by Matt Gajtka
FARIBAULT, Minn. — The challenge was rather obvious for the Bishop Kearney Selects boys 16U, 150 and 14U teams.
Those three squads settled an hour south of the Twin Cities last weekend for three games each against their age-group counterparts from Shattuck-St. Mary’s.
Yes, the same Shattuck-St. Mary’s that’s produced the likes of Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Nathan MacKinnon and Zach Parise, to name just a few NHL-veteran alumni. More relevant to this season, it’s also the same Shattuck-St. Mary’s that’s currently icing the top-ranked teams in the 14U and 16U age groups, and the second-ranked side in 15O.
Expectations among the BK traveling party had every right to be humble, but after the three Selects teams went a combined 3-4-2 at SSM, that’s all the more reason to believe in the rise of the boys’ squads in just their second seasons of existence.
“We rolled in there with three age groups and competed with them,” said 15O head coach Chris Collins, whose team won 8-1 in its series opener, believed to be the biggest margin of victory ever for a visitor on the Shattuck campus.
“That’s a big deal. The most historic hockey academy in the world, arguably, and our guys showed up.”
Not only did the 15O squad, now ranked third nationally after moving to 48-15-3, deliver a powerful opening statement, it came up just a couple goals shy of sweeping the entire weekend.
Despite trailing 3-0 after two minutes of Saturday’s rematch, the Selects came back to tie the game, 5-5, only to see SSM net the winner with less than two minutes to go. BK then carried a 5-4 lead into the late stages Sunday, but had to settle for a 5-5 tie.
Forward Nate Delladonna (Brewerton, N.Y.) was “a force all weekend,” per Collins, scoring a hat trick in the opening blowout win, providing more than enough offense to make a winner of goalie Jackson Silverberg (Beverly Hills, Calif.).
But when a team tangles with one of the big dogs, everyone on the roster must make contributions. Throw in what Collins called a “daunting environment” at the storied SSM campus and let’s just say the three-game performance was almost as good as it gets.
Not that their coach was shocked after his team’s season-long perseverance, which has produced several wins after trailing by multiple goals. Plus, the same core group made it all the way to the 14U national championship game last spring, falling only to Shattuck in the postseason.
“Even if we go down, we never stop fighting,” Collins said. “We could’ve folded up the tent (Saturday).”
The BK Selects 14U team could’ve done the same thing, after absorbing a 7-1 defeat in its series opener Friday. Instead, Ben McManama’s ninth-ranked squad pushed back — literally — for a 4-1 triumph Saturday, before falling 6-0 in the Shattuck finale.
“We got beat up in the first game and played much tougher in the second game,” McManama said. “You see all the history up there and it’s a little tough coming out (for the first game).
“That’s why I thought that second game was great and we knew we could play with them and we had to cancel out all the noise.”
The 14Us’ two top scorers came through in the win, as Jack Murtagh (East Greenbush, N.Y.) ripped in three goals in the middle game and Cooper Dennis (Ithaca, N.Y.) picked up three assists. Defenseman James Odyniec (Wilton, Conn.) netted the other BK goal Saturday and Ethan Phillips (Rochester, N.Y.) earned the win in net.
According to McManama, the Sunday shutout defeat didn’t take much luster off the trip, even as the team, now 41-20-3, will try to use it as a lesson.
“We take away that we are really good and we can beat anyone in the country,” McManama said. “We just need to learn that we can do it on a consistent basis.”
Coming off winning the Northeast Pack championship the previous weekend, the 16U team held its own at Shattuck as well, picking off a 3-3 tie in the first game and a 4-2 win early Sunday.
“Great games and great overall experience,” said coach Dan Collins, whose team is ranked fifth nationally with a 40-14-7 record.
Chris Collins, who doubles as the Director of Boys Hockey, said he tried not to sweat the results in the moment, but he admitted it was a relief to see the student-athletes deliver on a true showcase weekend for BK Selects.
“I was proud of the boys, the coaches, and the program as a whole,” he said. “That was big of us to make a statement. That’s why we went.”
After five full months of hockey, not much remains on the boys’ schedules besides the state and national tournaments.
Following this week’s customary February break, BK Selects will welcome the Lac St-Louis Lions from Montréal for a weekend series March 5-6, wrapping up the regular season.
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