Category: 16U Boys

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.

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.

‘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.

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

BK Selects Boys Teams Go Unbeaten at Snowbound Culver

by Matt Gajtka

CULVER, Ind. — For most hockey fans, the word discipline often boils down to avoiding penalties.

For coaches and players, though, discipline is much more than that. On an individual level, it’s about knowing exactly how one fits into the greater scheme of the team, ideally resulting in machine-like cohesion on the ice.

If you get enough players onboard and reach critical mass, then your team becomes very difficult to play against. That was this weekend’s challenge for the BK Selects 18U and 16U teams: To match the level of discipline that’s the annual signature of the Culver Military Academy squads.

“No question it was a tough weekend,” 16U head coach Dan Collins said after his team forged a pair of ties, 2-2 and 1-1, against Culver. “Some teams you play want to run and gun and that opens things up, but these guys protect the middle and are on the defensive side of everything.

“You just had to continue to stick with the process.”

Part of that process before the weekend involved deciding whether to even play the four-game series — two for the sixth-ranked 16Us, two for the seventh-ranked 18Us — with the winter storm that blew across the Midwest and Northeast last week.

18Us head coach David Arduin doubles as the BK Selects Director of Logistics, so he joked he had to “play amateur meteorologist” for a few days in order to determine the right time to jump on Interstate 90.

“I think the easy thing to do would’ve been to cancel it but we found a way to make it safe and make it happen,” Arduin said. “And I wonder what lessons we would’ve not learned that we needed to learn, if we decided to cancel.”

Now 35-14-4, Arduin’s squad also went unbeaten against Culver and grabbed BK Selects’ lone win of the trip, a 3-1 victory Saturday. Tyler Stern (Plainsview, N.Y.) scored the final two goals in that one, both assisted by Charlie Major (Marcellus, N.Y./Cornell) and Jack Henry (Auburn, N.Y./Yale). Jack Fialkoff (New York, N.Y.) earned the win in net with 30 stops.

The 18Us’ Sunday rematch was one of the most dramatic games of the season, with Culver sprinting out to a 4-1 second-period lead before the BK Selects pushed back to force overtime. Major, J.C. Humphreys (McMurray, Pa.), Miles Meltzer (Frisco, Texas) and Michael Kadlecik (Lansing, N.Y.) each scored in the rally, with Ryan Conmy (Alexandria, Va.) assisting twice.

Even then, Arduin said some confusion in overtime regarding a particular power-play strategy meant the tie felt less than satisfying.

“We’re learning about what we need to improve upon as coaches,” Arduin said, noting that the excitement of a loud atmosphere at Culver should be good training for the Northeast Pack playoffs this week, to say nothing of the state- and national-tournament cauldrons the 18Us hope are in their future.

“Culver was really well-coached,” Arduin continued. “These were some of the best hockey games of the season. It was fast, physical, the skill level was high. Comebacks, ups, downs, highs, lows.”

Miller’s 16Us saw both sides of the drama in bucolic Culver, located less than an hour’s drive south of South Bend. They rallied to tie in one game, then saw Culver come back for a draw in the other.

Matthew Lee (Fort Erie, Ontario) scored two of the 16Us’ three goals, while Owen King (Webster, N.Y./Providence) assisted on all three. Goaltenders Paul Dalessio (Burlington, Mass.) and Florian Wade (Anchorage, Alaska) each played well as they split the weekend.

Firmly in the top 10 of the MyHockeyRanking list and standing at 37-13-5, the 16Us face the meat of their season next, with the Northeast Pack tournament this weekend in Connecticut, followed by a visit to famed Shattuck St. Mary’s in Minnesota for a three-game set Feb. 18-20.

“We’re in a pretty good spot right now,” said Collins, in his second season leading the 16Us. “Our trip to Shattuck is important. To get the feel of the place and play a program like them, being able to go there is a big thing we’re looking forward to right now.”

And if they can carry over some of the style points from the weekend on the Culver campus, all the better.

“If we play that way against some of the teams we play, with discipline,” he said, “we’re going to make it tough for them.”

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