As is the case with the other sports at Cardinal Spellman, a banner hangs in the gymnasium of the Bronx school for the hockey team. On Monday night, the Crusaders made sure a year could finally be placed on it.
At the Ice Hutch in Mount Vernon, Spellman captured the CHSHL Class C title, the first hockey championship in school history, sweeping the best-of-three series against St. Raymond’s by identical 10-0 scores.
The win completes a magical season for Spellman, which finished the year with a perfect 18-0-0 record. It also helped ease the pain of last year’s loss in the ‘C’ finals to Holy Cross.
“They remembered not winning and they were pretty happy when they finally did,” Spellman coach Tom Siegel said. “This is a really close group, probably the closest one I’ve ever coached.”
Spellman didn’t just win every game, the Crusaders dominated, outscoring opponents, 147-8, including 29-0 in the playoffs.
“It was special because the three seniors (Krisner Diaz, Kevin Coogan and Lorianne Siegel) were here and lost it last year,” Siegel said. “It’s their third time in the finals and to see them progress from when they were freshman and didn’t play to carrying this team, it’s pretty special.”
The returning players made returning to the championship series a priority from Day One. And they backed up that commitment financially. Along with help from the school, the players (well their parents, at least) helped pay for an extra practice session a week.
While most teams practice once a week for 90 minutes, Spellman, one of the original six teams of the CHSHL, was on the ice twice, including every Saturday at 10:15 p.m. at the outdoor Murray Rink in Yonkers.
Monday’s decisive game was a microcosm of the entire season. The game was close after the first period, with Spellman leading, 1-0. But the Crusaders exploded for seven second-period goals to put the game away.
Steve Walsh had four goals, Brendan Navarra had two and Nick Ratigan and Jake Kuhl scored one goal apiece to lead Spellman, a team that has just 13 skaters.
In the opening game on Sunday, Kuhl and Navarra scored a pair of shorthanded goals 12 seconds apart in the second period to give the Crusaders a 6-0 lead.
“Teams came out focused and played us hard in the first period all season,” Siegel said. “This last game was no exception. In the second period, the kids settle down and their talent takes over.”
By winning the ‘C’ championship, Cardinal Spellman will move up to the ‘B’ division next year. It’s a challenge some of the underclassmen are already talking about.
“They think we can compete,” Siegel said. “They want a chance to grow the program into a solid ‘B’ team if we can.”