BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Gov. Livingston hockey team is heading to the NJSIAA state tournament for the first time since the 2009/10 season. The Highlanders also received the No. 4 seed in the Union County Tournament behind No. 1 Cranford, No. 2 Summit and No. 3 Westfield with Scotch Plains-Fanwood at No. 5.
NJSIAA rules state that teams must have at least a 50-percent winning percentage by Monday, Feb. 8, 2016 to qualify for State Tournament. With the Highlanders' 11-10 record, they meet the criteria for the first time since 2009/10 season.
"After six years, we have been finally given the chance to compete on the same level as past GL teams," said senior goalie Matt Altomare. "Every year we have set out to finish with a 500 season. We have faced many challenges through the years. Some years we've had too many injuries or barely enough skaters to play."
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GL head coach Matt Anderson agrees, "It wasn't easy for them [or me sometimes] to see the light at the end of the tunnel when we were playing games with 8 skaters three years ago and losing 10-0."
"They earned some respect," said Anderson.
"This year we've been given the chance to be where my past teammates have dreamed of playing. We have more players, more skill and more confidence than we've had before and we are ready to seize this opportunity," said Altomare. "I am proud to share this moment with my team especially my last year as a Highlander," he said.
Anderson looks back to where the team was just three years ago when he arrived as head coach of the Highlanders hockey program and has seen significant growth with a large number of freshman skaters joining the roster the past few seasons.
"It's always a proud moment for a coach when your players reap the rewards of persistent hard work towards long term development. To think about where we were as a hockey program three years ago, and to watch the way we play now is such a treat," Anderson told TAP into Berkeley Heights in a previous interview.
"We are still young and still have plenty of learning ahead to beat the best, but I know we will get there eventually because these kids have the determination to battle through whatever is put in front of them," said Anderson.
The 2015/16 Highlanders Hockey Team is celebrating their seniors prior to the first round of the Union County Tournament game against Scotch Plains-Fanwood on Friday, Feb. 12 at the Union Sports Arena with a 9:10 p.m. puck drop. Seniors being honored: Goalie Matt Altomare, Matt Koutsaftes, Ryan Nieves, and Thomas Sousa.
Stay tuned to TAP into Berkeley Heights for more on the "Highlanders' Road to the States."