Head coach Ken Pauly is both realistic and optimistic about this season's squad.
The 2015-16 season was nearly magical for Benilde-St. Margaret’s. An unbeaten regular season and 10 weeks atop the state rankings were unprecedented feats in team history.
However, with the departure of 13 seniors and four more players who were scheduled to return, the Red Knights will see only four letter winners from last season on the ice this season.
Head coach Ken Pauly knows what’s facing his team and the task they face, but stated “The challenges are very real – but so are the opportunities for our players.”
The leadership of this season’s team falls heavily on the shoulders of the only two returning players who saw regular ice time last year, senior co-captains Peter Moran and Nick Sims.
Moran scored two goals and added an assist in last season’s opener, his varsity debut, and went onto become a solid two-way forward who chipped in with seven goals and 12 points.
Sims will enter his third varsity season as a Red Knight after scoring four goals and 15 points while registering a +18 plus/minus rating.
“Both need to take major steps forward and I’m confident that they will do that,” Pauly said. “Both had great junior seasons and look strong at this point.”
The other two returning seniors from last year are center Stefan Garcia and the team’s lone returning defenseman, Bronson McLeod.
Garcia saw action in 23 games as the team’s fourth-line center. He had a goal and two assists, and also won 57.6 percent of his faceoffs.
McLeod enters the season with 79 varsity games in three seasons under his belt.
“Clearly, we have to find offensive production,” Pauly said. “It’s an area of challenge right now. Creating offense will be a project that we need to continue to work on.”
Pauly feels that two players who can contribute to that offensive production are the leading junior varsity scorers from a year ago, Joey Collins and Dylan Hoen. Both players saw limited varsity action last season while leading the BSM JV squad.
Collins turned in a 20-goal season, leading the JV with 21 goals, 34 points, six power-play goals and 86 shots on goal.
Hoen led the team with 22 assists, was second in points with 32 and saw action in all 25 games.
The other JV player whom Pauly is expecting big things from this season is senior Max Jablonski, who was selected as the team’s third co-captain.
Jablonski, for whom the 2016-17 season will mark his first varsity campaign, played in all 50 junior varsity games over the last two seasons and, after scoring just one goal and four points as a sophomore, he turned in an eight-goal, 22-point performance last season.
"Max Jablonski has really paid the price to be on this team," Pauly said. "His off-ice work ethic since his 10th-grade year has been nothing short of extraordinary. His leadership skills in organizing off-season skating and dryland sessions, and assisting our athletic department made him a clear choice as one of this team's captains."
The back end is where BSM may face its biggest challenge with McLeod as the only experienced player.
But Pauly is optimistic.
“I believe our blue line will be much better than anticipated,” he stated
The Red Knights will have four defensemen from last season’s junior varsity in senior Brian Arnold and Dawson Spindler, and juniors Nate Clark and Jerome Newhouse, all of whom Pauly has stated are ready to show they are varsity ready.
The goaltending duties come down upon three seniors, two of whom, Alex Brigino and Peyton Melin, have plied their trade with the BSM junior varsity for two season, while newcomer Zach Everett also enters the picture to compete for playing time.
“I’m encouraged by the effort and off-season work ethic,” Pauly said of this year’s squad. “I don’t believe that this will be a team that gets outworked. The major challenge will be to find three lines that can be synergistic and who can develop a dynamic attack and, with so many new faces, we will need to be concerned with team-building and identity.
Pauly understands the concern some may have about this season and understands where it comes from.
“The combination of last year’s incredible run and the loss of three high-profile players has filled many with a sense of apprehension,” he said. “You just can’t lose that many players and not feel it.
“However, it’s also very exciting. We have players who worked very hard on our JV last year who are eager to begin their varsity season and prove that they can play at a higher level.
“As long as we stay committed to a philosophy and work hard, we’ll be fine. It will be fun to see what this group will do.”
Co-captain Peter Moran scored seven goals and 12 points in his first varsity season a year ago.
Max Jablonski will serve as a co-captain in his first varsity season.
Joe Collins had a 21-goal season for BSM's JV in 2015-16.
Tag(s): Benilde-St. Margaret's