NUTLEY, NJ - The adage goes that if you don't score, you can't win, and unfortunately for the Nutley-Columbia co-op ice hockey team the second half of this season was one that lacked an offensive spark.
After winning six of its first 11 games, Nutley-Columbia went winless in its final 10 games of the 2019-'20 campaign - managing just eight goals in the process - to finish with a 6-12-3 record.
"Not scoring enough this season was very tough," began head coach Andy Surowiec. "Obviously it didn't go the way we wanted it to and it was a bit of a shock. We have to have a better concentration on scoring next year."
A year ago, Nutley-Columbia finished 13-6-3 and won the first hockey cup championship in the 21-year history of the program. The Raiders captured the McMullen Cup when it defeated The Frisch School, 4-2.
Nutley-Columbia earned a 3-2 victory over Cranford on Jan. 6 to improve to 6-3-2 this season. Unfortunately, that would be the last win of the season as the team went 0-9-1 in its last 10 contests.
In that span, the club was shut out three times, including a 6-0 loss to Oratory in the first round of the Kelly Cup on Feb. 15 in Nutley-Columbia's final game of the season.
One of the bright spots this season was the stellar play of senior goalie Johnny Matrona, who was named All-Kelly Conference First Team goalie.
Matrona made over 600 saves this year while allowing just 59 goals.
"I feel bad that we couldn't get him more goals but he gave his all in every game," Surowiec said. "He's made something like 1,600 saves in four years and after almost every game the opposing coaches would mention him as a standout player.
"Johnny is a super athlete who is going to play lacrosse in college and he's the reason we were even in the conversation in most games this year."
Senior Joe Melillo (five goals, 14 assists) and junior Zach Fagin (seven goals, five assists)were each tabbed All-Kelly Conference Honorable Mention selections.
Other standouts for Nutley-Columbia this season included seniors Justin Devlin (five goals, eight assists), Leo Carrillo (two goals, five assists), Chase Nicolette (two goals, two assists) Dennis Maguire (one goal, one assist), Alex David and Annie Paternak, juniors Cooper Fojas (two goals, four assists) and James Gonon sophomores Rocco Albanese (10 goals, four assists), Frank Matrona (six goals, two assists), C.J. Hannon (two goals, three assists), T.J. Wassman (two goals), Julian Poole (one goal, three assists) and Paul Poplawski (one goal, one assist) and freshmen Carmine Argenziano (one assist), Will Pechman (one assist), Caleb Diegnan, Trey Gigante, Andrew Nicolette and Victoria Rutnik.
"The season was very tough on the seniors who played for four years, but it teaches how to face adversity and life lessons that are different than wins or losses," said Surowiec. "I hope they can take away the memories of the good moments they experienced and look to positive experiences in the future."