The Brick Township High School and Brick Memorial High School hockey teams are both enjoying good seasons. And the coaches of both teams credit the Brick Hockey Club for helping to prepare many of their players for the high school level.
Brick Township High School continued along its best start in recent memory, beating St. John Vianney, 2-1, on Jan. 22 to go to 11- 1-2. Connor Noonan scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period after Mike Auriemma tied it in the early minutes of the period. Ed Rafferty was steady in goal.
“We’re coming along and are back-checking well and covering well,” coach Bob Auriemma said. “I’m surprised with how well the team is playing together.”
Brick Memorial, meanwhile, won its sixth straight on Saturday night, 5-1, over Freehold Township to improve to 11-3. The Mustangs held a 2-1 lead after one period as Tyler Person scored the first of his two goals and Tom Lindquist put in the other. Mike Stopen and Anthony Lobianco scored in the second period to help increase the lead to 5-1. Kevin Talty remained steadfast in goal.
“I think we’re playing well as a team on both ends of the ice,” Brick Memorial coach Chip Bruce said. “Everyone is contributing. We have a lot of impact from our defense and goaltending.”
But when it comes down to it, the groundwork for the teams begins with the youth hockey program that stresses fundamentals.
“Most of the players on both teams, about 95 percent of them on Brick Township, have played for the Brick Hockey Club,” said Patrick Kearns, who began his first term as club president last fall.
“No doubt about it, it’s definitely a feeder program for us and a number of high school programs in the area like Howell and CBA [Christian Brothers Academy],” Auriemma said. “They [Brick Hockey Club players] play at different places, and we wish they would all stay here. It’s a good developmental program. A lot of young kids get interested in hockey, and as soon as they join, it gets in their blood.”
Brick Memorial coach Bruce said a “number of boys have come out of the Brick Hockey Club, and now we have a mix playing for other clubs [too] among the older players. Some of the younger players played for the Brick Hockey Club. It [club hockey] allows players to keep up their skills on a year-round basis. The more they’re on ice, the better they’ll be.”
Brick Hockey Club is preparing for Hockey Across America, a nationwide event that drums up interest in club programs, which takes place on Jan. 30 and 31. Youngsters who have never played hockey before can join a current member of the club and come to the Ocean Ice Palace on Sunday to get a taste of it.
“It brings kids out to learn the game and to possibly join the program,” Kearns said.
The club also is in its third year with a Mite C program run by Alex DePalma that trains young children on the fundamentals with scrimmage games. There also is a Mites Under 8 travel team coached by Dan Rozell, one of 10 travel teams for a club that has a typical membership turnout of about 175 kids. That includes a Challenger program for specialneeds youth, which has grown to 25 strong in three seasons and “has taken some nice steps,” Kearns said.
Brick Hockey Club earlier this month hosted a team of 12-and-under players from the Ukraine who stayed for a week. Brick PAL opened up a classroom for them in the gym in what Kearns said was a “nice experience” for that team and the Brick fans. It was the first time Brick hosted an international team after putting up a team from Canada many years ago. “They can skate. They skate hard and hustle,” Kearns said after the Ukraine team beat a Brick squad, 4-0. “They have no game sense, but technically, they’re good on ice.”
Kearns said all of the teams “are doing reallywell”— from the Midget Major AA under 18 team coached by George Colwell, which just missed making the playoffs, to the Mite team. In recent years, three Brick Hockey Club teams have made the national tournament, finishing in fifth place in three successive seasons from 2003 through 2005.
Midget Minor AA under 16, coached by Bob Acropolis, is in fifth place in the state league standings. Midget Minor A is coached by Bob Auriemma Jr.
There also are two bantam teams. The BantamAis coached by Justin Ambrosia and is one game out of a playoff spot after winning a pair of games over the weekend over Princeton, 5- 1, and the Red Bank Generals, 5-0, to go to 10- 3-1 as Jake Lampisia and Thomas Wiedeman excelled in goal. Keith Dulbois coaches the Bantam B, which is in second place.
Todd Sabia coaches the Pee Wee A team. Squirt AA for 11 and under, coached by Ken Tierney, is in first place, and Squirt A coached by Fred Rozell is hovering around .500.
“It’s been a good year overall,” Kearns said.