Category: 16U Girls

BK Selects Girls Collect Wins at Nationals, But Miss on Biggest Prize

by Matt Gajtka

DALLAS — Neither the 19Us or the 16Us climbed the mountain last weekend at the USA Hockey Nationals, but their results deep in the heart of Texas nevertheless reveal a BK Selects girls program that remains among the nation’s best.

The older group, ranked second in the country entering the tournament, made the deeper run of the two BK squads, highlighted by a 4-3 overtime victory Sunday over 2022 national champ Detroit Little Caesars in the quarterfinal round.

The fact that the second-seeded 19Us — who were missing a handful of players due to injury — were edged by the third-seeded Philadelphia Jr. Flyers in a semifinal tilt later that night didn’t obscure one of the best seasons in the history of the program.

“We can say, at the end of the tournament, we left it all on the ice,” Bishop Kearney VP of Hockey/19Us Head Coach Paul Colontino said. “Would we have liked to have done a bit better? Sure, but the team did well and we had some gutsy wins.

“It’s a great season, but when you have only one goal in mind, that’s when you have to be careful to see the big picture.”

Even if they couldn’t capture the first girls national crown for BK, Colontino’s squad compiled an overall record of 49-8-6, including an utterly dominant New York state championship and a first-place banner at the highly-competitive Labor Day Girls Fest.

Two departing seniors in Bella Vasseur (Waitsfield, Vt. / University of Wisconsin) and Peyton Compton (Sanford, Fla.) tied for the team scoring lead at Nationals, with each notching 10 points in five games. Compton scored six goals to pace the 19Us, including the OT winner against Little Caesars. Vasseur doled out seven assists, with three coming on a power play that converted six times in the tournament.

Graduating goalie Ava McNaughton (Wexford, Pa. / University of Wisconsin) also sparkled in her final youth action, posting a .935 save percentage and a pair of shutouts in five starts. Defenders Brooke George (East Montpelier, Vt. / University of Vermont) and Molly Jordan (Berlin, Conn. / Boston College) went out on a high, too, contributing seven and six points, respectively.

Jordan’s power-play goal with two minutes left in Sunday’s quarterfinal sent that game to overtime, where the 19Us outshot Little Caesars 13-6 to reverse the trend of the three regulation periods.

“It was an absolute roller-coaster of a game,” Colontino said. “Anytime you get those playoff overtime wins, there’s something extra that comes with that. Each team took control of the game at different points. I thought we flipped it in OT and generated a lot of great opportunities.”

In the semifinal, played on just a few hours’ rest, BK had a chance to grab an 1-0 lead on Philadelphia, but a quick whistle scuttled an early scoring chance. Instead, the Jr. Flyers netted a pair before the first intermission. Second-period goals by defender Ashley Mandeville (Pascoag, R.I. / Mercyhurst University) and Compton cut the margin to 3-2, but BK couldn’t draw even in the third.

“We started out great,” Colontino said. “We felt confident that we had a chance.”

Addison Tremel led the 16Us with two goals at Nationals. (Christina Colontino/BK Selects)

As for the 16Us, their Nationals experience ended earlier than they expected, as they were eliminated after round-robin play with a 1-2 record.

They opened their tournament last Thursday with a showdown against Mid Fairfield (Conn.) Stars, falling 6-1 to the team that would go on to win the national title three days later.

It didn’t get any easier the next day, when head coach Jake Anderson’s team had to face top-seeded Minnesota Elite. Although BK Selects performed admirably in holding Minnesota to 22 shots on goal, they couldn’t finish any of their 20 shots and lost, 2-0.

“The first game is so important and we just didn’t play our best,” Anderson said. “The next day (against Minnesota) we played well, but just couldn’t score. It was a tough draw, and we take some solace from that, but it was a tough week.”

But while they knew they would not be advancing to the single-elimination quarterfinals, the Selects rebounded with a 4-1 win over hometown Dallas Stars Elite to close their Texas trip. Addison Tremel (Newcastle, Wash.) scored at even strength and short-handed, while Payton Palsa (Annapolis, Md.) and defender Lucie Tenenbaum (Redwood City, Calif.) recorded two points each.

The 16Us went 44-13-6 on the season, highlighted by an emotional triumph in the New York state tournament last month.

“I’m really happy with the year overall,” Anderson concluded. “In my opinion, we had a lot of kids get better, which is the primary goal of the program.

“Hopefully some of the hard lessons that we faced will be learned. The coaching side is what I’ll be thinking about over the summer, how to help the team play their best at the end of the season.”

Anderson noted that some of those lessons could’ve been learned second-hand, as the 16Us shifted from competitive mode to the biggest fans of the 19Us.

“Those games were incredible,” Anderson said. “That older group had a lot of adversity and perseverance and they still played their best. Hopefully our girls saw that and understand and look up to that.”

The author can be reached at

(Top photo: Peyton Compton maneuvers for a shot. Credit: Christina Colontino/BK Selects)

BK Selects 16U Girls Take States, Barge into Nationals on Mayer’s OT Goal

by Matt Gajtka

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The puck went in. The celebration was nearly complete. BK Selects had taken a 3-2 lead with less than three minutes to go in the New York 16U girls state championship game.

Except, they hadn’t. Not according to one of the referees, who ruled the Amherst Knights’ net had been dislodged prior to the goal.

Considering all that was on the line — not only the state title, but also an automatic spot in Nationals at the end of March — that dramatic moment could have easily broken the spirit of the BK Selects.

Instead, the controversial official’s decision seemed to spur them on, as they surged to a 15-1 advantage in shots on goal the rest of the way, capped by the game-winning goal off the stick of Rae Mayer (Chesapeake, Va.) eight minutes into sudden-death overtime.

“It could’ve gone the other way, but we found another gear,” 16U Head Coach Jake Anderson said. “We took that information (disallowed goal) and moved on. We knew we had this. That’s the moment when I was like, ‘OK, we’re onto something here.’

“That’s the proudest moment you could have as a coach.”

And it’s the happiest moment you could have as a player.

“Honestly, words can’t describe it,” Mayer said. “The energy in the rink was unbelievable and really shows people how much of a family we really are.

“Obviously scoring the OT goal was awesome, but at the end of the day it was a team effort and we did it as a team.”

As is audible on the above embedded video, the BK Selects 19U girls team was stationed right behind the glass for Mayer’s season-extending goal, ready to celebrate their younger cohort joining them in the USA Hockey Nationals, set for March 30-April 3 in the greater Dallas area.

The 19Us — ranked No. 2 nationally — clinched New York themselves with convincing wins of 8-0 over Rome Grizzlies and 11-0 against Buffalo Regals on Saturday, leaving the drama to the 16Us on Sunday, albeit not without significant rooting support.

“The 19U team was absolutely amazing and helped keep the energy up throughout the whole (16U championship) game,” Mayer said, “which I think also helped a lot.”

The 16U team poses after winning the state, with the 19Us behind the glass. (Christina Colontino/BK Selects)

On top of the late disallowed goal, the 16Us had more reasons to be frustrated near the end of the title tilt.

They outshot Amherst 44-24 through regulation, but Knights goalie Brynn Bacak had matched BK netminder Emeline Grennan (Washington, D.C.) save for save. Still, the Selects carried a 2-1 lead into the final five minutes of the third on goals by Paige Wallace (Huntington, N.Y.) and Megan Meola (Long Valley, N.J.), but a disputed offensive-zone penalty called on BK led to the Amherst equalizer with 3:53 left on the clock.

“It was basically a home game for Amherst,” Anderson said. “When they tied the game, the roof almost came off the place. I felt like if we could’ve gotten that third goal (in regulation), we would’ve scored five or six, but they made it 2-2 and things got crazy.”

But not crazy enough to keep the 16Us from the outcome they worked so hard (and so well) to achieve. And when BK forced a turnover in the neutral zone eight minutes into OT and pushed the puck back up ice one more time, they were rewarded for their efforts.

“Obviously (the disallowed goal) took us all by surprise,” Mayer said. “I think at first, the team was definitely upset about the call but we were able to come back together, realize the moment we were in, and realize the job we had a job to finish.”

Mayer’s sudden-death strike culminated a tense weekend for the 16Us, who knew their No. 11 ranking in USA Hockey wasn’t likely to grant them an at-large bid to Nationals if they didn’t first raise a victory flag at the New York state tourney.

Given that pressure, it would’ve been easy for individual players to take too much upon themselves to be the primary difference-maker. Nevertheless, they took care of the Syracuse Valley Eagles (6-0) and Amherst (5-2) on Saturday, then edged Rome 2-1 on Sunday morning to clinch a return date with Amherst with everything on the line.

“What impressed me most was how we all came together and worked together, even in moments when people could have tried to do it themselves,” said Morgan Walton (Geneseo, N.Y.). “We all had enough discipline to trust everyone and use everyone on the ice to make the right plays.”

Walton admitted she felt the pressure heading into the state tournament, but she didn’t think that was a negative.

“I think knowing that if we would’ve lost, we wouldn’t have made Nationals made me a better player,” she said. “I had to be at my best level to make sure we achieved the right outcome.”

The next challenge will be for both BK Selects girls teams to both recover for the heightened intensity of Nationals and also maintain the edge they’ve sharpened over the course of several months.

For example, the 16Us showed exactly how important conditioning is when — at the end of a draining weekend — they had enough left in the tank to control play against a team just as hungry for a victory as they were.

“We talk about from the first day that conditioning isn’t going to be a variable,” Anderson said. “They put in so much work. We push them when they don’t want to be pushed.

“(The championship game) turned into just a matter of time. Their team couldn’t do it anymore. They had fallen off the edge a little bit. We maintained our pace for longer. Their goalie made a lot of saves, some spectacular, but the conditioning is what got us through.”

In other words, all that sweat they’ve shed since the start of the season was in preparation for this time of year. It’s time to trust that investment and deliver.

“We work everyday and do things that most programs aren’t doing,” Mayer said. “We take pride in the little things and at the end of the day that’s what’s going to win us games. We love playing good teams and are super-excited to see the competition (at Nationals).

“I think we’re prepared.”

The author can be reached at

(Top photo: Bella Fanale [left] and Emeline Grennan celebrate with the New York 16U banner. Credit: Christina Colontino/BK Selects)

‘The Best Time of Year’ — BK Selects Girls Bear Down for Postseason

by Matt Gajtka

DETROIT — There’s nothing that can truly simulate the excitement and stress of the playoffs, but as far as regular-season events go, the Motor City Girls Fest does as good a job as any.

Featuring top Tier I programs from across the country, this event — put on by Premier Ice Prospects — asks teams to play six games in less than 72 hours, if they manage to go all the way to the finals of their respective divisions.

The BK Selects 19U girls achieved that feat, and although they fell in the final to the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers, the fact they pieced together five consecutive victories against quality competition to get to that stage has the team feeling strong in the midst of the stretch run.

“It was a good opportunity to learn where we’re at,” said Bishop Kearney VP of Hockey/19U Girls Head Coach Paul Colontino. “(The Motor City Girls Fest) is hard but it mirrors the (USA Hockey) national tournament. It was a good game in the championship, even if it wasn’t our best, but with the glass half-full we’re able to take some of those things and learn from them.”

With a record of 40-7-5 and a No. 2 ranking in the country, the BK Selects 19U girls would be on anyone’s shortlist of national title contenders. Their only losses over the past two months are to the fourth-ranked Jr. Flyers and 11th-ranked Detroit Little Caesars.

Still, standards are high in these parts, so any bump in the road is examined to make sure the team is in the best possible position to peak by early March.

“We have all been extremely committed to being the best team in the country,” said senior forward Bella Vasseur (Waitsfield, Vt. / University of Wisconsin).

Vasseur led all BK 19U skaters with four goals in the tournament, and tied for the team lead in points (six) with Izzy Krause (Calabasas, Calif.) and defender Molly Jordan (Berlin, Conn. / Boston College). Goalie Michaela Hesová (Hovorcovice, Czechia / Dartmouth College) won all three of her starts and posted a .929 save percentage in teaming with fellow ‘tender Ava McNaughton (Wexford, Pa. / University of Wisconsin).

Colontino noted that Jordan — who last month was named to the IIHF World Under-18 Championship all-tourney team — is playing like “the best defender in the country at this level” and that Vasseur has been “killing it” on the ice. He also complimented his team on keeping spirits high, which is no given after the competitive grind of the past five months.

“We have a good group that has no problem bringing energy every day,” Vasseur said. “We all feed off of it and build on it every day. We’ve had a little adversity and we know what we need to work on: The little things.”

That same brand of self-examination is going on with the 16U girls, who won their first four at Motor City before bowing to sixth-ranked Little Caesars in the semifinal round.

Head Coach Jake Anderson’s team is 39-11-6 and ranked 11th — certainly nothing to turn up your nose at — but the bench boss has had to make sure his players understand the narrow margins of elite girls hockey.

“They want to be in every championship game,” Anderson said, “and when it doesn’t happen they feel like they’re far away. We’ve been telling the players, ‘Just stay with it, because you’re a lot closer than you feel like.’ “

Forwards Rae Mayer (Chesapeake, Va.) and Morgan Walton (Geneseo, N.Y.) paced all BK Selects 16U players in Detroit with five points apiece, while defender Shayla Beaudette (Aurora, Colo.) recorded four.

Defense has been a strength for the 16U girls. (CHRISTINA COLONTINO/BK SELECTS)

The 16Us also continued a season-long defensive trend in allowing just six goals in the five games they played at Motor City — a total that includes the two empty-netters given up at the end of the semifinal game. Goalie Emeline Grennan (Washington, D.C.) faced just 43 shots all tournament, a testament to the team’s ability to limit chances.

“Our team is playing a really good team game, especially on the defensive side of the puck,” Anderson, whose team has given up just 62 goals in 56 overall games. “We have to continue to work on generating offense and being consistent through the whole game, but our effort is consistently good.”

As one of the older players on the team, forward Payton Palsa (Annapolis, Md.) has taken charge of additional leadership duties this season.

“It’s definitely been a challenge, but I’ve learned so much,” she said after notching a pair of assists in Detroit. “It’s so fun and I’ve become a better person. I’m so excited for (the state tournament).”

The New York state tourney is still a few weeks away at the start of March, but ramping up for that occasion is the primary focus of practice this time of year. Also, Anderson said standalone weekend series against high-quality foes like Durham West last month and Pittsburgh Penguins Elite this upcoming weekend help the coaching staff nail down any potential problem spots.

“In the first half of the season, it’s about building the habits of practicing and competing,” Anderson said. “A lot of these players are away from home for the first time in their lives. In the second half, we work more on team concepts.

“How much control do we have on when we peak? I don’t know, but the idea is that you put in enough work for seven months and then it shows up at the end of the season.”

The 19Us are on a similar timetable, although they have the emotions of senior weekend directly ahead before then can fully focus on winning the New York tournament and qualifying for Nationals.

“We’re a very talented group and we have an outstanding culture, collectively,” Colontino said. “Our seniors are doing a phenomenal job in being role models, but I’d say collectively, to a person they’re doing a good job of doing the right thing and saying the right thing.”

One way to look at it is that the pressure amps up this time of year. Another way to look at it is that the rewards level up as well.

“We know our systems well at this point,” Palsa said. “We’ve been working hard as a team, just headed towards that end goal now.

“It’s definitely stressful, trying to perfect everything, but it’s definitely the best time of year!”

The author can be reached at

BK Selects Girls Bring Back Pride, Medal from U-18 World Championship

by Matt Gajtka

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Young hockey athletes choose to play for BK Selects to grow their abilities and reach their potential.

Thing is, they don’t have to actually be wearing a white, black and red jersey to pursue those goals.

That was the case earlier this month for the eight members of the BK girls program — seven from the United States and one from Czechia — who competed in Sweden at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s annual Under-18 Women’s World Championship.

In fact, BK Selects was the program that contributed the most players to the Team USA U-18 roster, quite the accomplishment for an organization that didn’t exist a decade ago.

“The level of play at the international stage is the best you will get,” said Team USA alternate captain and BK Selects 19U defender Molly Jordan (Berlin, Conn. / Boston College). “It is fast, physical and extremely competitive. Every team and every player has something to prove, as well as a winning mindset.”

And while the United States fell two wins shy of a gold medal — they lost to the host nation, 2-1, in the semifinal round — the Stars and Stripes proudly took home bronze medals after a 5-0 defeat of Finland in the tourney’s third-place game.

“Preparing for the bronze-medal game was just as important,” Jordan said. “We came together as a team and got on the same page before the game, and made it clear that if we didn’t win this game we would go home empty-handed.

“Suiting up for a game that you didn’t initially want to be playing in is tough, but we did it as a team and played for something bigger than ourselves. I am proud of all of my teammates for representing the U.S. the way we did.”

The pride went both ways, of course. The returning players were greeted warmly at the Greater Rochester International Airport by a host of teammates, family members, coaches, support staff and BK boosters.

“It was honestly such an amazing welcome home,” said forward and Webster, N.Y. native Bella Fanale, the only 16U BK player to make Team USA. “It just shows the support system we have created at BK. We’re not just a program and a team, we’re all one big family. It made me so happy coming home to all my best friends, who are sisters to me.”

“It was very refreshing to see all of my teammates, coaches, teachers, and dorm moms at the airport,” Jordan said. “I am a new senior to BK this year, but this team is like my second family and knowing how much they all support us is unreal.”

Let’s just say that after a 35-hour travel gauntlet to get back across the Atlantic, any amount of hospitality would’ve been appreciated. But the presence of the welcome party stealthily assembled by Director of Girls Hockey Cari Coen, complete with local news cameras and promotion by Tipping Point Communications, sent the message that this was a celebration.

“It’s important to celebrate it when you win a medal at the international level,” Coen said. “We did something similar in the COVID year (2021) but we didn’t blow it up like the way we did here. For the growth of the game locally, to have people understand that we have one of the best programs, is big.”

American forwards Lucia DiGirolamo (Woburn, Mass. / Princeton University) and Finley McCarthy (Whitefish, Mont. / University of Wisconsin) paced the BK contingent offensively with two goals and an assist each, while Czech goalie Michaela Hesová (Hovorcovice, Czechia / Dartmouth College) also shined, posting the fourth-best save percentage of the tournament (.897) while starting four games.

This was the second IIHF U-18 experience for Hesová and McCarthy, both of whom were selected for the COVID-delayed 2022 edition held last summer in Madison, Wisconsin.

“I fed off of the ‘returner’ role, and felt that due to my position I was able to make a little more of an impact on my younger teammates,” McCarthy said. “I didn’t feel more responsibility as much as I felt confidence in my ability to play well.”

DiGirolamo scored the United States’ lone goal in the semifinal, and Fanale scored Team USA’s final goal of the tournament to cap the bronze-medal win.

In addition, Jordan was named to the media-selected All-Tournament Team, the only USA player to be so honored. She cited her hockey IQ, “lockdown” defensive play and offensive contributions as aspects of her game she was proud of during the stay in Sweden.

“I did everything in my power to put the spotlight on Team USA, and show everyone watching what a phenomenal team we were,” Jordan said. “I thank my teammates and coaches for always pushing me, because without them I wouldn’t have these kinds of opportunities.

“The pace at which the games are played is backed by tenacious efforts from every player on the ice. The pace of the tournament is addicting, and it leaves you wanting more.”

Now the task turns to the rest of the BK Selects season, both for Fanale’s 16Us and the 19Us, who welcome back McCarthy, Jordan, Hesová, Lucia DiGirolamo, Peyton Compton (Sanford, Fla. / Northeastern University), Megan Healy (South Burlington, Vt.) and Rose Dwyer (Wynnewood, Pa. / Cornell University) for the stretch run.

While several of their teammates battled on international ice, a short-handed BK Selects 19U squad held up quite well in the Fort Laudy Daudy Showcase, going 3-2 against top competition in South Florida. The 16Us excelled, too, in posting a 4-1 mark that included wins over top-10 opponents Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and Detroit Little Caesars.

“It was a strong showing with limited players,” Coen said. “It’s about knowing you have more in your tank when you think you don’t.”

The next big benchmark for both girls teams arrives on the first weekend of February, when they travel to Detroit for Premier Ice Prospects’ Motor City Girls Fest. In the meantime, the second-ranked 19Us (33-6-4) and 11th-ranked 16Us (33-7-6) will take on seeding games for the upcoming postseason.

And for those who competed against the best in the world, the goal is to apply those lessons learned while wearing the BK shield.

“Every day you have to take it as a day to get 1 percent better and give it your all,” Fanale said. “One thing that stuck out to me (from the U-18s) is how important energy is on and off the ice. It’s contagious and makes a difference in team performance.

“Competing at that level forced me to make the simple play and taking that back to BK is very important for our team as we dominate when we work together and simplify the game.”

The author can be reached at

Photo credit of Bella Fanale: IIHF/USA Hockey

International Students Thriving for BK Selects Girls — On and Off the Ice

by Matt Gajtka

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It’s only natural to be curious when someone from another country joins your classroom, workplace, or whatever type of group you might be part of.

But when you grow up playing hockey in North America, you get used to encountering people from certain puck-loving countries, places in Europe like Sweden, Finland, Czechia, Slovakia and Russia.

Leave it to BK Selects 19U forward Nikki Sharp to break that trend. A native of Perth, Australia, Sharp transferred in to Bishop Kearney last summer for her one and only season with the Selects, and her background definitely qualifies as novel for most people she encounters — especially her teammates.

“The girls are definitely interested,” Sharp said earlier this fall after the 19Us’ productive weekend in Detroit at the USA-Canada Cup.

“All of them ask me about Australia. It’s very different from America, I find.”

In what ways?

“Oh, I wouldn’t be able to describe it,” she said, smiling, “but if you visited both places you’d be able to see a difference.”

Fair enough. Not like most of us could call Sharp’s bluff on that, anyway.

But if we could put the shrimp-on-the-barbie stereotypes aside for a moment, Sharp does inject a different kind of mindset to the very Type-A world of elite youth hockey, and it’s a demeanor that seems prevalent among those who hail from Down Under.

“She brings an easygoing, calm, collected personality to the team,” said Cari Coen, BK Selects’ 19U Associate Coach/Director of Girls Hockey. “In North America we’re more chomping at the bit, but she brings a lot of poise. She’s always putting smiles on girls’ faces.”

Ideally, including international students in one’s school serves both sides. The individual brings their unique perspective and abilities, which the institution benefits from, while the school provides opportunity for the person to advance themself in a discipline or course of study.

That’s the goal at Bishop Kearney with its international program in general, but specifically as it relates to the BK Selects hockey teams, literal goals on the ice are also kept firmly in mind. And maximizing the effectiveness of the team means helping someone feel like she’s somewhat less than a full day’s flight from home.

For instance, in the case of Sharp over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, it’s making sure she has some company after all her teammates were able to head back home for a few days.

“We’re always trying to make the team better and more inclusive,” said 19U Head Coach/VP of Hockey Paul Colontino. “Cari (Coen) does an awesome job keeping a pulse on all that.

“We try to raise the girls’ levels of independence and try to be proactive and setting up the appropriate meetings and seeing the appropriate people when assessing what their needs are. It’s necessary to make that effort.”

Sharp is one of two international students on the 19U team, along with Czech goaltender Michaela Hesová. Bishop Kearney permits two on each squad, with Canadians typically taking at least one of those spots. Indeed, on the boys side of the program, every international spot this school year is claimed by a Canadian student athlete.

The girls’ 16U team includes Nova Scotian defender Alara Murphy, but three of the four international girls are from overseas. Denmark-born eighth-grade forward Olivia Olesen rounds out the younger group.

“I was really interested in attending a good academy, so my dad and I talked a lot about it,” said Olesen, who’s been playing hockey since she was 3. “When I heard about BK, it sounded interesting and an awesome place.”

BK coaches often get exposed to potential international students while taking part in outside endeavors with player-promotion organizations like Premier Ice Prospects. That’s how Hesová — about to compete in her second Women’s World Under-18 Championship for Czechia — got on the Selects’ radar, while Sharp actively reached out to BK after spending last season playing for A21 Academy in Ontario.

Sharp, whose family lived in Montréal for four years before moving back to Australia, had played against BK Selects in a couple of showcases that A21 competed in. She came away impressed enough to consider a switch as she entered her senior year still looking for an athletic scholarship.

“I needed a change,” Sharp said, “and I thought it would be the best move for me. I wanted to keep pushing myself and I really wanted to attend college in the U.S.”

Sharp achieved her goal, recently committing to NCAA Division III Nazereth College, located just down the road from Rochester in Pittsford.

Her hockey focus for the rest of the year settles now on further developing her skills, which she hopes to help the 19Us to championships this spring, and her homeland to higher levels of the game in international competition. After competing for the Australian Under-18 team for a couple of years, she’s graduated to the senior team, which is currently fighting it out with fellow fledgling hockey nations like Turkey, Croatia and neighbor New Zealand in Division IIB — four levels below the likes of the USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Denmark and Czechia.

“We’re trying to move up,” Sharp said. “We came close last year but lost in a shootout (in the Division IIB championship game).”

Michaela Hesová (left) celebrates a win at the Roc City Girls Fest. (CHRISTINA COLONTINO/BK SELECTS)

Olesen participated in a couple of Danish Under-18 training camps, but at 13 years old, she’s still very much building the foundation of her hockey career, not to mention her life in general.

“When I got a little older and got better (at hockey),” she said, “I realized I really wanted to play at a high level one day, and I want to be the best I could be.”

Bishop Kearney High School has a system set up to guide international students along their course of study, with special focus on those for whom English is a second language.

“Classwork was tough at first but it progressively got better over time,” said Hesová, who’s in her second school year at BK. “Teachers were always very supportive and understanding and helped in any way possible. And if you ask any of the teachers for extra help, they will happily give you a time so you can come see them and they can help you.

“They always try to make sure and do their best so that you as a student can succeed. Also, we have very good academic counselors who are an amazing help as well.”

For Olesen, who said her favorite subjects at BK so far are “religion and math,” assimilating into the American education system has required some adjustments on her part, but nothing she finds overwhelming.

“It’s going good,” she said. “It’s kind of different from what I’m used to (in Denmark), but it’s going pretty well. Sometimes it’s hard because (the instruction) is in a high level of English but I do my best.”

Fortunately, the language of hockey provides an instant connection for anyone who plays the sport. Coen said that while the spoken word hasn’t been a huge barrier in the several years she’s been on the BK Selects staff, it always helps when certain playing concepts have universal recognition.

For coaches, the upshot is you don’t have to know how to say ‘forecheck’ in two or three different languages to get your point across.

“What’s really cool about hockey is that it’s very visual,” Coen said. “Watching patterns, understanding concepts and then doing them, and if that individual has questions, we always have that person come up (to the coaches) so we can break it down.”

Indeed, he sport that brought Hesová to America in the first place has quite literally been an icebreaker during her time in Western New York.

“It’s almost like an international language,” she said. “When I first arrived at BK, it was mostly hockey that literally forced me to start building friendships with people around me, because hockey is almost the same everywhere. In general it helps me a lot.”

And once international students get past all the potential cultural challenges, there’s the matter of, you know, actually playing hockey at a high level.

While it’s not an issue unique to those born overseas, someone like Sharp had to make quite the mental shift once she jumped from Australian youth leagues to competition on this continent. She said the class of teammates she now enjoys is just as much of a change as the opposition she faces.

“Hockey’s very small back home,” Sharp said. “I felt like I was one of the better players there. I used to think I was a goal-scorer. On this team I’ve changed roles with such talented girls. I’m trying to figure out what my role is. It’s a very big jump.”

Olesen said her “understanding of the game” is one area in which she’d like to improve over the duration of the season, but that’s more a matter of maturation and experience than it is the fact that Danish is her native tongue.

“I feel like it’s going good so far, but the hockey is at a really high level,” she said.

As Colontino reminds, though, this is the sort of transition any player must face when moving up — both in age and caliber of competition.

“We have a lot of the best players from their previous teams,” he said. “It’s a huge blessing to go through that experience at this age level because it prepares them for the university level.

“With that we have to understand how integral each person is. While your role may be different, you’re just as important as your previous place, maybe even more so. It’s just understanding, fundamentally, that you used to be this and that and now you’ve evolved.”

Hesová has already starred on the international stage at the World U-18s, but she still feels like every game and practice at BK sharpen her puck-stopping abilities.

“Playing here has made me work harder and always compete to the best of my ability, which I then transfer to all of my games and practices whether they are here or at the U-18s,” Hesová said. “The people around me also give me incredible support so every time I go to events like these, I know that I have coaches, teammates and even teachers or classmates supporting me from across the ocean.”

There are also certain calendar checkpoints for international students to look forward to, which help the assimilation process in their own ways. One of those is the upcoming winter break, which is long enough to allow every player to spend some time under their former roofs.

“I do miss my family a lot,” Olesen said, “but I’m happy I’ll see them soon.”

The author can be reached at

Eight BK Selects Girls to Compete in Under-18 Women’s World Championship

by Matt Gajtka

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — For the second time in seven months, the International Ice Hockey Federation will conduct its Under-18 Women’s World Championship, set this time for early January in Sweden.

And for the second time in seven months, BK Selects will have a major presence on Team USA.

Eighth current BK Selects players were selected for their U18 Worlds teams this week, with seven of those picked by Team USA. That group includes 19U forward Finley McCarthy (Whitefish, Mont. / University of Wisconsin), who represented America just this past June in Wisconsin, scored two goals and four total points to help Team USA to a sliver-medal finish.

Joining McCarthy in the Stars and Stripes will be forward Peyton Compton (Sanford, Fla. / Northeastern University), forward Lucia DiGirolamo (Woburn, Mass. / Princeton University), defender Rose Dwyer (Wynnewood, Pa. / Cornell University), defender Megan Healy (South Burlington, Vt.), defender Molly Jordan (Berlin, Conn. / Boston College) and forward Bella Fanale (Webster, N.Y.). All of the above except Fanale — who skates for the 16Us — are on the BK Selects 19U team.

“We are very proud of the players selected to the team,” BK Selects VP of Hockey/19U Head Coach Paul Colontino said. “It is a great honor for the player and the program. We have 40 players here that are tremendously talented, dedicated and highly motivated student-athletes. From administration to coaches to players, we all share in the excitement for their opportunity.

“We are extremely fortunate to have the environment, resources, and culture to help prepare our student-athletes on a daily basis for the next step in whichever path they choose.”

Also, BK Selects goaltender Michaela Hesová (Hovorčovice, Czechia / Dartmouth College) will again suit up for her native Czechia, following up a dazzling performance last summer in her international debut. She started all five games for the Czechs, posting a .944 save percentage and two shutouts as they made a run to the quarterfinal round.

McCarthy, who hadn’t played above the 16U level entering last summer’s tournament, said competing with and against the world’s best under-18 players helped speed up her on-ice mental processing.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with my skill and skating and stick-handling,” she said. “I think the processing is a huge separator between (age) levels. It’s helped me slow down the game mentally and make decisions (more) quickly, even if I have more time.”

Team USA has been placed in Group A with fellow powers Sweden, Finland and defending champ Canada. All four are guaranteed a spot in the playoff round after playing three round-robin games, as two quarterfinal byes will be up for grabs. Group B nations Czechia, Slovakia, Switzerland and Japan will battle for the two remaining playoff spots, with the bottom two forced to play a two-game relegation series for the right to stay in the tourney field in 2024.

Last June, Bishop Kearney alum Laila Edwards won tournament MVP in Madison, Wisconsin, scoring four goals and assisting on four others for Team USA. Current BK Selects 19U goalie Ava McNaughton (Wexford, Pa. / University of Wisconsin) also made the 2022 team, but she aged out of the pool of eligible players this time around.

The 2023 IIHF U-18 Women’s World Championship begins Jan. 8 in Ă–stersund, Sweden and concludes a week later. The 2022 event was postponed from its usual mid-winter timing, setting up this quick turnaround to the next one.

The author can be reached at

‘It’s a Mix of Everything’ – BK Selects Girls Take Holistic Approach to Development

by Matt Gajtka

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It’s a well-worn hockey truism that, as long as a team battles hard enough, its talent will play up and shine through.

We don’t let the other team push us around,” said BK Selects 19U forward Naomi Tink (Birmingham, Mich.) last month at the USA-Canada Cup. “And we’re able to show our skill by doing that.”

But team dynamics aside, the fact remains that developing individual skill is critical for a player to go far in a highly-competitive arena like hockey. And it naturally follows that the better a player gets, the more she can bring to the team in its pursuit of a collective goal.

It’s those principles that guide the BK Selects girls program as it navigates through a given season, balancing the rigors of a high-level education and a competitive team travel schedule with the mission of maximizing each player’s athletic potential.

“We’re a development program,” said Director of Girls Hockey Cari Coen, who doubles as the 19Us’ Associate Head Coach. “We’re not just a hockey program that produces wins. We’re working on the skill development, performance over result.

“It’s just like if you’re preparing for a test. You’ve got to do your homework first.”

When it comes to that work, there are several instructors to guide that process. Coen herself is hands-on with multiple development sessions per week conducted both in an on-campus “skills room” and at Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex, with help from VP of Hockey/19U Head Coach Paul Colontino and 16U Head Coach Jake Anderson, plus their respective staffs.

BK Selects also has a local ace in the hole in former longtime RIT head coach Scott McDonald, who led the Tigers to unprecedented success and multiple championships at the NCAA Division I and III levels before retiring in 2018. Coen calls McDonald “an unbelievable skills coach” who is focusing this season on guiding players through skill sessions that are separate from team practices.

For his part, McDonald said he’s treasured the chance to drill down on helping individual players make strides. That goes figuratively and literally, as much of the early-season work has focused on refining the fundamentals of skating.

“It was, ‘Let’s take a step backward so we can take a couple of steps forward,’ ” McDonald said. “We’re now seeing it come together. My process is to make whatever we’re working on game-relatable. There are no pylons or cones out there during a game.”

McDonald said he’s been refreshed by the commitment level of BK athletes, who take the risk at an early age to move away from home and into a greenhouse for cultivating hockey skills. He related the satisfaction he felt from hearing a player excitedly tell him about a new technique she incorporated into a recent game.

“They’re all here for the right reasons,” he said. “They came to Bishop Kearney to get better and we’re giving them the tools to get better. They’re dialed in and ready to go. There’s no buy-in; they’ve already bought in. There’s so much development to be made at this level.”

Add in the increasing number of players who work with a self-appointed skill coach during the offseason and there’s never been a better place or time to become a better hockey player.

“At the end of the day, it takes a village,” Colontino said. “It’s about different sets of lenses. The more quality coaching they can get from a variety of people, I think it’s better. It’s hard when you’re just getting it from one (source). I think players do come in (to teams) better prepared than before.”

In the end, though, getting better as a player is about more than skating, stickhandling, shooting, passing and developing overall biomechanical power. This sport constantly tests one’s physical and mental abilities, two sides of the coin that feed off each other if honed properly.

“If you can skate, shoot and pass, and take care of yourself off the ice, you’re going to have a lot of assets,” Coen said, “but some of the individual (drill) stuff is great for playing with your head up, but it’s not really game-specific.

“We want you to be an athlete and not a robot. It’s about reading and reacting, and not being told what to do.”

To help achieve that objective, BK Selects players have personalized access to video breakdowns of every game they play, with the ability to pinpoint even-strength, power-play and short-handed shifts via a simple search.

As any performance coach will tell you, objective feedback is critical to the process of improvement.

“In the past, players had to wait for coaches or were reliant on them to go through video,” Colontino said. “Now, if they want to watch, they can do it. It’s allowed them to take more ownership in that portion and develop the skills, where they can teach themselves just by watching.”

For all the tools that are available, though, the individual player has to take the initiative. Fortunately, every week at BK provides a feedback loop that allows for both an honest self-assessment and an avenue to get better.

“The kids that are doing the extra stuff, the cream rises to the top,” Coen said. “You’re working on your game and understanding what the coaches are telling you, so when it does come down to the end of the year, we’re all together and everyone is pulling the weight.”

Naturally, some players will ‘make the jump’ more than others over the course of a given week, month or season. The task for coaches — especially in a developmental program like BK Selects — is to always keep the door open for more players to lift their levels.

While the end of the season brings an organic pecking order when it comes to certain high-leverage game situations, there’s always room for someone new to step up.

“There might be times that one individual plays over the other, because they’re putting in the work, but if a kid falls short in a game situation, they’re not written off,” Coen said.

“They’re going to get another opportunity. We don’t really have first, second, third and fourth lines. You see it weekly in practice, who is prepared and putting their best foot forward.”

Coen, who got her hockey start playing for both girls and boys teams in her native southern California, said there’s no doubt “the demand for skills is higher” than it was 10 or 15 years ago. In her words, there’s a higher proportion of “hockey-serious” athletes picking up the sport than ever before.

Like it has with society in general, social media has changed the world of skill development, too. Platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and TikTok make it easy to share tips and techniques for improvement, but it can also encourage some empty-calorie indulgence if an athlete isn’t careful.

“Social (media) can be a great learning tool,” Coen said, “but sometimes it can be about ‘Who’s gonna see my sweet toe-drag or bar-down goal?’ You still have to be able to skate at an elite level and make decisions when moving the puck.”

That’s a process BK Selects aims to improve every year.

“It’s expanded because we’re older as a program,” Colontino said. “It’s a mix of everything.”

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BK Selects 19U Girls Take Setbacks in Stride at USA-Canada Cup

by Matt Gajtka

FRASER, Mich. — When a hockey team goes more than a month without losing, like the BK Selects 19U girls did at the start of this season, the inevitable letdown can be a shock to the system.

When that shock repeats less than 24 hours later, there can be a compounding effect if a team isn’t careful.

Fortunately for BK, the format of last weekend’s USA-Canada Cup in Detroit’s northern suburbs didn’t allow for dwelling on the past, and the 19Us finished the showcase-style event with back-to-back victories over Ontario Hockey Academy and a 13-2-4 overall record.

Most teams would love to be in that position. But even though USA Hockey’s second-ranked 19U girls team wrapped up the tourney winning three of five, outscoring opponents 17-7 in the process, all involved with the team seemed determined that their first two defeats of 2022-23 wouldn’t be in vain.

“We thought we weren’t strong (in the first loss), and then you come back the next morning and you drop another one,” said 19Us head coach Paul Colontino. “I like how we responded in that we played well got back on the horse. Now we just have to keep rolling on what we picked up on.”

Specifically, that first loss of the weekend, by a 3-1 count to No. 1-ranked Canadian club Durham West Jr. Lightning on Friday, could be a candidate for an early-season turning point. The general consensus among the coaching staff was that BK gave Durham West too much respect, to the point they played too passively.

There might have also been some emotional carryover to Saturday morning, when BK allowed a couple of power-play goals in a 3-2 loss to Burlington (Ont.). The bright side? There were just a few hours to wait at Big Boy Arena before they ran it back against OHA.

The result Saturday afternoon was an 8-1 romp, keyed by a dominant first period that left no doubt the losing streak would end after two games.

“After this game this morning it stung more after having been undefeated for so long,” said forward Greta Brezinski (Waunakee, Wisc./Clarkson University). “It was something we needed, and as coach Paul said, we played with a little chip on our shoulder knowing that we are very skilled, but that doesn’t mean we’re unbeatable.

“We got to keep going and find that next level.”

Angelina DiGirolamo (Woburn, Mass./Princeton University) and Izzy Krause (Calabasas, Calif.) led the 19Us on the weekend with three goals and four points each, while Kiara Kraft (Churchville, N.Y./Providence College) and defender Brooke George (East Montpelier, Vt./University of Vermont) chipped in four points apiece as well.

BK’s successful bounce-back, however, might’ve been best exemplified by the performance of the newly-configured forward line of Olivia Rubinstein (Glencoe, Ill./Wesleyan University), Nikki Sharp (Perth, Australia/Nazareth College) and Naomi Tink (Birmingham, Mich.).

The three had played together briefly in practice the previous week, but Colontino told them he didn’t think they would play together in Detroit. Nevertheless, they were united midway through the weekend and helped set a productive tone with a no-frills, cooperative manner of play.

“All-around, we’re very similar players so we worked well together,” said Sharp, who enrolled at BK this summer after a year playing at a Canadian academy. “We each communicate really well. We had a really strong forecheck.”

Greta Brezinski (21) stickhandles through traffic. (CHRISTINA COLONTINO/BK SELECTS)

That trio capitalized in crowd-pleasing fashion midway through Sunday’s 4-0 win against OHA. With the score just 1-0, Rubinstein rifled a shot from the left circle that Sharp deflected off the goaltender’s pad and directly to Tink, who was crashing the net from the right post.

Tink, who grew up about 30 minutes away from Big Boy Arena, tapped the rebound into the open net and immediately sprinted to jump into the right-wing glass, behind which her parents were standing and cheering.

“I really didn’t have to do much,” a grinning Tink said of her fundamental finish. “It was hard, the game before I had a lot of chances, but couldn’t bury. I knew I had to do something this game.”

Tink, a senior who’s in her third year at BK, said she thought her line could have some longevity, simply because they have similar mindsets about playing the game.

“No one thinks they’re the best on that line, there’s no big personalities,” Tink said. “We play systems and it works. We listen to coach and it pays off.”

Regardless of how the 19Us got the ship back on course, the important thing is that they did it.

That goes the same for someone like forward Finley McCarthy (Whitefish, Mont./University of Wisconsin), who’s coming off a summer during which she contributed — two goals, two assists in four games — to Team USA’s silver-medal performance at the Under-18 Women’s World Championships.

She confessed she’s still adapting to the 19U level after starring for the BK Selects 16Us over the past two seasons, but McCarthy knows a good wake-up call when she sees it.

“I think (losing) was a good reality check for us,” she said Saturday, shortly after notching her second goal in as many games. “Every day is not going to be a win, so it’s good to have that slap in the face.”

It may be a clichéd thought, but especially at this stage of the season, what really matters is what happens after the setback.

“It’s good to get us all on the same page,” McCarthy said, “and get our swagger back.”

Meanwhile, the 12th-ranked BK Selects 16Us (13-4-5) continued their recent surge, going 3-0-2 in Detroit against Canadian competition.

Forwards Rae Mayer (Chesapeake, Va.) and Bella Fanale (Webster, N.Y.) paced the squad with four points each in the showcase, with Mayer netting a team-best three goals. Following consecutive 1-1 ties against Durham West and Central York, BK reeled off three straight wins by a combined score of 11-2.

That push included victories over a pair of Canadian 18U teams, sponsored by clubs from OHA and Kitchener (Ont.) Lady Rangers.

“I think this was the best competition of the year,” said third-year BK defender Miami Jones (Chevy Chase, Md.). “We’ve been trying to improve the first period and how we start as a team. We usually don’t start as well, but now we’re starting a lot better. It’s just about focusing.”

Head coach Jake Anderson was particularly impressed with how BK poured on a pair of goals in their 3-1 Sunday win over Waterloo (Ont.) Ravens. Adreanna Stamper (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) and Fanale scored nine seconds apart in the last minute of the first period, turning a tied game into a major BK advantage.

“We’ve been talking about shifts after goals,” Anderson said. “We always talk about being consistent, and I thought we brought a consistent energy and effort every day. We didn’t have a lull.”

The 16Us have a weekend off from competition, while the 19Us travel to historic Lake Placid next, to take on Northwood School.

The author can be reached at

Led By ‘Rock’ Grennan in Goal, 16U Girls Finding Their Legs Early

by Matt Gajtka

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Regardless of the sport, the start of every season requires adjustments.

That goes double for youth sports, where athletes rise through the ranks briskly — from debut to graduation — and year-over-year roster churn is the only constant.

The BK Selects girls are managing those issues as well as could be expected, as both squads are again ranking among the nation’s best through the first month of the 2022-23 season.

Results bear that out — the third-ranked 19U team is a remarkable 10-0-4 with a tourney title already under its belt and the 11th-ranked 16U squad has piled up an 11-4-3 record — but, of course, much of the acclimating is going on below the surface.

“New season, new players, new faces,” 16U head coach Jake Anderson said. “We bring in a lot of younger kids and new kids at our level. They have to make up that ground because they haven’t been there before. In the first month we’ve made some huge strides, and becoming more consistent.”

There’s undoubtedly some difficulty in jumping from the 16U level to 19U, as BK’s VP of Hockey Paul Colontino can attest through his duties as head coach of the 19Us. He chalks up the “significant jump” between levels to the overall pace and intensity of the games.

“The gaps (between players) are tighter and there’s less time and space,” Colontino said. “The players tend to adjust quickly, but there’s a change.”

However, an argument could be made that the bigger jump occurs between standing out with local youth hockey programs and competing on a national stage as a 16U player.

Bridging that gap is a large part of the job early on for Anderson and his staff, which includes assistants Scott Macdonald, Jason Simmons and newcomer Mel Ames.

“A lot of kids who come here were the best kids where they were,” Anderson explained. “At 14U you can do a lot on your own, but we play a lot of teams where it’s hard to be individual and succeed.

“Using your teammates and trusting your teammates gives the individual the success she’s looking for. I don’t think anyone is selfish is a bad way, but to build a team atmosphere and a team goal, it takes a little while.”

Fortunately for the 16Us, who just went 2-1-1 over a tough weekend in New Hampshire to open October, they have some veterans to lean on when it comes to protecting the net.

Not only do they have a pair of sophomores leading the defense in Alara Murphy (Musquodoboit Harbour, Nova Scotia) and third-year BK’er Miami Jones (Chevy Chase, Md.), returning goalie Emeline Grennan (Washington, D.C.) has taken a step forward from last year — both in role and performance.

“I feel my confidence has pushed me to take the next step in my development,” said Grennan, who shared the net with Czechia’s Michaela Hesova last season. “My performance shows I’ve gained more confidence than last year and it makes me feel stronger about my ability.”

Grennan said she spent part of her summer working on being quicker around the net and controlling rebounds better. She said that technical improvement has boosted her self-belief, but part of her increased confidence can be attributed to something more intangible, but equally important.

“I think (my confidence) comes from my teammates trusting in me,” Grennan said, “and showing that they trust me.”

“She’s been our rock this year,” Anderson said. “Our most consistent player.”

There’s also plenty of leadership up front for the 16Us, with two juniors in Morgan Walton (Geneseo, N.Y.) and Adreanna Stamper (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) heading up a group of six returners in the forward corps.

Anderson said injuries and illness have already been a concern for his roster, but up front “a different kid is stepping up every game.”

Not that there’s much room for nitpicking, especially with many months left to go in the season, but a recent loss to No. 1-ranked East Coast Wizards in New Hampshire shows Anderson where his team can stand to improve.

While BK had edged the Wizards at the Labor Day Girls Fest tournament in Pittsburgh, this time East Coast got its revenge with a 4-3 win over the Selects. Anderson noted that BK allowed two of those goals on breakaways and two more on 2-on-1 rushes, emblematic of an early-season issue with wavering focus.

“We’ve got to be more consistent throughout games,” Anderson said. “We were really good for long stretches.We’re continuing to grow.

“Our group is really talented and connected and our younger kids have been here for five weeks, so it’s time for our returners to keep pushing the group forward.”

After taking this weekend off from games, the 16Us will join the 19Us in greater Detroit the following weekend for another significant tournament.

“It’s a huge test in October,” Anderson said, “to see where we are.”

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

by Matt Gajtka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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