All-Metro Ice Hockey Player of the Year: Bely’s confidence fueled SLUH’s run for Challenge Cup title | All-Metro Hockey


By Joe Harris | Special for

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

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

Maksim Bely, SLUH hockey

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

Bely also made individual history by becoming the first United States goaltender to win the Wickenheiser Cup with one team and the Challenge Cup the following year with another.

“I think my two championships ended up going downhill,” Bely said. “I mean, it didn’t really feel authentic to me, I guess, the first year, then this year, I think, since I had the full experience, I think the two really dipped.”

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

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Bely led Ladue to the Wickenheiser Cup in 2021, but was drafted into the team through the Mid-States Player Pool because the school he attended, Parkway Central, didn’t have a team. As a result, he didn’t know any of the cheering faces for the Rams in the student section.

But Bely signed up for SLUH last summer and was instantly accepted by his teammates and classmates. The student section of Jr. Billikens made a giant cutout of his face and chanted “Bely! Bély!” after several big stops.

“Just glancing at the crowd 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 has done his best all season, going 11-1 with a .929 save percentage for SLUH (21-2-2). He is the Post-Dispatch All-Metro Ice Hockey Player of the Year.

He credits his success to his teammates.

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

Walters said Bely gained the trust of his new teammates early on during summer drills. His competitiveness and his own expectations stood out.

This continued when the matches started counting.

“Max’s confidence basically transfers throughout our team,” Walters said. “They’re going to play with more confidence and understand now that they’re going to have to do their job in the defensive zone, block shots, get the puck out of the zone, then get to the net and put it behind their goaltender. .”

That confidence was key in an early flurry from De Smet in the league game. The Spartans took the first eight shots of the game on goal, but Bely saved every one of them.

His efforts saw his teammates regain their legs and come away with a decisive 1-0 lead after the first period despite leading 10-3 in shooting.

“What it does is it allows us to train the team in the right way, which tells the guys OK, now they’re going to start getting tired, that’s where SLUH takes over, because you look at our second and third period stats, that’s where we’ve beaten everybody all year,” Walter said. “So when Max keeps you in this game, he does all these confidence saves, it puts confidence in the players. It’s like, ‘Max is here. Max won’t let him in. It gives your whole team confidence in front of you and that’s why it wasn’t a shock that when the shots were 10-3, we were ahead by one.

The Jr. Billikens had such faith in Bely that they allowed him to stick to his normal pre-game routine leading up to the championship, including forgoing the team bus ride from SLUH and traveling himself at the rink.

“It’s just that the bus was in danger of getting us stuck in traffic and it just wanted to get to the rink on its 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 ahead of the team on a road trip getaway day.

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

To make the experience even more special, Bely was able to share it with his younger brother Andrew, who is a freshman goaltender for SLUH.

“He’s been really supportive of me all season, and I’ve been supportive of him,” Bely said. “We both push ourselves to our limits in training.”

Bely was born in Belarus and his parents emigrated to the United States when he was a baby. He still has family in Belarus, including his grandparents, so he is watching the war in neighboring Ukraine closely.

“Everyone here cares about it, but they’re not really into it,” Bely said. “But for me, it’s a whole different story. I have family over there. There’s a lot of political stuff going on and obviously it’s very horrible what’s going on there right now. And all I hope 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 bring SLUH back to another championship run.

“I would also like to bring one home next year and do it,” Bely said. “So it would be a poetic ending.”


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