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.”
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