NUTLEY, NJ — The Nutley–Columbia–Bloomfield high school ice hockey team, which returned an experienced group this winter, has given good efforts this season, despite having a 5-10 overall record and 2-6 in the New Jersey Interscholastic Hockey League’s Kelly Division through Jan. 18.
For second-year head coach Dave Macri, this season is all about being competitive in each game.
“We’re in the Kelly Division, and there’s good competition in the Kelly Division,” Macri said. “Our main goal is to compete in that division. It’s not necessarily about the wins and losses; we want to be in every game that we play. We want to be there in the end and keep it close and show that we belong in that division.”
Most of the team’s losses have been by just one or two goals. The team defeated Millburn, 5-0, in the season opener on Nov. 27, and Newton, 4-1, in their third game, on Dec. 4. In the Essex Holiday Tournament at Richard J. Codey Arena, Nutley–Columbia–Bloomfield won two of three games in the round-robin format, beating Watchung Hills, 4-2, Dec. 22, and Scotch Plains-Fanwood, 9-2, Dec. 26, and losing to West Morris, 6-3, Dec. 27. The team defeated Millburn again by a 12-2 score on Jan. 17.
The team has been led by several experienced Nutley players.
Senior forward Rocco Albanese, a captain, is an excellent two-way player who has good size and speed, Macri said. Albanese scored his 100th career point this season and has had 16 goals and 28 assists this season, both team highs through Jan. 18.
Senior center CJ Hannon is another captain and two-way player who “take(s) charge no matter what the situation,” Macri said.
Hannon had 11 goals and 14 assists through Jan. 18.
On defense, senior Paul Poplawski brings a physical presence, while senior captain Julian Poole has good size and defends well. Senior alternate captain and forward Frank Matrona also “brings the size we need to win corner battles and battles in front of the net,” Macri said.
Junior goalkeeper Victoria Rutnik has been impressive in net. “She is a quality goalkeeper in anybody’s game,” Macri said.
This is Bloomfield’s second year with the program. Bloomfield freshman Alex Benkert has been an offensive force with 15 goals and 13 assists through Jan. 18.
Photos Courtesy of Dana Vitale