By Mike Dougherty
No matter how descriptive, words really do no justice when describing some of the ridiculous saves Fox Lane netminder Conor Bunyan came up with this season.
A highlight tape was necessary to do them justice.
Charles Berger has seen enough circus stops to make a feature-length film, but the Foxes’ head coach whittled the highlights down to a pair of stops before all-section picks were made. The first clip shows Bunyan making a flat-on-his-back save against Nyack/Tappan Zee.
It’s worth a replay.
The second clip is even better. A perfect touch pass from Rob Grande to Nick Dominguez on the other side of the crease forces Bunyan to slide left in a hurry. He is completely exposed. There are Byram Hills players raising their arms and jumping.
And suddenly, the celebration stops.
Bunyan does a split, reaches back and snags the puck with his glove. Dominguez is just standing on the ice, head bowed in complete disbelief.
“If you’ve ever seen Conor play the game, you know just how good he is,” Berger said. “He can do things other kids aren’t ready to do. I don’t even want to think about how many wins this team would’ve had without him. Conor was pivotal in every one.”
Fox Lane scored a grand total of 55 goals — and finished with an 11-10-1 record.
To use a favorite hockey phrase, Buynan stood on his head all season long. He is The Journal News Westchester/Putnam hockey player of the year, not a bad way to end a career that started when a youth team needed somebody to fill in at goalie.
“My first game in goal was an exhibition at Madison Square Garden,” said Bunyan, who played with the Bedford Bears growing up. “We needed a goalie, so I played that game in net, and every game after, that’s where I played.”
Bunyan isn’t the kind to blink, no matter how stiff the challenge.
“All of the other players on the ice are thinking about scoring,” he said. “I’m defensive-minded. Standing there when somebody is shooting the puck might seem a little weird to some, but after a while, you get used to it.”
He certainly did that, making the ridiculous almost routine.
Bunyan faced nearly 100 more shots than any other goalie in Section 1 this season. He stopped 93.1 percent of them and gave up just 2.45 goals per game.
“The poise he’s shown is unbelievable,” Berger said. “In his career, I can probably count the number of breakaway goals he’s given up on just one hand.”
He’s a standout off the ice, too, and had a number of options. Bunyan has been accepted to Cornell and is leaning toward playing club hockey in college.
“My brother, Andrew, plays there now, and that’s probably the most feasible plan,” he said. “Hockey’s been such a big part of my life, it would be hard to walk away from it altogether. I’m glad that wherever I go, I’ll be able to play competitive hockey.”
Kevin McGee, White Plains: The senior forward kept finding a way to score or set up teammates despite constant attention. He finished the season with 28 goals and 25 assists.
James Nicholas, Scarsdale: The sophomore forward was always on the ice working to make something happen for the Raiders. He finished with 35 goals and 35 assists.
Shawn Smith, John Jay: The junior forward was a matchup problem for opponents due to his size and speed. He led the Indians with 38 goals.
Will Cullen, Pelham: The junior defenseman took a few risks to help score goals when the Pelicans needed more punch. He led Pelham with 16 goals.
Brian Schiff, Mamaroneck: The junior defenseman improved his decision-making and was an impact player on both ends of the ice. He finished with seven goals and 25 assists.
Coach of the year
Alex Smith, John Jay: Smith led the Indians to the first Section 1 hockey championship in school history, beating Pelham and Rye along the way. John Jay advanced to the state championship game and finished with a 23-2-1 record by playing a disciplined style that resulted in the Indians’ outscoring the opposition by a 136-48 margin.
F – Chris Ramondelli, Sr., New Rochelle
F – Cal Hynson, Jr., Rye
F – Trey Herlitz-Ferguson, Sr., Mamaroneck
D – Michael Rocco, Sr., Rye Country Day
D – Mark Leprine, Jr., John Jay
G – Matt Lanza, Jr., John Jay
Honorable mention: Ian Bass (Rye Town/Harrison) Jr. F; Brett Barry (New Rochelle) Jr. F; Teddy Bellis (Mamaroneck) Sr. F; Michael Benincasa (Rye) Sr. F; Matthew Blakely (Scarsdale) Jr. F; Peter Conley (Mamaroneck) Sr. F; Frazier Bostwick (John Jay) Sr. F; Connor Bubulo (Lakeland/Panas) Sr. F; Jason Chin (Rye) Sr. D; Zach Coppola (Rye Country Day) Jr. F; Will Donovan (Pelham) Jr. F; Andrew Dzenis (Pelham) Jr. F; Chris Hagen (Eastchester/Tuckahoe/Bronxville) Jr. F; Owen Gatto (Greeley) Jr. D; Jack Grimm (John Jay) Sr. F; Kevin Halpin (Sleepy Hollow/Irvington/Dobbs Ferry) Sr. D; Sean Henderson (Brewster) Jr. F; Scott Jakubowicz (Greeley) So. F; Austin Johnson (Kennedy/Putnam Valley/Haldane) So. D; Brian Ketchabaw (RT/H) So. G; Tommy Kirincic (Mahopac) Sr. D; Chris Lipari (Rye) Sr. F; Matt Lipski (Iona Prep) Jr. G; Brett Malinowski (Hen Hud) So. F; Patrick McKiernan (Lakeland/Panas) Sr. F; David Morgan (Pelham) Sr. F; Kieran O’Meara (Iona Prep) Sr. F; Joey Ramondelli (New Rochelle) Sr. D; David Rubenstein (Somers/North Salem) Sr. F; Tyler Proscia (Yorktown) Jr. F; Andrew Schauer (Pelham) Jr. F; Danny Sullivan (Rye) Sr. F; Chris Stangarone (White Plains) So. G; Aidan Talgo (Rye) Sr. G; Phil Variano (White Plains) Jr. F; Wyatt Zuk (Stepinac) Jr. F.