Tag: 19U girls

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

by Matt Gajtka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Masters of Motown: 19Us Claim Second Title of Season in Detroit

by Matt Gajtka

FRASER, Mich. — It’s not often a team gets a second chance at knocking off No. 1, but on Sunday afternoon at Big Boy Arena, the BK Selects 19Us had such an opportunity.

After falling 3-2 to top-ranked Little Caesars on Friday in the round-robin portion of the Motor City Girls Fest, the Selects struck back against the powerhouse Detroit-based program with a 3-0 victory in the championship game, earning their second tournament title of the 2021-22 season.

“When the chips were on the table and there was a championship at stake,” said 19Us head coach Paul Colontino, “the way our team responded was exceptional.”

Ava McNaughton (Wexford, Pa./Wisconsin) earned her fourth shutout of the weekend in the title tilt, stopping 37 Little Caesars shots. Due to an injury to Chloe Lewis (Monson, Mass.), McNaughton had to go it alone in what ended up being a six-game marathon.

“Little Caesars is always a physical, high-pressure game,” McNaughton said. “On Sunday, all I could think about was doing whatever I could for the team. I didn’t really realize how tired and sore I was until the bus ride after.”

In fact, McNaughton didn’t let a single goal in during the playoff portion of the tournament, as the eighth-ranked Selects (33-11-3) knocked out two other Michigan teams in Belle Tire (1-0 in the quarterfinals) and Honeybaked (3-0 in the semis).

“I loved how every player stepped up this weekend,” McNaughton said. “Every player put it all on the line for the team. It allowed us to come up with huge plays, whether it be penalty kills, power plays, blocked shots, big saves or outlasting an opponent’s pressure.

“It was super-exciting to see our team play better and better every game. To win the championship against a team we had lost to earlier was very fulfilling.”

Bella Vasseur (Waitsfield, Vt./Wisconsin) was similarly productive under the bright lights, scoring the Selects’ first (and only) goal against Belle Tire with a solo spinning effort, followed by a hard wrister from her off-wing against Honeybaked to put BK on top early in that one, too.

Much like the team, Vasseur rebounded from round-robin disappointment, as she was stopped on a last-minute penalty shot in the first meeting with Little Caesars.

“I was very excited,” said Vasseur about the chance to play Little Caesars with everything on the line. “It’s always a great game when we play them, and I knew the outcome was going to be different.

“It was a big revenge game.”

Vasseur also assisted on a Peyton Compton (Sanford, Fla./Northeastern) rebound goal in the championship game, pushing the 19Us on top first yet again. They would require no further offense, although insurance was certainly welcomed against the nation’s top team.

Laila Edwards (Cleveland Heights, Ohio/Wisconsin) followed up her own breakaway for a 2-0 advantage, then Izzy Krause (Calabasas, Calif.) finished a two-on-one rush for the final goal, going far side after Vanessa Stamper (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) broke up a play in the neutral zone.

“The biggest thing was that we played as a team,” Vasseur said. “We worked as a team, had a lot of energy, and had a lot of fun doing it.”

Edwards scored a pair of goals on Sunday, deking around the Honeybaked goalie for a two-goal lead in the semifinal. She assisted on the victory-capper off the stick of Kendall Butze (Shaker Heights, Ohio/Penn State) as well.

But by the time the final buzzer sounded against Little Caesars, the details blurred into the background. The Selects poured off the bench to mob McNaughton and pose next to a banner that’ll look great next to the one they earned in Nashville back in the fall.

“Three days with two games per day, it’s a marathon,” Colontino said. “You need the depth of a team to do it. We were in a great position come Sunday to be fresh for the first game and then outwork our opponent in the final.”

The 19Us celebrate their Motor City Girls Fest title over Little Caesars. (RICH COMPTON/BK SELECTS)

The eighth-ranked 16Us (37-11-5) came this close to duplicating the 19Us’ feat, falling 3-2 to the Chicago Young Americans in a back-and-forth final.

Jake Anderson’s squad had outscored its first five opponents in the event by a combined total of 23-1, culminating in a 2-0 semifinal victory over Belle Tire. The highest-ranked team in the 16U bracket, No. 5 Little Caesars, had fallen to Belle Tire in the quarterfinal round

“That was probably our best game,” Anderson said of the semi. “First two periods, we came out flying, weren’t giving them anything, moving the puck and playing well in the O-zone. It was good for us to control the whole thing.

“We were able to use the depth of our team. We raised the level as the weekend went on and got through the semifinal game.”

Angela DiGiorlamo (Woburn, Mass.) scored five goals in the three-game playoff round, while Finley McCarthy (Whitefish, Mont.) piled up a handful of points over those same games.

In goal, the 16Us alternated evenly between Emeline Grennan (Washington, D.C.) and Michaela Hesova (Hovorčovice, Czechia), with each earning two shutouts. Anderson said Hesova played well in the championship despite the loss, while Grennan was “awesome” in the semifinal.

“We just tried to focus on trying to get better every game,” Anderson said. “We wanted to get into the tournament and get everyone going. Now, can we play a little bit better, tighten this up and keep working.”

Along with the 19Us, the 16Us will stay in Rochester this weekend as they host a three-game showcase.

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