LAKE PLACID - After a crushing 5-2 defeat back in February against Beekmantown in the Section VII final, the Blue Bombers boys hockey team has become champion of a different kind.
At Tuesday night's school board meeting, the team was awarded a championship for their academic success off the ice. Thirteen players on the team maintained grades of 90 or higher, which earned the Blue Bombers first place for achieving the highest academic team average while participating in hockey, for the entire state. The award was given by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.
"The boys hockey team had a remarkable season," head coach Kieth Clark said. "We lost to a really good hockey team in the finals. We just had a really rough third period and it just slipped away. It stung pretty good and I saw it the next couple days in school. ... But being the recipient of this award took some of the sting away. I'm real proud of these guys."
Standing outside the high school, members of the 2013-14 Lake Placid boys hockey team display the banner they received after being named the top academic squad in New York state.
Photo — Matthew Turner
Eight of the hockey players were singled out for their academic excellence: Bjorn Kroes, Chris Williams, Dillon Savage, Elias Smith, Jared Smith, Connor Preston, Lewis Collum and Pat Kane. The other hockey players on the team include Nzoni Thompson, Noah Mohr, Lucas Strack, Tucker Angelopoulos and Kiefer Casler.
Director of Athletics Matt Walentuck, assistant hockey coach Butch Martin, NYPHSAA representative Joe Staves and 20 or more parents were also in attendance at the meeting.
"In regards to our student athletes, our faculty, staff, administration, everybody here in the community, we have student-athletes and the student piece comes first," Walentuck said. "So congratulations on behalf of the whole athletic program."
Each player was called to the podium by Walentuck, who shook their hand and presented them a certificate.
Staves said there is a lot of luck involved in winning a sports championship but that's not the case for academic champions. It takes hard work.
"When you win a state championship, you're in classifications: basketball you got five classifications, hockey you've got two classifications. There's about 100 hockey teams that play in New York, so when you win a hockey championship in New York it's about 50 schools," Staves told the hockey players. "When you win an academic championship, you're competing against 100 schools. That's a true New York state championship."
School board President Mary Dietrich said the boys hockey team won her over when she started to attend the games this winter.
"I have to be honest I was not a hockey fan up to that point," Dietrich said. "And it wasn't just because of your fine play on the ice but also your attitudes on the ice and your conduct in the hallways at school. That's what really won me over."
Dietrich the boys handled their defeat versus Beekmantown well.
"You were true sportsmen," Dietrich said.
After the meeting the team celebrated in the Olympic Hall of Fame room at the Olympic Center. Williams, a 15-year-old sophomore and a center, was hanging out with his teammates
"It's a really big honor to our school and our team," Williams said.
The News asked Williams if the award made up for losing the sectional titles. He said it didn't.
"You want to win the championship," Williams said. "Having them both is a good goal for next year."