2022-23 Gazette Hockey Player of the Year: Ryan O’Leary, Pope Francis

By HANNAH BEVIS 

Staff Writer

Published: 04-06-2023 1:43 PM

It was historic season for the Pope Francis boys’ hockey team, which won an MIAA Division 1 state title thanks to a dramatic 3-2 win over Xaverian last month at the TD Garden in Boston.

It was the first time any Western Massachusetts team had won a Division 1 championship since West Springfield did it in 1952. 

The win was very much a group effort, and one of the players who stepped his game up this year to help carry the team to victory was Easthampton’s Ryan O’Leary. 

“We thought this year was gonna be a good year with a lot of guys coming back from last year's team and (them) just steadily kept improving. I think Ryan (O’Leary) as a player, as a captain, he steadily improved this year as well,” Pope Francis head coach Brian Foley said. “As a senior, it was just great to see him playing as well as he was at the end of this year when we needed it most.” 

O’Leary did everything for the Cardinals – he was a captain, played on the power play unit, shut down opponents on the penalty kill, and was very often on the ice in the dying seconds to ensure his team secured a win. For those reasons, he was tabbed as the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Hockey Player of the Year. 

“I think just being more of a complete player, being more reliable with the puck, being a bigger presence on the ice as a senior, as a captain,” O’Leary said on his goals for his senior season. “Especially in the locker room as well, just keeping the guys together.” 

Even before he was a captain, O’Leary has always been a strong presence on the ice for the Cardinals. He plays with a high hockey IQ, and that maturity has always stood out to his coach. 

“He's always been very responsible. I think he's one of the more intelligent players on the team. He understands our concepts, our structure defensively,” Foley said. “When we're up a goal with a minute left, he's on the ice. He's a very trustworthy player, and we give him a lot of ice time as a result.” 

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Part of that trust included having faith in his coach’s decision to move him to right wing this season – O’Leary is traditionally a center, but in order to balance the lines and improve chemistry, he was shifted to a wing.

“He started the year playing right wing with Josh Iby and CJ Watroba and then we flipped right wings and I think that's when the team really started to take off,” Foley said. “He started playing with Jake Petrin and Nick Petkovich. It just balanced our lines out, gave us two first lines really. That was key for our team.” 

Beyond the balance the team had on the scoresheet, they also came into the winter close to mid-season form. The entire team committed to playing together at a camp in the summer, building up chemistry and getting to know tendencies on the ice. 

“Over the summer, we actually did a Pope Francis camp with Pat Tabb – he’s an assistant coach for AIC and then with the Springfield Olympics. We got a good five-week camp, we did on-ice skating and then a workout after,” O’Leary said. “It was just great team bonding, building culture and everybody was working together. Going into the season we already had our lines, we already had set plays, everything like that that we needed to have.”

That summer bonding made the difference for the Cardinals this year. The early chemistry allowed them to have a successful regular season and playoff run. And when it came down to the end of the championship game – the Cardinals scored the go-ahead goal with 25 seconds left and needed to make sure Xaverian didn’t tie it up – O’Leary was one of the players that was out on the ice defending. 

“In that last 25 seconds, Ryan and Josh Iby particularly, did a great job –  they never let anything get in our zone,” Foley said. “So it was as relaxing 25 seconds as it could be because those guys did such a good job of keeping the puck down at their end that we were able to kind of breathe and watch the clock go down.”

From the very start of the season to the very end, O’Leary remained a reliable and consistent presence on the ice. As a result, he and his team were able to skate off into the sunset with a state championship and the satisfaction of a job well done. 

FIRST TEAM ALL-STARS

Ivorie Arguin, junior, Pope Francis

Cooper Beckwith, junior, Amherst

Zachary Buffone, junior, Belchertown

James Delaney, senior, Belchertown

Charlie Fijal, sophomore, Belchertown 

Liam Flynn, junior, Amherst

Felix Goeckel, sophomore, Pope Francis

Francis Henderson, senior, Belchertown  

Nate Loughman, senior, South Hadley

Caleb Lundgren, junior, South Hadley

Ethan Marowitz, senior, Easthampton 

Charlie May, senior, Amherst

Connor McDonnell, junior, South Hadley

Brady Moreau, senior, Belchertown 

Ryan O’Leary, senior, Pope Francis

Zach Roy, junior, Easthampton 

Grace Sands, junior, Pope Francis

Mike Thompson, junior, Easthampton

SECOND TEAM ALL-STARS

Mike Arabik, senior, South Hadley 

Jack Belcher-Timme, senior, Easthampton

Tyler Denison, sophomore, South Hadley 

Austin Deren, senior, South Hadley 

Owen Duda, senior, Easthampton 

Jack Dyjach, sophomore, Amherst

Ryan Fernandes, senior, Belchertown

Skylar Ferro, junior, Amherst

Paige Galpin, junior, Easthampton 

Yuuki Ishida, junior, Amherst

Jack Mandeville, sophomore, Belchertown 

Ethan Nompleggi, junior, Amherst 

Sean O'Leary, senior, Pope Francis 

Lila Roche, senior, Pope Francis 

Camryn Rogowski, Pope Francis

Cody Samson, senior, Belchertown 

Peter Sullivan, senior, Easthampton 

Drew Thompson, junior, Easthampton 

HONORABLE MENTION 

Devin Carleton, junior, South Hadley 

Eric Chen, sophomore, Amherst 

Parker Christy, freshman, Easthampton

Josh Goodhind, junior, Amherst

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