Four young Bay Ridge hockey stars reach semi-finals of state championship

A group of young Bay Ridge hockey players are making their neighborhood proud with their performance on and off the ice.

Four local players from the New York Stars of the Greater New York City Ice Hockey League — Jeremiah Ryan, 11, Steven Bencivenga, 11, Joseph DiBona, 12, and Mark Owen, 12 — were members of a team that had a terrific season, going undefeated at 23-0-1 in the in Long Island Amateur Hockey League (LIAHL). The peewee AA team’s near-perfect record gave it the opportunity to qualify for the New York State Championship Tournament in Buffalo.

The four Bay Ridge players, along with teammates from all over the tristate area, made their way to the tournament on Friday, March 4. The Stars started off strong, winning its first game — a close one — against Adirondack, 3-2. The team struggled in game two, losing to the Rochester Grizzlies 8-2. However, it bounced back in an exciting nine-round shootout victory against Centre State, advancing  to the semi-finals. The Coney Island-based team was finally eliminated by the Skaneateles Lakers.

Ryan, who attends St. Patrick Catholic Academy, feels the impressive run his team had was an exciting one.

“It was a lot of fun. The competition is different than what we usually have, but I think we came together and got by some of the tougher teams,” he said, noting that the highlight of the trip for him was one of the team’s two victories. “My favorite part for my teammates and me was the game that went to the shootout. I was pretty nervous but it was really exciting.”

The team even got to take in a Buffalo Sabres game from the front row of the stadium.

For the Bay Ridge players, the reward of competing against elite teams in the state was an exciting one that included a lot of work.

“It’s a big part of their lives. They spend four days a week practicing,” said Ryan’s mother, Shannon. “They’re all great friends. The team is very close. We go on tournaments where we spend time in hotels with their families so you build nice relationships with the children.”

Shannon also added that despite losing in the semi-finals, the kids handled it with grace.

“Even when they lost, they got back to the hotel, picked up a soccer ball and out they went to play,” she said. “Kids this age really have to find a balance between academics and the commitment of being a part of a championship team and they have succeeded in both.”

Ryan attributes his improved skill and love for the game to the coaches from the New York Stars.

“I was not as good at the beginning of the year as I am now. I improved a lot and they helped,” he said.

“We are so proud of them and the effort they put out there, representing Bay Ridge and Brooklyn,” added Shannon. “They had a great year.”

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