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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Jan 17, 2020

Saint John Vianney Ice Hockey Team off to Tough Start

By Tim Morris

Saint John Vianney’s ice hockey team goes out of its way to play the best.

“We always load up our schedule,” Lancer Head Coach Mick Messemer explained. “We like to showcase our players against the best teams.”

While loading up the schedule may not be the best thing for a team’s won-lost record, SJV’s results are proof that when it comes to winning championships, testing yourself against the state’s top teams works. That’s why the Lancers are the two-time defending champions of the Egan Conference and the Shore Conference Handchen Cup. Winning that double for a third straight year is the goal of the 2019-20 Lancers.

SJV started 2020 with a 5-3-1 record but is ranked No. 10 overall, having played three top 10 teams including No. 1 Christian Brothers Academy. All three losses have come from those teams; Randolph and Morristown-Beard were the other ranked teams.

While all three games were competitive, Messemer noted that “there are no good losses, no moral victories.”

However, Messemer pointed out facing the best has its rewards. It is a great way to prepare a team for post-season tournaments. Nothing the SJV athletes see in the conference or tournament will be more difficult than the teams they faced in December. Come February, the Lancers are always ready.

“It’s been a good season so far,” Messemer said of the team’s play in December. “We did lose [leading scorers] John Gutt and Jeremy Connor and have to make up for a lot of scoring. We have a lot of depth. We have four lines and six defenders. Thus far we’ve been able to grind out victories. We have to keep going, keep grinding.”

Along with experienced depth, Messemer said that “speed is our best attribute.” The Lancers are able to wear teams down with their team speed coupled with that depth. Teams eventually tire chasing the Lancers around the ice.

A pair of seniors, center Jeff Ricci and wing Dom Triosi, have taken over as SJV’s go-to players on offense.

“They’re our two top playmakers,” said Messemer.

Playing on the same line for the first time they have blossomed into a scoring machine. Ricci leads the team with 15 assists and seven goals. Triosi’s 11 goals are tops on the team, and he has three assists.

Senior forward Evan Knoll has five goals and a pair of assists. Junior forward Colin Gartz has three goals and five assists, and senior defender/forward Jake Deatherage has chipped in with two goals and five assists.

Messemer called defender AJ Micalizzi the team’s “facilitator, our quarterback.” He is second to Ricci in assists with eight.

Micalizzi, a junior, and senior Rich Kulaszewski are the anchors of the defense, a defense that focuses on the fundamentals and keeping shots on goal low.

Sal Benvenuto has stepped into his first year as a starter between the pipes and made 191 saves in the first nine games. He’s allowing just 2.9 goals per game despite facing some of the state’s best offenses.

The Egan Conference consists of non-public schools St. Joseph’s Montvale, St. Joseph’s Metuchen, Bishop Eustace, Notre Dame, Paul VI and SJV. Two-time champion SJV is already 2-0 in conference play.

The Handchen Cup is contested this month. The Lancers defeated Point Pleasant Boro–Manchester, 4-1, in last year’s Cup final at the Jersey Shore Arena.