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.
— Bishop Kearney Selects Girls (@BKSelectsGirls) February 12, 2022
“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.”
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.”
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