WEST ORANGE, NJ — When the Nutley-Columbia High co-op ice hockey team finally takes the ice for the 2021 season, it will do so with a new head coach at the helm.
Dave Macri, a youth hockey coach for more than 20 years, including the last eight for Nutley and Clifton, was approved for the job in November. He replaces Andrew Surowiec, who was the skipper for the last four seasons.
“I'm definitely excited and so are the players,” said Macri. “These are very challenging times but it's only as frustrating as you allow it to be. And right now we're very excited about being able to play hockey.”
Nutley-Columbia will open its season on Monday, Jan. 18 with a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee against Glen Rock at Codey Arena in West Orange at 12:15 p.m.
The Maroon Raiders will then clash with Oratory Prep on Friday, Jan. 22 at Codey Arena at 6 p.m.
Nutley-Columbia will be competing in the Kelly Division of the NJIIHL (North Jersey Interscholastic Ice Hockey League) along with Cranford, Gov. Livingston-New Providence, Johnson, Millburn, Montclair Kimberley and Oratory Prep.
A year ago, Nutley-Columbia finished 6-12-3 after going winless in its final 10 games of the season. In 2018-19, the Maroon Raiders fashioned a 13-6-3 record and won the first hockey cup championship in the 22-year history of the program when they captured the McMullen Cup.
“We have a 12-game schedule, with 15 max as we'll hopefully be competing for the Kelly Cup at the end of the season,” said Macri. “The team is coming together, and they've accepted me as coach, which is great.”
This year's team is upper classmen-laden, including seniors James Ganon, Cooper Fojas, Zach Fagin and Oliver Tauscher and juniors C.J. Hannon, Julian Poole, T.J. Wassman, Mike Silva, Rocco Albanese, Paul Poplawski, Frank Matrona and Sophia Carillo.
Rounding out the 24-member roster are sophomores Victoria Rutnik, Carmine Argenziano, Tret Gigante, Andrew Nicolette and Caleb Diegnan and freshmen Lilah Sigalos, Haley Kampner, Thomas Devlin, Gavin Waldron, Mallory Albanese, Vijay Vinton and George Dietrich.
Fojas and Gonan, both defensemen, are team captains. Tauscher, a goaltender, played at Oratory last year before his family moved to Nutley.
The forward line will include Fagin (seven goals, five assists last year), Rocco Albanese (10 goals, four assists) and Matrona (six goals, two assists) while the second line will be made up of Hannon (two goals, three assists), Wassman (two goals) and Gigante. The third line will feature Diegnan, Vinton and Argenziano.
“There's very little normalcy with no fans and no parents at the game but these kids just love playing and are happy to be out there,” said Macri. “I feel for the seniors that there isn't a full season with a state tournament but life is 5 percent what happens to you and 95 percent in how you deal with it and right now we're taking it day by day.”
NUTLEY / COLUMBIA 2021 SCHEDULE
All games at Codey Arena, West Orange
Jan. 18 vs. Glen Rock, 12 p.m.
Jan. 22 vs. Oratory Prep, 6:45
Jan. 23 vs. Millburn, 3
Jan. 27 vs. Gov. Livingston/New Providence, 4
Jan. 30 vs. Livingston, 3
Feb. 1 vs. Cranford, 8
Feb. 3 vs. Montclair Kimberley, 4:15
Feb. 5 vs. Johnson, 8
Feb. 10 vs. Verona, 6:45
Feb. 12 vs. West Essex, 6
Feb. 15 vs. Woodbridge, 3:15
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