The puck has dropped on a new hockey team that brings together students from Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River high schools. The Seacats — a mix of Blue Waves and Wildcats — played their first games this month in the Suffolk County High School Hockey League.
The freshman-level team includes students from grades seven through nine, and marks the first time Riverhead has participated in a high school hockey league. Coach Bernie Bobinski, who founded the team, said Shoreham had a team in the ’80s that combined with Rocky Point. The new team provides another way for local hockey players to compete in a sport that’s not part of either school’s regular athletic lineup. The goal, Bobinski said, is to grow the program to include a JV team and then a varsity.
“I would love to see this evolve into a three-team organization with a varsity, JV and a freshman,” he said. “But we’re just doing it one step at a time.”
The team operates as a club sport with no direct affiliation to the schools the players represent. The team jerseys feature the royal blue of Riverhead and the navy and gold of Shoreham.
The team has 21 players who earned spots on the roster at tryouts in May. They began picking up practices in August to prepare for a 20-game schedule that will be played over several months. The schedule allows students to participate in other regular school teams in the fall and winter, if they wish.
Bobinski, who lives in Baiting Hollow, said the idea for this team dates back about five years when his son, Connor, who was in second grade, began playing in a youth hockey league in Greenport. The coaches had been talking about establishing a North Fork high school team. Without a home team, high school students who want to play in the county league are drafted by established teams, which are mostly in western Suffolk.
At the time, however, interest in Mattituck and Southold didn’t seem quite strong enough to warrant jump-starting the program. Bobinski, whose son Colson, 9, also plays hockey, said he found interest in Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River was higher.
“I have almost 40 kids that have come to practice clinics that I held for the past two years,” he said.
After tryouts, the team ended up with 11 players from Shoreham and nine from Riverhead. There was only one goaltender among all those who tried out for the team, so the Seacats were able to draft a player from Smithtown who could also play the position.
“It was a good four years of slow, methodical preparation getting to this point and a good two years of practice to get to this point for the kids,” Bobinski said.
Bobinski estimated about half the kids on the team play on additional travel teams, which is how most hockey players gain experience since opportunities through individual high schools is limited. In addition, there aren’t many hockey rinks on Long Island, which makes it an expensive sport to stick with.
The Seacats practice and play mostly at the Rinx in Hauppauge. On Saturday, the Seacats won their first league game with a 6-0 victory over the Connetquot/Sayville Thunderbirds.
The Seacats’ top line features a trio of freshmen from Riverhead: Ryken Kutner, Dominic Cederna and Nolan Fritscher. Eric Zurawski anchors the defense. Bobinski has nicknamed them the “four horsemen.”
He said that top line will likely produce the majority of the team’s goals this season. Zurawski is a “wrecking ball on defense,” he added.
Ryan Hobbes, Luke Butler and Ryan Lohrius are all travel players who will play big roles on the team, Bobinski said.
The team includes one girl: Riverhead’s Courtney Reynolds. The eighth-grade forward wasted no time making her presence felt, scoring a goal in the first period of Saturday’s game to put the Seacats ahead 2-0.
Bobinski said it’s not unusual for girls to play at the freshman level in the league. Reynolds also plays for the Junior Lady Islanders based in Dix Hills.
In Saturday’s win, Kutner tipped in a blue line slapshot from Dominic Cerbone at 13:51 in the first period to start the scoring. Fritscher scored twice and forward Thomas Boucher made it 5-0 in the second period. Zurawski capped the scoring with a slapshot. Goaltenders Grady Roppelt and Patrick Ryan combined for the shutout.
The Seacats will play next Oct. 6 against the Eastport-South Manor Sharks at the Rinx in Hauppauge.
Top photo caption: Dominic Cederna, right, duals with a Connetquot skater in the Sept. 22 game in Hauppauge. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)
CORRECTION: The article misidentified Dominic Cederna in the story and photo caption.