It’s really hard to hate on Ben Hurd.
The kid is unapologetically smart, amazingly talented and embarrassingly polite. Unless, of course, the Pelham junior happens to be fighting to gain possession of the puck in a corner.
Hurd is an entirely different person on the ice.
“I’m telling you, Ben is almost too good to be true,” Pelicans head coach Ed Witz said. “He is unbelievably nice, just so friendly and outgoing. He got like a perfect score on his ACT, so Ben usually has the respect of everyone in the room.”
“He’ll get as physical as he needs to be,” Witz added.
The physical and mental tools set Hurd apart, but the willingness to battle end to end is what made him the Journal News Hockey Player of the Year in Westchester and Putnam.
Win first. Apologize later.
“He’s a hard-nosed kid who’s not afraid of the nitty-gritty,” Clarkstown head coach Rich Willows said. “For some reason, a lot of good hockey players are like that. You see them on the line, and they are just as polite as can be. And when they get on the ice, they look to beat the hell out of you. He’s like that.”
Stifling the determined scorer proved to be an impossible task.
None of the best teams in Section 1 were able to shut out Hurd this season. He got at least one point against Mamaroneck, Suffern, Clarkstown, Rye, Mount Pleasant and Rye Town. He got eight goals and four assists in five playoff games and finished the season with 32 goals and 21 assists.
Thank you very much.
“I just play the game how it has to be played,” Hurd said of his multiple personalities on and off the ice. “You might know some of the kids on the other team, but you still have to get after them. No hard feelings. If you play nice, it’s a huge disadvantage.”
Pelham has won three Section 1 titles in a row and is widely known for its team concepts and depth of talent, but individual standouts keep the program moving forward. It’s obvious who’s driving the bus.
Hurd is a qualified marquee player along with linemate Stefan Miklakos and defenseman Gib Smith.
And he’s not one-dimensional on the ice.
“Ben has a really good understanding that the better you play defense, the more opportunities you’re going to have on offense,” Witz said.
He forced opponents into a lot of mistakes this season and went the other way in a hurry. And many of those rushes led to easy goals for Miklakos or Nat Heintz.
“It helps to have the linemates I have,” Hurd said. “Stef is always skating past defensemen and moving the puck. Nat is always getting huge goals and he’s a presence on the ice. The one thing I do well is adjust to whoever I’m playing with. Over the years, I’ve gotten a good feel for the other guys on my line and matched up my game with how they play. With our depth, there is no pressure. I always know somebody will back me up.”
Oh, yeah, Hurd is humble, too.
The Pelicans are graduating only three key members of this team and plan to make another run. Getting past the regional game was a step in the right direction. Now, making a state final appearance is the next goal on the list.
“Our season ended sooner than we wanted,” Hurd said of an NYSPHSAA semifinal loss to Skaneateles. “We really want to get back up there next season and win it.”
2016 Journal News Hockey All-Stars
F – Ben Hurd, Pelham, Jr.
F – Will Kirk, Mamaroneck, Sr.
F – Stephen Nicholas, Scarsdale, Sr.
D – Gibson Smith, Pelham, Jr.
D – Jake Levine, Mamaroneck, Sr.
G – Tommy Spero, Mamaroneck, Jr.
Coach – Mike Chiapparelli, Mamaroneck
F – Max Picker, Rye Town/Harrison, Sr.
F – R.J. LaSpina, Somers/North Salem, Sr.
F – Alex Ewald, Mamaroneck, Sr.
D – Russell Mazzaro, Pelham, Jr.
D – Robert Lunder, Byram Hills, Jr.
G – Sam Seltzer, Scarsdale, So.
Will Arbo, Mamaroneck, Sr., F; Jason Bienstock, Mamaroneck, Sr., F; Sean Blaney, John Jay, Jr., F; Matthew Bramson, Mount Pleasant, Sr., F; Theo Bresolin, Rye, Sr., F; James Carrier, White Plains, So., F; Will Case, Pelham, Jr. D; Ryan Cavanagh, John Jay, Jr., F; Kyle Dineen, Brewster, Sr., F; Brian Donovan, Stepinac, Sr., F; Liam Donnelly, Yorktown, Sr., F; Jack Dufresne, Fordham Prep, Sr., F; Shayan Farjam, Mount Pleasant, Fr., D; Dominick Fensore, Mount Pleasant, Fr., F; Sean Gonder, Rivertown, Sr., G; A.J. Gugliara, Pelham, Sr., G; Brett Hanson, Hen Hud, So., F; Doug Harrison, Rye Town/Harrison, Sr., F; Charlie Hastings, John Jay, Jr., D; Nat Heintz, Pelham, Jr., F; Will Hynson, Rye, Jr., F; Abbie Ives, Fox Lane, Sr., G; Brandon LaSpina, Somers/North Salem, Fr., F; Joey Livornese, Rye Town/Harrison, Sr., G; Joe Mastrocola, Mahopac, Sr., D; Brendan McDonough, White Plains Sr., F; Stefan Miklakos, Pelham, So. F; Tommy O’Brien, Rye, Sr., F; Will Payne, Mamaroneck, Jr., D; Nick Ramondelli, New Rochelle, Jr., D; Joey Rocco, Byram Hills, Sr., F; Jackson Schultz, Rye Town/Harrison, Jr., F; Matt Stefunek, Mahopac, Sr., D; Thomas Tenney, Fox Lane, Jr., F; Aaron Treiling, Brewster, Sr., F; Frankie Wedge, Sr., D, Iona Prep; Trevor Zegras, Fox Lane, Fr., F.