Thursday, February 17, 2011

CMP Hockey -- Starting the March

from today's Waukesha Freeman --

Senior moments
Leadership carries Crusading Popes into postseason
By Daniel Mike Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA – Kyle Fink and the rest of the Catholic Memorial/Pius senior hockey players have been on a mission this season.

“With as many seniors as we have, we all wanted to win,” said Fink, a senior captain for the Crusading Popes. “Conference was our goal coming in. We came together right away and set the goals for ourselves.

“We know what we have do to. We can’t play any games and leave anything back. We can’t have any regrets.”

The Crusading Popes have 12 seniors on this year’s team, a group that is very familiar with each other and hungry for success.

“Our team bonded pretty tightly this year,” senior Anthony Soo Hoo said. “That’s helped a lot getting through games and practices.

“(The number of seniors) just provides more leadership for our team. We always have different people step up.”

That group lost last year’s Classic 8 Conference title and lost its first postseason game.

“We had the ability to win (conference) last year, but we stumbled along the way,” coach Steve Chapin said.

With that frustration in mind, this year’s group of CMP seniors – Fink, Kieran Gilbert, Jake Zea, Dominic Zanoni, Soo Hoo, Joe Heckes, Sean Waite, Cody Dixon, David Butterfield, Rob Hampson, Matt Baldwin and Josh Campbell – have the Crusaders at 15-8 entering their regional final against Waukesha at the Eble Park Ice Arena tonight.

“A lot of it has to do with the leadership,” Fink said. “With as many seniors as we’ve got, it’s definitely a game-changer in the locker room. Everybody feels like we can trust each other, because we’ve been together four years.

“It’s definitely a different attitude this year. We’re going hard every game, not looking ahead at all. We’re really coming together more as a team, and everybody’s happier this year.”

The Crusading Popes are battle tested. They went 7-0 to win the Classic 8 title, and their eight nonconference losses played a large part in the conference championship.

CMP has lost to the Eau Claire Memorial, Wausau West and Notre Dame, which hold the top three positions in this week’s rankings. Marquette is ranked No. 5, Superior and Edgewood received honorable mention, and Stoughton and the University School of Milwaukee are perennial state powerhouses.

“Early in the season, we played almost all the top 10 teams in the state,” Fink said. “The losses were tough, but we had to keep fighting through it. We definitely think it helps for the playoffs, because we’re used to playing better competition.”

Seniors have been providing most of CMP’s offensive attack. Fink and Soo Hoo lead the Crusading Popes with 23 goals each, and Fink’s 16 assists give him a team-high 39 points.

Gilbert leads CMP with 23 assists and Dixon has 21 assists.

While the seniors are providing the offense up front, sophomore goalkeeper Chris Nelson, who transferred from Oconomowoc, has a 2.5 goals against average and a save percentage of 88.

”We’ve relied on him a lot this year and he’s really stepped up as a sophomore,” Soo Hoo said of Nelson. “He’s done everything we can ask for.”

The Crusading Popes are in their third year of co-op status, but with just two Pius players – and both being seniors – the team may be solely Memorial based next season.

“When we looked at the Pius co-op a while back, we were looking at what would be three, four or five years down the line,” Chapin said. “When we made the commitment with Pius, Pius had maybe 15 kids total and we had 18. Pius hasn’t really helped us as far as numbers. The players have helped us, but it hasn’t added to our overall numbers.

“I don’t think anybody envisioned Pius would drop off that quick.”

Photo credit: Robert F. Borkowski/Special to The Freeman Anthony Soo Hoo is one of 12 seniors hoping to lead the Catholic Memorial/Pius co-op boys hockey team to the WIAA state tournament after winning the Classic 8 Conference title.

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