the top finisher with five goals.

“Throughout this tournament, we’ve been the most structured team defensively,” Humphreys said. “After getting up 2-1, all of us knew we were going to win the championship. Same thing happened in the Northeast (Pack) playoffs. We knew we didn’t need any more offense, so everyone was back-tracking.”

Christian Humphreys (left) and Owen King celebrate with championship hardware. (BK SELECTS)

It all added up to a national championship in just the second year of the BK Selects boys program, a remarkable achievement for all involved.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” defenseman Lenny Greenburg (El Segundo, Calif.) said. “This year, from the start, this was our goal. We knew we could make it here and win it, and it feels awesome.”

And as has been the case throughout the season when a BK Selects team went deep in a tournament, the black-and-red cheering section included a healthy contingent of players and coaches from squads who had been previously eliminated.

Not that those teams had anything to be ashamed of. The 18Us made the quarterfinals in the same rink before getting knocked out by second-ranked Mount St. Charles — another Northeast Pack rival — while the 15Os and 14Us each reached the semis, losing to Shattuck-St. Mary’s teams in Plymouth, Mich., and Chicago, respectively.

“Just incredible,” said 15O head coach and Director of Boys Hockey Chris Collins. “You’ve got four teams competing at the highest level, it’s an incredible feat. The only team that didn’t win states, won nationals. 

“It’s massive in Year 2 of the program. You can’t describe it.”

Indeed, only perennial powerhouse Shattuck-St. Mary’s could match Bishop Kearney’s total of four teams in the national tournament. The 16Us might’ve been the only BK Selects squad to carry hardware back to western New York, but they weren’t the only squad to make a statement.

Plus, the players who’ll return to campus in August will carry the knowledge of what it’s like to try to bring your best hockey when all eyes are on you, from friends and family to hundreds of scouts from the NHL, NCAA and high-level juniors.

“There’s nothing like the nationals aura,” said 18U bench boss and Director of Player Placement David Arduin. “It’s the best teams in the country and then there’s the (pressure) of trying to win it. There’s nothing quite like it.”

The same could be said for the taste of a national title. Not that it doesn’t take its toll. Dan Collins had the look of a man just crossing the finish line of a marathon — a marathon that went extremely well, but a marathon nonetheless.

“I’m exhausted,” he said with a laugh. “I feel like I’ve been here a month. I always feel like I’ve been through it all, but for this, you feel the nerves. Everything was as heightened as it possibly could be, but as a competitor, that’s why you play.

“For me, for the players, everything, that’s why we wanted to be here.”

They’re here, alright, but the BK Selects grand plan is to stay here.

So far, so great.

The author can be reached at matt.gajtka@gmail.com.

Triple Crown: 18U, 15O, 14U Boys Teams Rule Over State Tournament

by Matt Gajtka

AMHERST, N.Y. — Ryan Conmy looked up, seeing nothing but open ice between him and the net.

Nothing, that is, except Nichols School goalie Lawton Zacher, who had stopped 48 of 49 Bishop Kearney shots through 3 1/2 periods of a deadlocked 18U New York state championship game.

With a defender bearing down in pursuit, though, Conmy didn’t have time to think about the implications. After pulling in a lead pass from Miles Meltzer (Frisco, Texas) leaned in and powered a forehand shot past Zacher, lifting the BK Selects to a 2-1 sudden-death win as his teammates sprinted off the bench.

“It was all reaction,” said Conmy, a native of Alexandria, Virginia, and a University of New Hampshire commit. “I just hopped off the bench when Miles made a perfect pass.

“It all happened so quickly I really just remember calling for the pass and then celebrating.”

Conmy’s third goal of the tournament capped a wild ride: After beating the Syracuse Nationals (14-0) and Nichols (5-1) comfortably in the first two games of the round robin, the 18Us fell 4-3 to the eighth-ranked Long Island Gulls — only to turn around and stifle the Gulls 3-1 in the single-elimination semis.

“I’m close to the coaches on the (Gulls’ staff) and they said they’ve never seen our guys play that well,” Arduin said. “It might have left our guys a little hungry, to lose in the round robin, as well.”

And all that was only a prelude to the title-game dramatics, when Zacher and Co. threatened to steal the show at Northtown Center.

Not only did the BK Selects outshoot Nichols by a 2-to-1 margin, they went 0 for 9 on the power play through three periods, leaving a first-period penalty-shot goal by J.C. Humphreys (McMurray, Pa.) as the only puck behind Zacher in regulation.

For a team that had lost three tournament title games this season, negative thoughts had to have been creeping into the minds of players and coaches.

“It’s just human nature,” Arduin said. “The message before overtime was that we have to be the most confident team in the country, because we’ve put in the time and the effort to deserve to feel that way.

“We all know what we’re expected to do, so all it comes down to is confidence and effort. Keep putting your head down and making the right choice.”

Fittingly, the winning goal was born from a strong backchecking effort and a quick transition to the attack.

“Just knowing how good the celebration was going to feel was what helped us stick to our game,” Conmy said. “We knew that all we had to do was play our game and do our thing. It took a bit longer than we may have hoped but it came. It felt great to do it with an awesome group of players and coaching staff.”

The raucous win not only locked up a berth at nationals for the 18Us, it meant Bishop Kearney won states in three of four age groups. Prior to Conmy’s winner, both the 15Os and 14Us cashed in titles of their own.

The BK Selects 15O team poses with its state title banner. (BK SELECTS)

There was similar drama in the 15O bracket, albeit one round earlier, as Nate Delladonna (Brewerton, N.Y.) scored the lone goal of BK Selects’ semifinal against Buffalo Jr. Sabres at 13:12 of overtime. Nicholas Wellenreiter (Dundas, Ontario) set the table on the winning 3-on-2 rush, with Delladonna finishing bar-down.

While the Selects — ranked third nationally with a 54-16-4 record — would’ve likely gotten an at-large bid to nationals either way, the Jr. Sabres had to win to extend their season, making the effort required to vanquish them even greater.

“You’re trying to end their season,” 15O head coach Chris Collins said. “It’s always tough against them and it was another great hockey game.”

Despite playing on just 3 1/2 hours’ rest, BK Selects got a hat trick from Will Shields (Falmouth, Nova Scotia) in the final to power a 7-4 triumph against Buffalo Regals and a second straight trip to nationals for most of the group, who won states in the 14U bracket last spring.

“Last year taught us what it takes as individuals, but more importantly, as a team,” said team captain James Chase (Williston, Vt.). “It gave us knowledge on everything that goes into winning a state title. It was nice to have that guidance and expectation for the team this year.”

The Selects scored five goals in the final’s third period to rally from a 3-2 deficit, with Grant Dillard (Champagne, Ill.) and Justin Dumais (Montréal, Quebec) lighting the lamp 90 seconds apart early in the frame to put the good guys ahead for good.

“The Regals are a hard-nosed team and they were playing well, but we battled back,” Collins said. “We’ve been a great third-period team all year. That makes it easier to close out these games.”

Geno Carcone (Woodstock, Ga.) led all players in the tournament with eight points (4g, 4a), with Delladonna’s seven (5g, 2a) ranking second. Patrick Curtatone (Sommerville, Mass.) backstopped three victories, including the championship and a 25-save shutout in the dramatic semi, while Jackson Silverberg (Beverly Hills, Calif.) denied all 42 shots he faced in a pair of wins.

“We had a few slow periods in some games, but when we pulled things together and played the right way, we dominated,” Chase said. “States weekend is always very emotional and I thought we did a good job keeping our cool and making sure we didn’t get wrapped up in anything.”

The BK Selects 14U team celebrates its state title. (BK SELECTS)

Much like the 15Os, the 14Us also went unbeaten in their championship run, although Ben McManama’s squad never trailed after the first period while piling up a 25-8 scoring margin across five games.

“We were focused on doing the little things and the details,” McManama said. “I think we’re starting to get it. We’re simplifying our game and it makes us hard to play against. Playing the game the right way has brought us to the next level.”

Chase Jette (Lake Forest, Ill.), Jack Murtagh (East Greenbush, N.Y.) and Cooper Dennis (Ithaca, N.Y.) finished 1-2-3 in 14U tournament scoring, piling up 14, 13 and 10 points, respectively. Ethan Phillips (Rochester, N.Y.) started three of the five games, stopping 71 of 74 shots for a .958 save percentage.

After Jette buried a hat trick in a 4-2 semifinal win over Clifton Park Dynamo, Murtagh scored twice in the final, a 4-1 decision against the Long Island Gulls. Now 47-22-3, the 14Us have risen to sixth in the nation according to MyHockeyRankings.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year, and that’s taught us a lot,” Jette said. “During this last push at the end of the season, everyone has been more focused and strict at our practices and workouts, especially the coaches. This has helped us play to our maximum potential during big and upcoming games.”

Ironically, the 16Us were the only BK Selects team to claim a Northeast Pack title last month, but they were the only BK squad to come up short at states. After going 3-0 in the round-robin stage — highlighted by a 4-2 victory over the second-ranked Long Island Gulls — the 16Us fell 3-1 in the semifinal round to Buffalo Regals.

Including the 16Us, all four BK Selects boys teams will continue to practice through the month, although only the 18Us will play again before nationals. Ranked sixth in the country and sporting a 44-17-5 record, Arduin’s team will welcome St. Andrew’s College from Ontario on the final weekend of March.

A tune-up will be welcomed after two weekends off, since the 18Us seem to be playing their best hockey right now. For example, seven players averaged more than a point per game in the state tournament, paced by defenseman Drew Hansen (Mahwah, N.J.), who posted two goals and six assists.

On top of that, many of the 18Us made nationals last year as part of the first-year 16U squad.

“The way we can play against the most skilled teams and the tougher, more physical teams will help this team be successful at nationals,” Conmy said. “We play the same way every game, with tons of confidence.”

The author can be reached at matt.gajtka@gmail.com.