MU Ice Hockey
Club & Greek

Monmouth Ice Hockey Succeeding In New Conference

The Monmouth University ice hockey team has an overall record of 13-3-1 and a conference record of 7-1-1, as a newcomer in the Colonial States College Hockey Conference. They face interdivisional opponents like West Chester University, The College of New Jersey, Princeton University, and University of Pennsylvania, among others.

In past seasons, Monmouth played in the Mid Atlantic Collegiate Hockey League, where they played bigger schools such as Pennsylvania State University. “We switched into this conference [Colonial States College Hockey Conference] this year for the advantage of playing teams that are similar to our own competitive level,” said Stephen Bonora, the veteran goalie and corporate public communication graduate student. “Before the season started, Blazier [Monmouth’s Team Captain] and Amato [Monmouth’s Head Coach] went to Millersville to present our case as to why we should be in the league.”

The player-coach duo won, beating Rutgers University and Saint Joseph’s University in their bid to join the conference. Once the switch was made to compete in the Colonial States College Hockey Conference at the beginning of the 2015 to 2016 season, which started in Sept., the team was eager to hit the ice and get to work. “The new conference guarantees us exciting match-ups with Princeton, Millersville, TCNJ, UPenn and we still schedule non-conference teams like University of Maryland, Rider, and Wagner that further the strength of our schedule,” said Head Coach Gregg Amato.

The team practices twice a week at Jersey Shore Arena, located in Wall Township. Practice is where the preparation for the Hawks’ weekly opponent takes place. “Like any sport, it’s about analyzing weaknesses and improving upon them for the following week,” Amato said. “In the games I’ll try to make a few adjustments during intermissions, but by then it’s in the players’ hands to decide the outcome.” The coaches dissect and analyze the game in attempts to put the best player in the right situation for success to be achievable.

Not only Coach Amato, but also Assistant Coach Stevyn Norkus, a Monmouth University Ice Hockey alumnus, has a say in major team decisions. “The transition from player to coach has been a smooth and enjoyable experience for me,” Norkus said. “I graduated Monmouth with an education degree, so I believe that coaching is just another form of educating.” Norkus, who played for the Monmouth Hawks from spring 2011 to fall 2014, mostly competed as a forward where he attempted to amass goals and assists for the squad. “I’m truly jealous that I didn’t get to play against these teams that we match up well against,” Norkus said. “It also helps that this is the most skilled and talented Monmouth team that we’ve ever had.”

Players who have been playing for the organization are excited about the team’s progress. “This team is truly something special,” said senior Kyle Blazier, Monmouth’s Team Captain, who has been playing center since his freshman year. “We’ve become closer as a team and become increasingly competitive in all of our games. However, this year is a dramatic increase.” Blazier believes the season is going quite well as the Hawks are a force to be reckoned with in the league as well as the non-league matchups. “The CSCHC [Colonial States College Hockey Conference] is an exciting league to play in. We get to play almost all of the New Jersey teams, which makes for fun inter-state rivalries.” Blazier said. “Additionally, it being our first season in this league, we are faced with the task of making a name for ourselves.”

Coach Amato believes that the top two wins thus far this season include the 5-2 win at Wagner College, as well as the 6-2 win over West Chester University, who were the defending conference champions. The team may have tied TCNJ on the road in early Oct., but this draw may prove to be an important point in the standings as the season progresses. “We’ve had two exciting contests against an equally matched opponent in St. Joe’s, a 3-2 win and a 4-3 OT win,” Amato said. Blazier, who had goals and assists in each of the two bouts with St. Joe’s, was thrilled with each of the wins.

“They are a very skilled team with a high-powered offense, and we match up perfectly against each other. We had won the first game against them, our home opener this season, by one goal. Going to their arena, we knew they’d be bringing their A-game and that we needed to as well,” Blazier said.

Captain Blazier is in good company. Other centers on the team include Liam Kealy and Anthony DeFede. “All of whom are first line caliber,” Coach Amato said. Defensemen Ryan O’Rourke and Talon Ribsam hinder opposing forwards who attempt to enter Monmouth’s zone on the ice. “Forwards Steve Loreti seems to have a knack for scoring the ‘big goal’ and Eric Luetters has been our best player for much of the season,” Coach Amato said.

Even though these players are contributing immensely to team victories and overall successes, they are not going to be playing Monmouth Ice Hockey forever. “MU Ice Hockey has been a great experience so far,” said freshman Chemistry major Erik Smith, who plays forward for the team. Smith said that the Colonial States College Hockey Conference is much different than his high school play as the pace of the game is much faster and the teams have more depth in their lineups. “I feel challenged in this league as it is a big step up from high school hockey,” Smith said. Freshman, like Smith, are the future of Monmouth University Ice Hockey.

Coach Amato and the rest of the team said that they expect to compete for a championship. However, their expectations extend far beyond the 2015 to 2016 season. “We expect to continue to be able to recruit stronger, faster, and smarter athletes to Monmouth,” Amato said. “Coach Reithinger’s [the General Manager] and my vision is to build this program into a state powerhouse.”

PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth Ice Hockey