IH Allen Zak Win Rutgers Camden

Off Big Win, Ice Hockey Eyes Postseason Birth

The University’s ice hockey team picked up their tenth victory of the season against Rutgers-Camden by a score of 4-3 on Friday night.

Junior forward Allen Zak, junior defensemen Jordan Shelepak, senior center and captain Kyle Blazier and junior left wing Erik Smith provided the offense for the Hawks, while senior goalkeeper Stephen Bonora had 35 saves on 38 shots.

“Our last game was a huge win for our team,” Zak said. “We have a great group of guys and a great senior core to lead the way and we’re heading into the final stretch of the season with great confidence. Our ultimate goal this season is to win playoffs and move on to regionals and I believe we have the group of guys to do it. We are all a tight knit group and get along great and that is the key to our success.”

The team is now 10-11-1-1 on the season and seek to make the postseason for the second consecutive year. The team plays in the Colonial States College Hockey Conference and are currently in sixth place in the 10 team conference. The top six teams make the playoffs, with the top two seeds getting a first-round bye.

“Our captain, Kyle Blazier, has been here with me for five years,” Bonora said. “He’s a great guy and is always clutch when you need a goal. Anthony DeFede is a senior and our assistant captain. He works his butt off nonstop and is always giving 120 percent. Our other alternate captain, Talon Ribsam, is my best friend on the team. We played together in high school and I know everything I am going to get from him in a game and I love him to death.”

Bonora also mentioned senior defenseman Nick Tarquini as a player who always comes ready to play and has been one of the team’s best players since his freshman year. “It’s been a pleasure playing alongside all four of these guys,” he added.

The team is currently at .500 in their conference at 6-6-1-1, but ended the fall semester on a strong note.

“We beat The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and Princeton, who are the top two teams in the league,” Bonora said. “That is something that we are looking to build on once we get back into league play.”

The Ice Hawks have had two other games in the spring semester. They dropped games to Saint Joseph’s 6-3 on Friday, Jan. 20 and Rider 6-0 on Saturday, Jan. 21.

Freshman goaltender Noah Goldberg collected 34 saves against Saint Joseph’s. Blazier scored early to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead, but SJU scored three unanswered to take a 3-1 lead after the first period. A goal by senior defender Nick Tarquini made it a one-score game, but Saint Joseph’s outscored Monmouth 3-1 from that point on.

Bonora had 30 saves against Rider, who out-shot the Hawks 34-19 in the contest.

The future for the ice hockey team is a bright one. As Bonora noted, the team has nine freshman on the team including Goldberg, who is likely to accumulate a lot of minutes between the pipes next season, alongside junior goalie, Andrew Terracciano.

“He’s a very good goalie skill-wise, but I would say the biggest thing for him is mental preparation before a game,” Bonora said. “The only thing I can really teach him is to keep his focus and not let your head spin around when things start to go bad. Other than that, I can only compliment him on his game. I know both Goldy (Goldberg) and Tersh (Terracciano) will get the job done next season.”

Blazier strongly agreed with Bonora’s viewpoint about the bright future, noting that the program has done a good job of consistently adding talented players each year.

“The kind of hockey you have to play to fight for a playoff spot and win elimination games is much different from the earlier games,” Blazier said. “Getting our entire team exposed to these high-intensity games makes us better both immediately and for the seasons to come.”

The blue and white return to the ice for their final regular season home game on Friday night against the University of Scranton. Puck-drop from Wall Sports Arena will be at 9 p.m. The team will be on the road for their final three games: at Seton Hall on Saturday, at UPenn on Friday, Feb. 10 and at Rutgers on Saturday, Feb. 11. All four of these games have postseason implications for the team.

“Our last four games of the season are all league games so if we win three or four out of four, we are going to make the playoffs automatically,” Bonora said.

Bonora is one of six seniors on the team and while their time together is nearing an end, they are focused on what they still hope to accomplish together.

“It’s been a great five years here. I’ve seen a little bit of good, with some bad thrown in as well, but the good has definitely outweighed the bad, especially these past two seasons,” Bonora said.

 “It’s not over yet – we still have two more jobs to do. Number one is make the playoffs, and number two is to win our conference and go to regionals, and maybe shock a team or two while we’re there as well,” Bonora added. “The last thing I want to do for this team is win them a championship. It would be the absolute best way possible to end my career as Hawk.”

“The feeling you have when 20 guys in the same locker room as you put together a great effort and win a really important game for your school is one that is tough to beat, and those moments are the ones that will be most memorable for us all in five, 10 or 15 years.” Blazier said. “It makes it especially sweet to see how much the program has grown over my five years here, and you obviously only hope for the best moving forward.”

PHOTO TAKEN from Monmouth Ice Hockey Facebook page