This year’s All-Metro ice hockey player: Bely’s confidence nurtured SLUH for the Challenge Cup title | All-Metro Hockey

By Joe Harris | Specifically for

St. Louis U. High hockey coach Steve Walters got the answer he was looking for when he checked his goalkeeper Maksim Bely up for the Mid-States Club Hockey Association Challenge Cup championship game.

“He said, ‘Coach, I was born for this,'” Walters said.

Maksim Bely, SLUH

Maksim Bely, SLUH hockey

Bely backed up his words with action, making 21 saves as they led Jr. Billikens to a 3-1 victory over De Smet when they won the school’s fourth state championship and the first since 2019.

Bely also wrote individual history by becoming the first Midwestern goalkeeper to win the Wickenheiser Cup with one team and the Challenge Cup the following year with another.

“I finally think both of my championships have sunk in,” Bely said. “I mean, it did not feel really authentic, I think, the first year and then this year, I think since I got the full experience, I think both have really sunk in.”

The junior net holder refers to the connection he had with his team.

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Bely led Ladue to the Wickenheiser Cup in 2021, but was admitted to the team through the Mid-States player pool because the school he attended, Parkway Central, did not have a team. As a result, he did not know any of the faces cheering on the Rams from the student department.

But Bely signed up for SLUH last summer and was instantly accepted by his teammates and his classmates. Jr. Billikens’ student department made a huge cut on his face and sang “Bely! Stomach!” after several major rescues.

“Just looking at the audience during the game whenever I could, I just felt a sense of community and a sense of belonging during the game,” Bely said. “I think it brought out the best in me.”

Bely brought out his best all season, with an 11-1 record with a .929 save percentage for SLUH (21-2-2). He is this year’s Post-Dispatch All-Metro ice hockey player.

He credits his teammates for his success.

“We just felt comfortable around each other,” Bely said. “It’s just a positive environment.”

Walters said Bely gained the confidence of his new teammates early in the summer’s practice sessions. His competitiveness and own expectations stood out.

It was transferred as the fights began to count.

“Confidence in Max is fundamentally transferred to our entire team,” Walters said. “They’re going to play with more confidence and now understand that they’ll have to do their job in the defensive zone, block shots, get the puck out of the zone and then get to the net and put it behind their goalkeeper.”

That confidence was crucial during an early storm by De Smet in the championship game. The Spartans put the first eight shots of the match on the net, but Bely turned each one away.

His efforts allowed his teammates to find their legs and get away with a decisive 1-0 lead after the first period despite being eliminated 10-3.

“What does matter is that it allows us to train the team the right way, which tells the boys OK, now they’re starting to get tired, this is where SLUH takes over because you look at our second and third period statistics, that’s where we all beat all year round, “said Walter.” So when Max keeps you in that game, he makes all these confidence saves, it gives the players confidence. It’s like, ‘Max is here. Max will not let it in. ‘ So it gives your whole team in front of you confidence, and therefore it was no shock that when the shots were 10-3, we were up one. “

Jr. Billikens had so much confidence in Bely that they allowed him to stick to his normal routine before the match up to the championship, including giving up the team bus ride from SLUH and even traveling to the skating rink.

“It’s just the bus had the risk of us getting caught in traffic and he just wanted to get to the rink in his time,” Walters said.

It’s the hockey equivalent of a Major League baseball team sending the next day’s starting pitcher to their next destination in front of the team during a day off on a road trip.

“It just gives me a sense of comfort to get into the game,” Bely said. “Of course, when you do things that are familiar to you, it eases your mind into the game.”

Making the experience extra special was that Bely got to share it with her younger brother Andrew, who is a new goalkeeper for SLUH.

“He’s really supported me throughout the season and I’ve supported him,” Bely said. “We both push ourselves to the limits during training.”

Bely was born in Belarus, and his parents migrated to the United States when he was a baby. He still has family in Belarus, including his grandparents, so he is keeping a close eye on the war in neighboring Ukraine.

“Everyone here is worried about it, but they’re not really attached to it,” Bely said. “But for me it’s a completely different story. I have family over there. There’s a lot of political stuff going on, and it’s obviously very awful what’s going on right now. And all I hope for is that my family stays safe. “

So far, he said, his family is safe, which has allowed him to focus on hockey.

Bely plans to work on his mental game and hopes to lead SLUH back to yet another championship.

“I also want to bring one home next year and get it done,” Bely said. “So that would be a poetic ending.”


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