Every year, it gets a little easier.
For the third time in four years, the Blazers, a hockey team that plays out of the Northeast SkateZone, has qualified for the USA Hockey National tournament. The team consisting of area players leaves for Irvine, California, this week, and the goal is to keep improving upon their showing.
The first time the Blazers went, they lost all three of their games and came home disappointed.
Last year, they returned and finished third. This time, they are hungry to finally win a championship against the best teams in the nation. And that will be the goal this year after they head out west to play the best the country has to offer.
“This is our third time going, so it’s same as always, we’re really excited,” said Brady Baehser, a forward who is a junior at Holy Ghost Prep. “Last year we came in third, so we have high expectations this year. We did really well last year, but we want to do better.
“Overall, the competition is very good out there. I play for Holy Ghost and the competition is great there, too. When you play in nationals, the competition, top to bottom, is great, so if we can go there and win it, it would mean a lot.”
Baehser got involved in hockey because his dad was a player. The game also runs in the family to his teammate Colin Moore, who picked up the game from his uncles who enjoyed the sport.
Both Baehser and Moore are leaders on the Blazers, but they have different roles on the ice. Baehser is the leading scorer on the team, while Moore anchors the defense.
But when it comes to playing in the national tournament, they both have the exact same goals.
“I think last year where we won some games will help a lot, especially since when we were there before that, we went 0-3,” said Moore, a senior at Holy Ghost Prep who is bound for Duquesne University in the fall. “We didn’t get where we wanted to. But I think this year could be different. We’re ready and I’m confident in all my guys.”
Behind Moore, the captain, and Baehser, an alternate captain, the Blazers have good players and strong leadership. But it also takes talent in the pipes to bring home a hockey championship, and goaltenders don’t come any more dependable than Anthony Perti, who also plays for hockey powerhouse Malvern Prep.
The former defenseman gives a lot of credit to the guys who skate in front of him, but when the puck comes his way, he’s ready.
“The guys do a great job of playing and protecting me,” Perti said. “They play confident, the guys trust me and I trust them. I feel like we are all confident we know what the job is everyone knows their role.
“We can play with anyone. I think it’s a whole experience, going to nationals. It’s surreal, we can compete with anyone. I think playing before prepared us for this year. We already had a taste, we know what it takes to get to that level. Last year, we lacked that experience of winning at nationals. Now we know exactly what we have to do to win.”
All three guys know what needs to be done to win. And they all have extremely important roles. They’re ready to play their role to help the Blazers succeed.
“I’d say my main goal is to score goals,” Baehser said. “I’m a smaller guy, I put in a lot of work for extra speed and strength. I think most people would agree that my best attribute is my speed and I have a good shot.”
The other guys are there for their skill and leadership.
“As a leader, I try to do my best to lead by example, but this team is pretty easy to lead, everyone wants the same thing,” Moore said. “A big part of our team success is our coaches. They’ve led the way all year, every year. Without them, we wouldn’t be going to this tournament every year. No way (that) we go three times.”
“I’m a leader and I feel like it’s my job to get everyone mentally focused, get everyone locked in for the games,” Perti said. “I try to give the guys focus. Communicate out there. Make sure everyone is mentally there. I take pride in that.”
It always means a lot to win, but according to Perti, winning this year would be special because of the team. This team wants to find success together.
“Every kid on this team is a great kid on and off the ice,” Perti said. “We play against each other in high school hockey, but we all love each other. We’re all really good and solid people. We’ll go to war for each other. There’s a real bond between us all.”
The team consists of Sal Vitale, Shaun Moore, Johnny Seravalli, Brady Baehser, Brandon Barger, Brendan MacAnish, JJ Hathaway, Colin Moore, Landon Stout, Sean Marshall, Nolan Geria, Joel Schriver, Shane Siegmund, Colin McKee, Anthony Perti, Wade Courtney, Gavin O’Connell, Brian Butler, Jules Diehl and Max Maddalo. The coaches are Jon Barger, Chip Perkins and Zack Bennett.