St. Francis' Joey Benik: Skills beyond his years

  • Updated: November 27, 2007 - 3:56 PM

While some of his St. Francis hockey teammates worked at a recent practice just to get their shots on net, sophomore sniper Joey Benik was picking corners.

While some of his St. Francis hockey teammates worked at a recent practice just to get their shots on net, sophomore sniper Joey Benik was picking corners.

"Uh, Joey," coach Jeff Palmer said. "Do you think you can just shoot like the rest of us humans?"

Benik's 31 goals and 22 assists as a freshman fell short of superhuman status but still elevated the Saints (9-16) to one of the better records in school history. In addition, Benik was part of the program's youth movement. A total of 14 eighth-graders and freshmen saw varsity action, experience that is sure to be beneficial this season.

"We've got more depth this year, and the guys really worked hard to be successful," Palmer said. "I think we might be the surprise team this season."

Benik's twin brother, Andy, is a rising star at goaltender. The brothers inked similar tattoos into their arms this summer: a hockey stick and a goalie stick crossed in the shape of an X with the name Benik sitting under the boys' jersey numbers (Joey wears No. 9, Andy No. 1). The hockey stick is taped on Joey's tattoo. The goalie stick is taped on Andy's.

Joey Benik spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about finding his way as a freshman and making St. Francis a factor in the North Suburban Conference this season.

Q What were your expectations for your first season of varsity hockey?

A It took me a few games to get used to the speed of the game. It was kind of scary playing varsity, but I had two good senior captains on my line. Nick Anderson was one of them. He protected me and set up a lot of my goals.

Q Were you able to stop and think about your impact last season?

A I was happy when I had a chance to not only think about the points I was getting but how well the team was working out together. We didn't expect to do as well as we did.

Q Considering how many younger players helped St. Francis to one of its better seasons, I imagine there is added excitement this season.

A Yeah. I think we'll have a little better team because we get along well and worked hard to prepare for this season. I think the success we had helped. I think some guys on our team last year thought we didn't have a chance. But the way we played kind of turned them around and got them thinking about how good we can be.

Q What challenges must this team meet in order to take the next step?

A I think we're going to have to work on moving the puck faster, taking hits for each other and continue working well on power plays.

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