It was late in the third period of the New York State AAU ice hockey championship game that Long Beach High School goaltender and Island Park resident Kieran Byrne saw a forward from the Roy-Hart/Barker/Medina School racing toward him on a breakaway.
Clinging to a 1-goal lead, Byrne made the stop and the Marines went on to win the championship, earning a 3-1 victory.
“All I thought was, I was like, this could be all or nothing right here,” Byrne recalled. “I just started jumping up and down in the crease afterward.”
Byrne was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, which was held at the Northwell Health Ice Center at Eisenhower Park from March 1 through 3.
Despite a 6-5 overtime loss to Cold Spring Harbor on Feb. 15 during Game 3 of the Nassau County championships — Long Beach defeated CSH 3-2 the night before in a best two-out-of-three series — the Marines, still the No. 1 seed, marched on to the New York State AAU championship, and finished with a 22-2-2 record for the season.
Byrne, a sophomore, said he manned the crease once all season, but was told by head coach Joe Brand that he would suit up for the tournament and immediately began practicing for it. Long Beach played four games and outlasted six other teams to win the title.
“I said to myself, I’ve got to prove a point,” Byrne said. “In the beginning, it really didn’t sink in, but on the bus ride home, that was when I was really like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I just did that.’”
Byrne said that he was “ecstatic” to help propel Long Beach to the championship. He noted that he began playing hockey when he was 7, and started playing goalie at age 10.
“I didn’t know how to stop with my left foot, so I thought, if I play goalie, I don’t need to know how to stop,” he said with a laugh. “I thought, all I have to do is get in front of a puck, but I was wrong.”
He got in front of plenty of pucks at the tournament, helping Long Beach to its first title in seven years.