By Alicia Dziak

This time of year, SGI spring sports include baseball, softball, lacrosse, track and tennis. But for some other dedicated athletes, their sport of choice is one that involves ice. Yes, that’s right — hockey.

Brooke Judkiewicz is a seventh grader who plays for the 12U Buffalo Regals, an all-girls team made up of 16 12-year-olds and two 11-year-olds. “One of the girls on her teams even lives in Florida and comes up for some games and tournaments,” said Brooke’s mom, Sarah.

Brooke comes from a hockey family. Her younger brother, Bryce, plays with the Buffalo Junior Sabres and her older brother, Chase, plays for the St. Francis Red Raiders and Caz.

The Regals are part of Lower Lakes Female Hockey League in Ontario, Canada, and also compete in tier 1 state qualifier games in New York state. The team also played in five tournaments/showcases in cities like Boston, Mass., and Detroit, Mich.

“My favorite thing about playing hockey is scoring goals, being with my friends, and visiting new places,” said Brooke, who plays on offense at center or wing. She noted that the biggest challenge is “skating as hard as you can every shift.”

The highlight of the 2017-18 season came when the Regals competed in the state championship tournament, held in Buffalo March 10 and 11. The Regals competed against the Syracuse Nationals and came away with a 10-1 win, with Brooke scoring the first goal of the game.

“Some lessons I learned from playing hockey is never give up even when you’re losing,” Brooke said, adding that having a good attitude is always important because “you never know who could be watching.”

Brooke recently tried out with the best girls in the region and was selected to a USA hockey development camp in July.

Two other seventh graders, Matthew Delasandro and Owen Gang, play on another hockey team together. The Eden-Lake Shore-Pioneer-Springville team (referred to as ELPS) is a combination of kids in the towns the team is named after. Delasandro and Gang are the only two SGI boys on the modified team.

“I’ve played on four different teams— Hamburg Hawks, Buffalo Regals, and Southtown Stars and ELPS Modified are the two I’m on now,” said Matthew, who has been playing hockey for eight years.

He said that his favorite thing about the sport is the games, being part of a team and being on the ice. “The hardest part is early morning practices!” he said, noting that they start at 5 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

Matthew enjoys being on a team with kids he might not be able to play with otherwise. “It’s fun playing with different kids. You meet lots of new people and make friends from different towns,” he noted.

The lessons learned in hockey go beyond the ice. “Hockey has taught me hard work pays off, and not to give up,” Matthew said.

He offers this advice to someone just starting out in the sport: “Have fun! Don’t give up on it and keep trying.”

Matthew’s teammate Owen is also an experienced hockey player. “During my six years (playing hockey), I have played for three (other) different teams—Southtown Stars, Aurora Ice and West Seneca Wings,” he said.

While Owen said that it can take a little longer to bond with teammates when they are from other schools/towns, in the end, “My favorite thing about playing hockey is all the friendships I’ve made over the years.”

“The hardest part about playing hockey are the late evening practices on school nights,” he added.

Owen agrees that many lessons learned in hockey carry through to everyday.

“Things I’ve learned from playing hockey that I take into other parts of my life would be not to give up when things get hard,” he said. “Practicing really does make a difference and it’s important to listen and respect my coaches. I try to carry the respect and listen when I am at school with my teachers.”

When asked what advice he would give to a younger hockey player, Owen said, “Practice stick handling skills at home as much as possible, try to sign up for clinics during the off season to improve skills and skating, really try to get to know your teammates and most of all, have fun!”