BK Selects Boys Impress, 15Os Take Banner In Return to Canadian Ice

by Matt Gajtka

LONDON, Ontario — The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of things. It also took a lot of things away, at least for a time.

But if you can find something wooden to knock on, we appear to be back to ‘normal’ with most aspects of our lives.

For U.S.-based hockey programs like BK Selects, that means no further restrictions on travel north of the border, so this season brings a welcome return to facing Canadian competition.

And for the two younger boys teams on the Bishop Kearney campus, that meant an opportunity to rise to the occasion on foreign ice last weekend. And did they ever, with the 15O squad snagging a title at the prestigious Wendy Dufton Tournament and the 14Us making it all the way to the championship game.

Quite the way to represent, considering they were the only two American teams out of the 60 invited to compete.

“It was an awesome tournament,” said 15Os head coach Shayne Stockton, whose team finished 7-0-1 and outscored opponents 24-3 in the event. “We played eight games in about 3 1/2 days. That’s mentally and physically exhausting, and to see how they stuck to it and competed every game was incredible.

“I couldn’t be more proud of that and it shows the type of character we have with this team.”

Including the 2-0 victory over the Toronto Jr. Canadians in Sunday’s final, the 15Os shut out five of the eight opponents they faced, with Patrick Quinlan (Kennett Square, Pa.) in net for all five of those blankings. Quinlan is in his first year in the program after starting out with the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers.

“The defense played unreal and made my job easy,” Quinlan said. “Most shots came from the outside and they let me see almost every shot. A shutout is a real team effort.”

After going unbeaten in this eight-game gauntlet, the 15Os are ranked seventh in the nation with an overall record of 15-5-4. Stockton’s team hasn’t lost in 13 total games, dating back to the USHL Fall Classic in Pittsburgh.

“It was great goaltending and great team defense,” Stockton said of the performance in London. “We preach the quicker we defend, the quicker we go on offense.”

Cooper Dennis (Ithaca, N.Y.) led the 15Os in goals (six) and points (11) through the event, while Chase Jette (Lake Forest, Ill.) and Jack Murtagh (East Greenbush, N.Y.) each kicked in six points, with Jette scoring the game-winner in the championship game.

Defenders James Odyniec (Wilton, Conn.) and Cam Reid (Alymer, Ont.) also chipped in five points apiece. Reid and forward Jimmy Sutherland (Komoka, Ont.), who also scored in the final, grew up in the London area and played frequently at the tourney’s primary venue, the Western Fair Sports Centre.

“Nothing gets better than that,” Reid told OntarioHockeyLeague.com. “Winning the tournament close to home with all my boys by my side, it’s an incredible feeling and something I will never forget.”

Bishop Kearney came quite close to a two-division sweep, but the 14Us’ run was halted by the York Simcoe Express, 4-0, in the Dufton title tilt.

Still, BK Selects boasted the second-best record (5-2-0) and goal differential (plus-15) in the tourney, capped by a 5-1 victory in the semifinal against the West Middlesex Canucks, who entered the playoff round undefeated. Rudolfs Berzkalns (Cesis, Latvia) scored twice in the victory and Camden Nimmer (Ashburn, Va.) capped his five-goal, seven-point weekend with an insurance tally.

“I think the team came together and played a simple, very unselfish game,” said forward and team captain Walter ‘Dub’ Eunice III (Eagle River, Alaska), who is the only 14U player to have skated for BK Selects last season.

14Us head coach Greg Collins said Eunice’s experience is a valuable asset for the team, which by its nature must concern itself with cohesion early in each season.

“It’s nice to have a guy to show others the ropes,” Collins said. “We’re working with a ton of talent, a good mix of cultures and programs, but it’s not a group that’s played together before.”

Collins himself is new to the BK Selects program, having joined to fill the coaching void left when his brother Chris stepped from behind the bench for the 15Os to a role as Boys Hockey Director. Both Rochester natives, Greg and Chris previously teamed up on the staff at the Rochester Coalition youth program, and now they’re together again at Bishop Kearney.

“Being local guys, it’s cool being here,” Greg Collins said. “I’ve coached everything from midget down to squirt so this is a good group for me.”

Collins said he and assistant coach John Mousso have been focusing on good team-based habits over the course of the first few weeks, which have the 14Us ranked eighth in the country with a record of 13-5-2.

“It’s about playing the right way with positioning and being hard to play against,” Collins said. “It’s not so much Xs and Os. These guys are thrown into the deep end and traveling a ton more than they’re used to, and they’ve all stepped up.”

No better place to show your progress in the country that invented the sport. For the first time in a couple of years, that kind of test is officially back on the table.

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