By Kallen Prosak
Playing on one varsity sports team as an underclassmen takes a lot of hardwork and determination. Playing on two is even more difficult. Being a key member of the State Champion Jamesville-DeWitt/Christian Brothers Academy hockey team and a member of the winning Varsity Boys Lacrosse team as either a freshman or sophomore is even more outstanding. Both J-D High School freshman Sam Mueller and sophomore Ryan Durkin are doing just that.
Durkin was the starting center of the Brothers team and is also the team's assistant captain, which is an impressive accomplishment for a sophomore to achieve. Halfway through the season, after the upset victory over Oswego on Jan. 10, Durkin’s coaches nominated him. “The coaches decided that he was the guy that was going to help Scott Firman lead this team,” said JD/CBA head coach Mike McKie.
Though not a captain, Mueller was still important as the starting defense for the Brothers. According to freshman teammate Grayson Burns, “Mueller could be on offense because he takes the puck up the side all the time.”
In arguably the most exciting game of the state tournament Mueller and Durkin combined their talents to win the game for the Brothers. In the semifinals against Beekmantown the Brothers were trailing 3-1 late in the third period. That was until Durkin received a pass from Mueller and scored. A few minutes later, Durkin scored again, tying the game at three-all with merely 6.6 seconds left. “I was relieved,” said Durkin, “and shocked because when you pull the goalie out you usually never score.” “He saved us from elimination,” said sophomore teammate Stuart Harley.
The Brother’s last minute rally led the game into the first overtime, where Mueller scored the game winning goal off of a pass from Durkin with 53.4 seconds left. “It was a once in a lifetime chance,” said Mueller. The win led the Brothers to the State Finals where they were able to defeat John Jay-Cross River for the State Title. “It was an honor to win with my coaches,” said Durkin, “and to be the first JD/CBA team to win.”
The Brothers began the regular season 1-6. Although they got off on the wrong foot, the Brothers were able to turn their record around ending their regular season 18-6-1.
“Considering where we were in the beginning of the season, with a record of one and six, and knowing that the playoffs was a start of a new season and a big opportunity to have one last chance, was very special to me,” said Coach McKie. “The playoffs were difficult,” said Mueller. The post-season run was a series of Cinderella victories, filled with comebacks by the Brothers. “This will go down as one of the greatest stories in high school hockey history,” said Coach McKie.
Durkin achieved numerous things during his second season with the Brothers. For the regular season Durkin achieved Lead Scorer for Section III, Division II, along with First Team All CNY. “My coaches guided me throughout the year,” said Durkin of his accomplishments. After the playoffs Durkin also achieved appointment to the All-Tournament Team and First Team All-State. Durkin wasn’t done there. At the end of the state final game it was announced that Durkin was Player of the Year in Division II. All Durkin could say about this achievement was that “I couldn’t have done it without my team.”
Mueller was given an honorable mention for Section III, and was given First Team all CNY. “It was a great opportunity to win,” said Mueller, “and I hope we can do it next year again.”
Durkin has been playing hockey since he was 4-years-old. His first coach was teammate Burns’s father, who taught them both to play at Midstate. Durkin then continued on to play with various travel teams and did not quit the travel teams even when he earned a spot on the JD/CBA team as a freshman. In fourth grade, he began playing with the Syracuse Stars, and continued to play for three years. In the seventh grade Durkin switched to playing with Onondaga Thunder which he stayed with up until the end of his freshman year. Now, Durkin only plays with the JD/CBA team. “Lacrosse is my more serious sport,” said Durkin. “(Hockey) gives me an opportunity to have fun and enjoy it.”
According to his teammates, Durkin’s idea of fun is giving 110 percent. “On the ice he works hard and takes charge,” said sophomore teammate Braeden Doust. “Ryan makes everyone on the ice he skates with that much better due to his creativity and patience with the puck,” said Coach McKie. Most of his teammates believe his determination is one of the reasons he was able to accomplish so much during this season. “Ryan is always ready to strike when the opportunity comes to him,” said Coach McKie. “He works so hard that he got player of the year and led our team in goals,” said Harley. “Ryan is a workhorse,” said Burns, “he’s relentless; he goes until he gets his way. Like Mueller he doesn’t stop until the job is done.”
Mueller has been playing hockey for 10 years. “My brother (former J-DHS student Joseph Mueller) played and it looked fun,” he said. Mueller also plays for the Syracuse Stars hockey team. He began to play for the JD/CBA team as an eighth grader. “It has been fun being able to play with a lot of my friends,” said Mueller.
Mueller’s approach to the game is different than Durkin’s. “He’s always goofing around but he works hard,” said Doust. “Sam works hard while having fun,” agreed Harley. “He has more fun with it than Ryan,” said Burns. “Sam’s motor never stops, he could stay on the ice the whole game,” added Burns. “He (Mueller) is very aggressive and can play a whole game if he is asked to,” said Coach McKie, “Opponents can’t seem to wear him down.”
Mueller will need his motor as a freshman on the Varsity Boys Lacrosse team. Both he and Durkin are two of the four underclassmen on the team. Durkin was pulled up at the end of last season for playoffs and Mueller was pulled up during the fall of this year. “Ryan is (more) ready to play varsity,” said Varsity Boys Lacrosse head coach Jamie Archer. “Sam is physically ready,” said Coach Archer. “He will get better playing varsity than playing on JV,” he added. Durkin plays midfield and is in the top six rotation and Mueller plays defense and is currently starting for the Red Rams.
Durkin has been playing since he was about five years old. “My dad was a lacrosse player so he encouraged me to play,” said Durkin. Durkin says lacrosse is his more serious sport and he plans on playing in college, but he doesn’t know where yet. In order to progress to where he is today, Durkin has played with various teams starting with JDYAA (Jamesville-DeWitt Youth Athletic Association). He also played in numerous summer leagues and is currently playing with Orange Crush and the CNY Arrows.
“Ryan is a middie and he plays tremendous defense and makes plays,” said Burns. “He does a lot and is unselfish,” he added. “Ryan works hard and always seems to be a leader,” said Harley of Durkin on the field. “Ryan is a very smart lacrosse player,” said Coach Archer. “He has no wasted movement. He does everything for a purpose,” he continued.
Coach Archer sees the same characteristics in Mueller, adding that they both are competitive and want to win. His expectations for both Mueller and Durkin are that they will grow and learn as the year goes on. Coach Archer also said how right now there is a lot of senior leadership, and in the future Mueller and Durkin will be relied on as leaders.
Like Durkin, Mueller has been playing since a young age, beginning with J-DHS. “I’ve played for JD my whole life,” said Mueller. Now, Mueller also plays as a part of Orange Crush. The reason Mueller began to play lacrosse was the same as Durkin. “My dad played (lacrosse) so I wanted to,” said Mueller. Mueller would like to play lacrosse in college, but he doesn’t know where yet.
“Sam can be harsh with his long pole,” said Harley, “I’ve felt that.” “Sam is a shutdown defender,” said Burns,” he’s big and works hard.” “He’s going to have to step up,” added Burns.
Both Durkin and Mueller have the same goal for this lacrosse season. To win states.