Category: News

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.

‘Lucky and Thankful’ – BK Selects Boys Reflect on First-Ever Graduating Class

by Matt Gajtka

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — In the scheme of a season, last weekend produced a pair of momentum-building victories for the Bishop Kearney 18U boys hockey team.

With the New York state tournament coming up this weekend, that’s no small result.

The fifth-ranked 18Us will have to get past the No. 6 Long Island Gulls, No. 7 Buffalo Regals and the No. 23 Nichols School, among others, in order to advance to nationals, so beating the Philadelphia Hockey Club twice by a combined score of 13-2 can only be a good thing for collective confidence.

But in the grander scheme of what BK Selects is trying to build, last weekend held greater significance than what happened on the ice. Prior to Saturday’s game, Bishop Kearney celebrated the first-ever boys hockey graduating class.

“The more I think about it, the more I realize I’m a part of something really special,” said captain Jack Henry (Auburn, N.Y./Yale). “I get to leave my mark here at BK and hopefully it impacts others in a way that excites them to come here as well.”

As Henry alludes to, joining BK Selects was a leap of faith for the 12 boys who make up the Class of ’22: Henry, Tyler Stern (Plainsview, N.Y.), Jaden Dyke (St. Johns, Newfoundland), Miles Meltzer (Frisco, Texas), Steven Reganato (Holbrook, N.Y.), Michael English (Smithtown, N.Y.), Dillon Cooney (Marlton, Pa.), Hans Ulvebne (Oslo, Norway), Michael Kadlecik (Lansing, N.Y.), Josh O’Connor (Halifax, Nova Scotia), Luke Cimpello (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Drew Hansen (Mahwah, N.J.).

Yes, the girls program has long established itself as one of the powers in American amateur hockey, but as of 18 months ago — in the midst of a pandemic, mind you — the entire boys program was merely a concept.

That’s easy to forget with all four boys teams now ranked in the country’s top 10, each legitimate contenders to win at nationals, but that was the reality.

So, how was this level of rapid progress possible?

“We just care,” said 18Us head coach David Arduin. “We care so much about these kids. We invest so much of our time into their betterment and becoming who they are. The hockey component is so little and you realize it on a night like that.”

The night he refers to started with a banquet last Saturday afternoon at Rochester staple Fiamma Centro. Bishop Kearney president Steve Salluzzo spoke, with Arduin and assistant coach Zachary Vit remarking on each senior individually. Boys hockey director Chris Collins also presented to the group, as did friends of each senior and a couple of last year’s alumni, via recorded videos.

On top of that, the seniors’ parents put together a 20-minute video featuring childhood photos and, as Arduin winkingly called it, “some sad music” to accompany the images. Capping it off, several seniors themselves took the opportunity to say a few words on the dais.

“I guarantee no team in the country had a senior night like that,” Arduin said. “We came in with no expectations and it turned into an emotional reflection. It was our way of showing that us coaches have learned something in our lives and we want to give it back to someone else.”

Stern feels that love and appreciation — and he says it’s mutual.

“Being in this family, wearing that logo on my chest for the past two years,” he said, “those are things I have embraced and loved. Being a part of the inaugural graduating class is something that I do not take lightly.

“I know this program is going to be successful for many years to come, and I am so lucky and thankful to have been a part of the team that helped set the standard of excellence here.”

And, much like Arduin, Stern attributes the rapid rise of BK Selects on the boys’ side to relationships, more so than forechecks, power plays and penalty kills.

“My teammates, my coaches and members and coaches of the younger teams have become my extended family,” Stern said. “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 culture and atmosphere at BK. It truly has been home for me.”

Once the players and staff adjourned to the Rochester Ice Center for the rematch with Philadelphia, there was a short pregame ceremony involving parents and loved ones at center ice. From there, it was time to face off for the final time before the postseason, in front of members of the 16U, 15O and 14U teams who toted airhorns and a banner to power the cheering section.

The result — an 8-0 win — seemed a fitting culmination to the weekend.

“There was no way we were going to lose after that banquet,” Arduin said. “You aren’t going to look down that bench and question anybody’s intentions.”

After a couple of weeks away from competition, consider the rust knocked off the 18Us’ wheels. Up next for all four BK Selects boys teams is a three-game round robin at Northtown Center in suburban Buffalo, with the top four Empire State teams advancing to the semifinals.

“I think we’re in great shape,” Henry said. “We’ve been playing some good hockey and we’re feeling good heading into the weekend.

“We’ve been preparing all season for these last few weeks, and I’ve got the utmost confidence in our group.”

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

They’re on to Pittsburgh: 19Us & 16Us Win States, Advance to Nationals

by Matt Gajtka

AMHERST, N.Y. — Their routes were different, but their results were the same. They’re on to Pittsburgh.

The BK Selects 19U and 16U girls hockey teams both reigned victorious last weekend at the Northtown Center, claiming New York state championships and accompanying berths in the upcoming national tournament.

While the 10th-ranked 19Us (39-15-3) swept the Buffalo Bisons in a two-game series to grab another banner — outscoring their in-state foe by a combined score of 14-0 — the seventh-ranked 16Us (45-12-5) had to survive a three-game round robin and two elimination matchups before they could follow suit.

But, again, the upshot is that both girls teams will again represent Bishop Kearney at nationals, which start March 31 in western Pennsylvania. Each squad has one more mountain to climb to reach its ultimate goal.

“We relied on everyone to do their part and stick to the plan,” said 16Us forward Angelina DiGirolamo (Woburn, Mass.), who led the tournament with six goals and nine total points. “We were able to maintain our emotions, which played a big role in that.

“No matter what the score was or how much time was left we always relied on one another.”

There were several pivotal points over the weekend for the 16Us, which swept its round-robin games over Syracuse Nationals (4-0), Buffalo Bison (4-0) and Valley Eagles (4-2). In the last of those three, Finley McCarthy (Whitefish, Mont.) and Rae Mayer (Chesapeake, Va.) scored power-play goals less than a minute apart in the third period to put BK Selects ahead for good and give them the top seed for the elimination rounds.

In a semifinal matchup against Syracuse, the situation was even more dicey entering the third, with the Nationals rallying from 3-1 down to carry a 4-3 lead after two. But Angelina DiGirolamo set up her twin sister Lucia (Woburn, Mass.) for the tying power-play goal four minutes into the final period, followed by a dramatic game-winner from Peyton Palsa (Annapolis, Md.) with two minutes left in regulation, assisted by McCarthy.

“We had some awesome third periods over the weekend,” said 16Us head coach Jake Anderson. “We’re getting more mature and more confident in each other. We’re staying the course even when the game isn’t going great.”

The Selects never trailed in the state final, a 3-1 win over Valley Eagles, but it was tight all the way through. Angelina DiGiorlamo scored twice, starting with a short-handed goal in the first period and capped by an empty-netter. Forward Greta Brezenski (Waunakee, Wisc.) netted a crucial score as well, giving the Selects a 2-0 lead halfway through the third.

Brezenski’s tally was the 16Us’ seventh power-play goal of the tourney on 21 opportunities, good for a 33 percent conversion rate on the biggest weekend of the season. Brezenski and Angelina DiGirolamo each scored two of those, with the latter adding three PP assists. McCarthy had three (1g, 2a) of her seven points on the advantage, as did Lucia DiGirolamo. Defender Megan Healy (South Burlington, Vt.) recorded four assists on the weekend, all on the power play.

“I’d say our ability to move the puck” was crucial, said Angelina DiGirolamo. “It causes the opposing team to get scrambled and you can really see the ice open up. As we do that, it creates a lot of chances to get a clear shot on net and get rebounds, too.”

Michaela Hesova (Hovorčovice, Czechia) and Emeline Grennan (Washington, D.C.) split the goaltending duties, with each earning a shutout in the round robin and each backstopping a win in the elimination round. Hesova, who started the final, stopped 51 of 54 shots for a .944 save percentage that ranked third in the event.

Anderson said the team was “primed” to peak in the late stages of the season and he felt the players turned a corner in January toward more cohesive play.

“We’ve grown up a lot,” Anderson said. “We’re taking pride in our own end and getting more mature. We’re playing some of our best hockey.”

The BK Selects 19Us gather around their third banner of the season. (BK SELECTS)

The same can be said for the 19Us, who in the past month have grabbed a pair of championships, starting with the Motor City Girls Fest in early February. Hoisting the New York crown wasn’t as arduous — it took two games as opposed to six — but the reality was simply this: The season was on the line against the Buffalo Bisons.

Game 1 was scoreless after one period, but defender Kendall Butze (Shaker Heights, Ohio/Penn State) scored a power-play goal off an assist from fellow Buckeye State senior Laila Edwards (Cleveland Heights, Ohio/Wisconsin) to put BK in front. Peyton Compton (Sanford, Fla./Northeastern) scored an unassisted short-handed goal, her first of two tallies on the day, followed by another PPG in the third from Edwards.

Nineteen saves from Ava McNaughton (Wexford, Pa./Wisconsin) later, and the Selects were one win from nationals.

“I think the team executed as well as we did this weekend because of all the work we put in during the season,” Edwards said. “You could see we worked much harder as the year went along and we were more bought in against our opponent.

“That really set us up for success. I’m proud of this group.”

Much like the first game against Buffalo, Game 2 was close entering the second, with the Selects up just 1-0. Three goals in the second alleviated some stress, and a six-goal third left no doubt.

Edwards scored a goal and assisted on four others, giving her a team-high seven points (2g, 5a) on the weekend. Junior forward Olivia Rubenstein (Glencoe, Ill.) scored twice in the third, both assisted by Caroline Kee (McLean, Va./Wesleyan), who finished the tournament with three helpers.

All in all, nine BK Selects players earned multiple points on the weekend, and six more wrote their names on the scoresheet once. McNaughton denied all 27 shots she faced before Chloe Lewis (Monson, Mass.) took over for the final 23 minutes of the two-game sweep.

“It was great to see everyone dialed in and contributing,” 19Us head coach Paul Colontino said, noting that his team got a much-needed “reset” after going 1-3 on an otherwise-celebratory senior weekend.

“We got some rest and got refocused,” Colontino continued. “Now we’re focused on making sure we’re healthy and getting into great shape (for nationals).”

Both girls teams will have the next three weekends off from games as they prepare for the final step of the 2021-22 season. They’ll be one of 16 teams in the running for a national title in the greater Pittsburgh area.

Fortunately for the majority of this group, it’s not the first time they’ll be exposed to this kind of tension.

“It’s still nerve-wracking, but less nerve-wracking when you’ve been there a time or two,” Edwards said. “Going in, we have a good idea of what to expect.”

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

Senior Moments: BK Celebrates the Accomplished, Determined Class of ’22

by Matt Gajtka

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The New York state tournament is approaching on the horizon, set to begin this weekend.

But before the intensity ratcheted up to the highest level of the season, the Bishop Kearney Selects 19U girls team had an opportunity to celebrate its accomplished senior class.

The 11 members of the Class of 2022 were honored Saturday, Feb. 11 at Bill Gray’s Iceplex, in a pregame ceremony complete with banners on the glass, decorated locker stalls, photos with loved ones at center ice and a banquet afterward.

It was the centerpiece of a weekend that was bookended by a Friday dinner and a Sunday brunch. In short, it was the least the program could do for a group that has helped put BK Selects on the international hockey map.

“We basically celebrated the seniors through the weekend,” said 19U associate head coach/director of girls hockey Cari Coen, who coordinated the effort with the underclassmen.

“We made sure they got all the time they deserved for putting our program into the best place they can. It’s fun to see what legacy they’ve built and what they’ll leave behind.”

Pending the results of the upcoming postseason, the Class of ’22 has left behind a lot.

The group of 11 has already reached national championship games at the 16U and 19U levels, respectively, not even counting the spring of 2020, when COVID-19 scuttled what appeared to be another title-worthy playoff run.

Calli Arnold, Nina Christof, Caroline Kee, Sophia Nortz, Laila Edwards, Vanessa Stamper, Megan McKay, Ella Altiman, Kendall Butze, Liliana Moose and Brooke George will all move on in the spring, but they’ll depart knowing they created an impressive legacy.

“This group of leaders and seniors have sacrificed a lot to put the team and the program,” Coen said. “They’ve been hit with many adverse situations and they’ve met them head-on with grace and determination.”

Include the three fifth-year seniors — Edwards, Butze and Christof enrolled at Bishop Kearney in the fall of 2017 for their eighth-grade years — and the class has actually accounted for three trips to the national championship game.

Considering 2017-18 was just the second year of the girls program, the Class of ’22 has almost written the entire history of BK Selects.

“In terms of on-ice and off-ice our class is deep in talent and overall great people,” said Edwards, a forward from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, who’s committed to the University of Wisconsin. “They’ve all represented what BK is trying to showcase.”

As expected for someone who’s been part of so much success on campus, Edwards said she felt some mixed emotions during the senior ceremony.

“Getting to celebrate with friends and family is the best thing you can ask for,” she said, “but it’s going to be hard to leaving this group of people.”

“It was very bittersweet! You wait for this moment your whole youth hockey career, then it actually comes. You’re happy, of course, but it’s very sentimental.”

Butze, a Penn State-committed defender from Shaker Heights, Ohio, confessed to similar emotions, particularly when hearing the “amazing” tribute speeches from classmates, Coen and head coach Paul Colontino at the Saturday postgame banquet.

“They were very special to hear,” Butze said, also noting the personalized decorations around the rink. “It was emotional because I’ve been here for five years, so it’s become a second home to me, and a second family.

“I think the biggest thing I took from the weekend was realizing there’s not a lot of time left to enjoy where I am, and that I can’t take any time left I have for granted.”

Loved ones hold up cardboard likenesses of BK seniors. (RICHARD COMPTON/BK SELECTS)

Make no mistake, either: The class is also determined to fill the one ‘gap’ in their collective résumé, if you could even call it that.

When asked how she hoped the Class of ’22 would be remembered, Christof kept it short and sweet.

“Hopefully, winning the first national championship!” she said.

A forward from Hammelburg, Germany, who will play at RPI next fall, Christof also couldn’t help but mention that the 19U’s three losses on senior weekend should provide extra fuel the next time the team plays a game.

“I think we could have played better,” she said, “but it was really special to be able to play in front of so many people who care so deeply about us.”

As far as the end of their BK Selects careers go, there’s only so much each individual player from the Class of ’22 can do. The competition in the state and, hopefully, national tournaments will be stiff and the games will almost certainly be close.

So, they’ll have to focus on the process in their final weeks wearing the black, red and white, with high hopes that the result they want will be their last on-ice memory at Bishop Kearney.

“I want to leave knowing the senior class created a good culture for everyone,” Butze said. “That we showed how hard we worked together as one unit, and how well we all got along.”

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

‘That’s a Big Deal’ – BK Boys Hold Their Own at Shattuck-St. Mary’s

by Matt Gajtka

FARIBAULT, Minn. — The challenge was rather obvious for the Bishop Kearney Selects boys 16U, 150 and 14U teams.

Those three squads settled an hour south of the Twin Cities last weekend for three games each against their age-group counterparts from Shattuck-St. Mary’s.

Yes, the same Shattuck-St. Mary’s that’s produced the likes of Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Nathan MacKinnon and Zach Parise, to name just a few NHL-veteran alumni. More relevant to this season, it’s also the same Shattuck-St. Mary’s that’s currently icing the top-ranked teams in the 14U and 16U age groups, and the second-ranked side in 15O.

Expectations among the BK traveling party had every right to be humble, but after the three Selects teams went a combined 3-4-2 at SSM, that’s all the more reason to believe in the rise of the boys’ squads in just their second seasons of existence.

“We rolled in there with three age groups and competed with them,” said 15O head coach Chris Collins, whose team won 8-1 in its series opener, believed to be the biggest margin of victory ever for a visitor on the Shattuck campus.

“That’s a big deal. The most historic hockey academy in the world, arguably, and our guys showed up.”

Not only did the 15O squad, now ranked third nationally after moving to 48-15-3, deliver a powerful opening statement, it came up just a couple goals shy of sweeping the entire weekend.

Despite trailing 3-0 after two minutes of Saturday’s rematch, the Selects came back to tie the game, 5-5, only to see SSM net the winner with less than two minutes to go. BK then carried a 5-4 lead into the late stages Sunday, but had to settle for a 5-5 tie.

Forward Nate Delladonna (Brewerton, N.Y.) was “a force all weekend,” per Collins, scoring a hat trick in the opening blowout win, providing more than enough offense to make a winner of goalie Jackson Silverberg (Beverly Hills, Calif.).

But when a team tangles with one of the big dogs, everyone on the roster must make contributions. Throw in what Collins called a “daunting environment” at the storied SSM campus and let’s just say the three-game performance was almost as good as it gets.

Not that their coach was shocked after his team’s season-long perseverance, which has produced several wins after trailing by multiple goals. Plus, the same core group made it all the way to the 14U national championship game last spring, falling only to Shattuck in the postseason.

“Even if we go down, we never stop fighting,” Collins said. “We could’ve folded up the tent (Saturday).”

14U goalie Quinn DeBruyn (Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J.) defends his goal at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. (BK SELECTS)

The BK Selects 14U team could’ve done the same thing, after absorbing a 7-1 defeat in its series opener Friday. Instead, Ben McManama’s ninth-ranked squad pushed back — literally — for a 4-1 triumph Saturday, before falling 6-0 in the Shattuck finale.

“We got beat up in the first game and played much tougher in the second game,” McManama said. “You see all the history up there and it’s a little tough coming out (for the first game).

“That’s why I thought that second game was great and we knew we could play with them and we had to cancel out all the noise.”

The 14Us’ two top scorers came through in the win, as Jack Murtagh (East Greenbush, N.Y.) ripped in three goals in the middle game and Cooper Dennis (Ithaca, N.Y.) picked up three assists. Defenseman James Odyniec (Wilton, Conn.) netted the other BK goal Saturday and Ethan Phillips (Rochester, N.Y.) earned the win in net.

According to McManama, the Sunday shutout defeat didn’t take much luster off the trip, even as the team, now 41-20-3, will try to use it as a lesson.

“We take away that we are really good and we can beat anyone in the country,” McManama said. “We just need to learn that we can do it on a consistent basis.”

Coming off winning the Northeast Pack championship the previous weekend, the 16U team held its own at Shattuck as well, picking off a 3-3 tie in the first game and a 4-2 win early Sunday.

“Great games and great overall experience,” said coach Dan Collins, whose team is ranked fifth nationally with a 40-14-7 record.

Chris Collins, who doubles as the Director of Boys Hockey, said he tried not to sweat the results in the moment, but he admitted it was a relief to see the student-athletes deliver on a true showcase weekend for BK Selects.

“I was proud of the boys, the coaches, and the program as a whole,” he said. “That was big of us to make a statement. That’s why we went.”

After five full months of hockey, not much remains on the boys’ schedules besides the state and national tournaments.

Following this week’s customary February break, BK Selects will welcome the Lac St-Louis Lions from Montréal for a weekend series March 5-6, wrapping up the regular season.

The author can be reached at matt.gajtka@gmail.com for story tips and feedback.

16Us Rise to Occasion, Claim Northeast Pack Championship

by Matt Gajtka

NORTHFORD, Conn. — The Bishop Kearney Selects 16U boys team entered the Northeast Pack playoffs last weekend as the lowest seed, after going 4-7-1 against league foes in the regular season.

But BK’s standing as the sixth-ranked 16U team in the nation indicated they were a major threat to take home the NE Pack title at Northford Ice Pavilion.

Turns out the Selects were primed for the challenge. They edged the second-ranked Long Island Gulls, 2-1, on Sunday in the NE Pack championship game, finishing on top in their first season in the league.

And for a team that’s now 37-13-7 on the season and harbors dreams of a national title, the Pack might be the most difficult gauntlet they’ll have to run.

“It’s the best competition in the country,” said 16Us coach Dan Collins. “I was telling the team that to win the Pack is harder to win than states and most likely even nationals.”

The proof is in the rankings. All five NE Pack teams — the Long Island Gulls, Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, Mount St. Charles, the New Jersey Rockets and BK Selects — are in the top eight nationwide, per MyHockeyRankings.com.

For elite boys hockey in the United States, you’d be hard-pressed to find a deeper group of rivals.

“The skill within the Pack is why (the playoff) is one of the most-scouted events in America,” said high-scoring forward Christian Humphreys (Pittsburgh, Pa.), who buried goals in each of the final two games.

After going 1-1 in the two-game round-robin portion of the tournament, beating the Rockets (4-0) and falling to the Gulls (2-0), the Selects earned a spot in Saturday’s semifinals, where they outlasted the Rockets, 3-2.

Humphreys and Matthew Lee (Fort Erie, Ontario) scored six minutes apart in the second period of the semi, breaking a 1-1 tie and setting up a rematch with the Gulls. Both had also netted goals in the round robin, as well.

“We had guys skating back and creating turnovers for us, so we could have a fast, transitioning offense all weekend,” said Humphreys, who has 97 points in 40 games since getting bumped up from the 15O team.

“We’ve played like that throughout the year, but last weekend we did it at a whole new level, and it paid off for us.”

The championship played out similarly to the semi, with the Selects taking command in the second. Humphreys finished a 2-on-1 rush off a dish from Brendan Boring (Waxhaw, N.C.) to make it 1-0 early in the frame, then Nicholas Shaw (Fulton, N.Y.) scored his second of the tournament on a net-front deflection during a late-period power play.

Much more work was required, though.

With Paul Dalessio (Burlington, Mass.) backstopping as he did all weekend, the 16Us stifled the potent Gulls in the third. As the final seconds ran out, gloves and sticks soared toward the ceiling.

“Discipline was what we talked about,” Collins said. “We knew we needed to force them to come through all of us. The puck was in the right areas of the ice, not putting it in the wrong place so they could create offense.”

As Humphreys mentioned, Collins felt there was a higher level of commitment throughout his team this weekend.

“Our team bought in to doing things a team-first way,” Collins said. “It was always up and down (this season). We would talk after the downs, that we can’t be there, and then not there.

“They showed they truly wanted to win. They trusted what I was telling them.”

The 18Us came close to making it an NE Pack double crown for BK Selects, but they fell in the championship game to No. 2-ranked Mount St. Charles (R.I.). The score was 4-2 after a late empty-netter.

David Arduin’s squad competed admirably through the weekend, erasing three separate deficits along the way. On Friday, Ryan Conmy (Alexandria, Va./New Hampshire) scored with nine seconds left in a round-robin matchup with Mount St. Charles, forcing overtime.

If that wasn’t dramatic enough, the 18Us rallied from 3-0 down to the Rockets in a Saturday semifinal to win, 5-3. The seventh-ranked Selects (36-14-5) trailed by two with seven minutes left and still got it done in regulation.

“I’m proud of the effort, for sure,” Arduin said. “The biggest thing we learned is that we’re able to manage our way through the game.

“If you look at pieces of the game, we’ve already shown we’re capable of beating the best teams in the country, but that’s not how it works. All in all, proud in that we showed the capability to come back.”

What made the weekend even more memorable? Both the 15Os and 14Us decided to stick around in Connecticut after they were eliminated, so they could support their BK Selects peers in their hunts for championships.

“That’s what makes BK what it is,” Collins said. “It’s about the culture and the environment. These guys live together, eat together, sleep 10 feet from each other. This was the perfect start to the final push.”

Arduin noted that this was the first time all the BK Selects boys teams were present in the same rink, as the teams didn’t compete in the NE Pack last year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“The best part of the weekend was that the younger kids decided to stay back,” Arduin said. “It was a huge come-together trip for our program.”

The 18Us will not return to game action until Senior Night on March 5. The other three BK Selects boys teams will travel to Minnesota this weekend to face storied Shattuck St. Mary’s before heading into winter break.

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