By Larry Moko
Thanks Mr. Altobelli!
That’s the message the Bishop Ryan Celtics conveyed to their coach following the 2023 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic girls’ high school hockey championship Monday.
The Celtics took the title – 4-3 over the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals at Mountain Arena – and after the on-ice awards and celebration, BR’s Keira Savin spoke about veteran coach Paul Altobelli.
“Mr. Altobelli is retiring this year after many years (33) of coaching,” Savin said. “We’re so grateful for all his contributions. Without his efforts and coaching we wouldn’t have made it here today.”
Bishop Ryan (7-3) finished third in the regular season standings before advancing with playoff-round victories over the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves and the St. Thomas More Knights. In comparison, Newman came first with a mark of 8-1-1 and then got past the Bishop Tonnos Titans in a semifinal.
Twice the Cardinals defeated the Celtics during the regular schedule – each by a 3-2 score.
Savin, who also plays for the Etobicoke Dolphins U18 AA club team, scored twice in the fast-paced final, including the tie-breaking game winner with five minutes, 38 seconds remaining.
“We knew this would be a close game,” the BR forward said. “This group of girls has a wide range of ages and skill levels, but with the help of Mr. Altobelli we were able to come together as a team.”
It was Bishop Ryan’s first championship since 2018. In addition, it marks the first time in school history that the Celtic boys and girls hockey teams have captured the city title in the same season.
“This was a great way to end my career as a coach and teacher,” Altobelli said. “A double championship for the boys and the girls adds to the excitement. It’s sweet.”
Altobelli has coached hockey – first the boys and then girls’ teams – for most of his time at BR. He says there was only a gap of about four or five years when he coached volleyball.
“The door to his office is always open,” Savin said. “He’s always a happy face to see on and off the ice.”
Bishop Ryan led 1-0 at the end of the first period before Newman took a 3-2 lead into the third. In the final period, however, BR enjoyed a large territorial edge.
“It was a close battle,” Newman coach Eugene Farago said. “We had a bunch of injuries and our girls really had to dig deep.
Farago was asked to fill in behind the bench due to the absence of Newman head coach Matt Pritchard, whose wife gave birth to a baby boy on Sunday.
“The team asked if I could help,” the veteran coach and administrator with the Stoney Creek Sabres organization said. “Since I know a lot of the girls on the team I said yes.”
Other Celtic goals were shared by Isabel Casciano and Aly Pescetti.
Captain Alyssa Carrabs, Nicole Cunnane and Gabriella Salciccioli replied for the Cardinals.
“It was definitely a special teams’ game today,” Farago said. “A lot of goals (four in total) were on power plays. It made a difference.”
Newman, in fact, spent over half the time in the first period killing penalties. And for the game, they received eight minors compared to three for the Celtics. Said Altobelli: “Penalties do play a huge factor in keeping the momentum going.”
The BR coach also praised Kylee Boehmer for making some outstanding saves in goal for the Celtics. She previously played at the junior high school level for the Bishop Ryan boys’ team.
“We were right with (Newman) in every game we played them this year,” Altobelli said. “I think that fueled the energy for our girls. They weren’t going to lose another one against them.”
Other members of the Celtics are Dannika Lima, Holly Van Doorn, Mya Tolstoshei, Allyssa Brick, Mya Valeri, Alyssa Hargot, Celina Kubisch, Kailee Trowbridge, Bianca Della Maestra, Caitlyn Pottinger, Jada Perger, Ella Xamin, Kaitlyn Jesty and Lilly Polak.
Up next for the Celtics is a Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference AAA final on Wednesday, March 8 on the road against the Halton champion.