This past season, Saint Mary’s High School paid much attention to their hockey team that incorporated finely tuned seniors and a new group of underclassmen prospects who sharpened their skills and put themselves to the test turning many heads in the team’s direction.
After finishing last year with 2-14-2, the storied history of a championship powerhouse team was reignited in the inaugural coaching season of Shaun Riley, who has 25 years experience coaching and mentoring players at many levels after a successful career in Canadian Junior Hockey and NCAA Division I Hockey.
Assisted by the St. Mary’s alumni duo of Joseph Tracy and Danté Cipriano, along with Dylan Hernandez, their leadership and areas of expertise in the sport brought results that were taken steps further by what Riley described as “a remarkable group of talented athletes who went the extra mile.” Riley noted in particular Will Gilberg, a senior member of the team who took it upon himself to work with the freshmen on honing their skills as well as the St. Mary’s administration and Michael Ryan, the school’s athletic director, who made a strong commitment to bring the team back to life. The group spent their practice time between the Northwell Health Ice Center at Eisenhower Park and Cantiague Park Ice Rink, where their home games also took place this year.
Senior Danny Rau (Westbury) led the team in scoring with 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists) and the overall goal leader was Junior Shane Ahlers (West Hempstead) with 20 goals and 17 assists. Along with Rau and Ahlers, there were three other upperclassmen with 20 or more points this season: Senior Captain Will Space (36) (Hicksville), Senior Will Gilberg (27) (Mineola) and Junior Alex Lima (36) (Lloyd Harbor). College athletic commitments are still pending, and Riley is confident that these graduating athletes will excel no matter what decisions are made for next year.
With new freshmen players, seasoned sophomores and the experience of the upperclassmen, the coaching staff had a combination of talent representing all classes to work with this season. First-year player Emma DiRado (Manhasset) made impressive strides working her way to more play time, while her classmates led by Aidan Riley (Wantagh) with 20 points (3 goals, 17 assists) and Aidan Tenn (Fresh Meadows) with 4 points (4 assists). Freshman goalie Maxx Messite (Oceanside) posted four wins on the season and helped solidify the Gaels’ goaltending tandem.
Jimmy Tremblay (East Williston), Sebastiano Vinci (Valley Stream), Joe Rubinich (Levittown), and defenseman Anthony Galeotafiore (Bethpage) were the four solid sophomores garnering 26, 21, 12 and four points respectively this year. Junior Alex Lima (Lloyd Harbor) was third in scoring 36 points with 16 goals and 21 assists. Lima was also selected by the League as a CHSHL ‘A’ Division All-Star.
At the culmination of the season, with an overall record of 9-8-3, the Gaels were seeded to play in the 2019 Catholic High School Hockey League (CHSHL) ‘B’ Division championship game on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at Ebersole Ice Rink facing off against the Stepinac Crusaders. Junior goalie Ryan Mockler (Roslyn) played his best game of the season “right at the very best possible time” according to Coach Riley. Mockler blocked 42 of 44 shots during the championship game.
The Gaels captured the CHSHL Division ‘B’ Championship with a 4-2 win, earning a well-deserved trophy to bring home to Brother Kenneth Robert, FMS—a longtime faculty member and athletic director at St. Mary’s whose vision and leadership brought the team to multiple league championships and state titles over the years.
“Coming into the position as coach this season, I knew that it was my goal to restore the team to its former glory days. The athletes were such a welcoming group. By incorporating more of the underclassmen as they built confidence, they brought their best to the team at a critical point. We were 0-3 at the start but made sure we grew, and I witnessed the team play like a team when we won five in a row,” said Riley. He also noted that “learning about Brother Kenneth’s lifelong dedication to the Gaels ice hockey program was the driving force behind the coaching staff efforts this year. I am so happy to bring this trophy home to him.”
Athletic Director Ryan said, “I am very happy for the coaching staff and all of the time they put into this season. Shaun Riley is a dedicated coach, and I was blessed to have him running things this year. I am also proud of this group of players for sticking together and giving their all for one another.”
Ryan is looking ahead to next season knowing that the St. Mary’s High School hockey team is well positioned after proving their abilities on and off the ice.
Written by Eileen Symmons