After Rocky Start, Hockey Team Heads to State Final
The boys hockey team has shown they are willing to work hard to win has a chance for glory against Morristown Saturday.
Two years after the Chatham High School boys hockey team brought home their first state championship trophy, they have the chance to do it again.
The hockey team takes on Morristown High School, the returning state champion and a natural rival from Chatham's same division, Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark for the Public B State Championship.
Coach Frank Gilberti said making it this far was a big goal for the season. "We started the season 1 and 4. That was tough, coming from that record, but we were playing really well. We could have been 5-0. But unfortunately you are what your record says you are. We had to work our way out of that one game at a time," Gilberti said.
Coaches and players came together and eventually brought up their record to the current 14-4-3. Now that the team is ready for state championships, "I'll say right now that it was worth it," Gilberti said. "It shows that when you come together for a common goal and you're willing to work as hard as it takes to achieve that goal, it comes together."
Chatham hockey was strong for years, and in many ways this could easily have been a rebuilding year. The three captains, Matt McNally, Aedan Stankelstrom and alternate Nick Citron, are all first-year captains. "It's a new group and it's a young group. There are only seven seniors, and a few are getting their first taste of varsity experience," Gilberti said.
For such a young group, Gilberti said they've all stepped up to become a strong team, and led by strong captains. McNally, Stankelstrom and Citron "have all led by example all season long, and it's a credit to them," Gilberti said. "I can't say enough about these guys. They complement each other very well, and the leadership role was new to every single one of them."
Citron and Stankelstrom have each played in every single game this season. "Nicky has been strong and tough for us all year. He does everything we ask him to do," Gilberti said, and Stankelstrom can can play in every situation on the ice. "He led our team in goals this season, and through all of this he only has taken two penalties all season long, which is amazing. He plays within the rules," Gilberti said.
McNally, too, has led his team teammates, second only to having a coach on the ice. "What he's given us on defense not many teams in the state get. He plays in every situation, nobody gets around him, he listens to what we want and he leads by example," Gilberti said.
Under their leadership, the team was able to come back from their 1-4 start and make it to the state championships.
"All of them deserve so much credit for what they’ve done," Gilberti said. "If they want to win, they have to work harder than the other time and want it more than the other team and be more prepared thatn the other team, and they’ve done that. This is their moment."
As for what fans can expect to see Saturday, Gilberti said, "what you're going to see is a lot of emotion. ... Morristown was state champion last year, and they're a great team. I would expect a high-paced, emotional game."
But beyond that, "it's going to be a lot of fun," Gilberti said.
The state championship game begins at 3 p.m. at the Prudential Center. Tickets are $10 for adults, $3 for children. Chatham fans will sit in section 9-13.