NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — After suffering a lost season last year, West Essex ice hockey’s Connor McCarthy has returned to the ice with something to prove in his senior year.

“I’ve made all of my best friends through this team and organization, so I just want to do the best I can to make it a good year and see what we can accomplish,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy spent most of the offseason playing club in preparation for his senior campaign as a Knight. Since sustaining an injury last year, McCarthy said he hasn’t thought much about any lingering effects—and has instead aimed to get better day-by-day.

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“I’ve been on the ice every day for the last four months, so it’s kind of second nature now to just get out there and play hockey,” he said.

This season, the senior forward has been a force on the ice for the Knights, notching nine goals and nine assists in just 14 games. The numbers are all career highs for him.

“My confidence has been working,” said McCarthy. “Being a senior, going out there being bigger, more mature, faster and just having more experience than a lot of the kids gives me that extra edge over some of these teams.”

McCarthy’s game was no more on point than when he played Clifton on Jan. 12. McCarthy notched his first career hat trick, tallying three goals in what was a hard fought 9-8 win. The victory helped the Knights on their way to four consecutive victories.

“I think we’ve found the right combinations for lines,” said McCarthy, adding that he has great chemistry on the ice with teammates Alex Laglia and Connor Barnette. “They’re both good hockey players, and defensively we have good defensive matchups. It’s all coming together.”

McCarthy still has high expectations for the squad, which is now 9-3-3 on the season. The Knights will look to continue their winning ways to get a solid seeding in the State Tournament.

“I feel like we have a really solid team here with a deep roster and I think we could make a really good run at states,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy is enjoying what this season brings him as he tries to make history for West Essex ice hockey. Individually, McCarthy has not committed to playing hockey beyond this season, as he’d like to set his sights on a school with a preferred major in computer science.