WEST ORANGE, NJ (updated Tuesday Dec. 5, 10:42 a.m.) – In the winter of 1977-78, Seton Hall Prep emerged for the first time as a state power in high school hockey, capturing the Gordon Cup in the New Jersey Interscholastic League. A key player for John Warchol’s squad was a superb freshman forward named Peter Herms.
Warchol led SHP to 506 victories, including a record nine Gordon Cups, three state championships, and four Group titles. Herms helped SHP to a berth in the 1979 state finals against Brick, and later served as a head coach at Montclair High School and as a co-coach at SHP.
Ever since Warchol retired as head coach (Warchol currently is one of the Pirates assistant coaches), the SHP ice program has fallen off a bit. But this winter, the Pirates appear to be back on track. In the second game of the season, SHP topped Princeton Day, 6-3, and then held powerful Don Bosco Prep to a scoreless tie in a contest held at the Prudential Center. Last March, the Bergen County school came close to beating Delbarton in the Non-Public Schools championship tilt.
“Our effort in the first week of play has to give us a lot of confidence,” said SHP head coach Mike Atkinson, who happens to be Herms’ cousin. “Hey, we looked awfully good in our opener when we beat Bishop Eustace, 8-1, at Codey Arena. Our team is fairly young, but I like the fact that we’re pretty deep.”
Seton Hall, which plays one of the toughest schedules in the state, is led by junior goalie John Profaci. The talented youngster had 40 saves in the win over Princeton Day, and then came up with 35 against a potent Don Bosco team.
“John is very poised in the nets,” said Atkinson, who is in his third year at the SHP helm. “He has a knack for making the tough saves look fairly easy.”
Seton Hall Prep, which always had solid defensive teams under Warchol, has some good players to support Profaci.
Leading the group in the back for the Pirates is senior captain Jake Sandomeno. He’s a strong kid and has good size for the rink.
“I like the way he carries the puck,” remarked Atkinson, who as a freshman in 2000-01, played on a Gordon Cup champion with SHP. “What really stands out about Jake, is that he’s just so smart on the ice.”
Junior J.P. Foley and budding freshman star Harrison Rocheville are two other leaders on defense for the West Orange parochial school.
Seton Hall, which has a big away tilt against Delbarton on Dec. 19 (the 100th anniversary of the NHL), also is very strong up front. The talented first line includes senior center John O’Hern, senior left wing Stephen Buck, and junior right wing Thomas Colucci.
In the opening 8-1 triumph over Bishop Eustace, Colucci netted three goals and added a pair of assists. Buck had two tallies and an assist, while O’Hern picked up four assists.
On the second line, SHP also has some capable players, led by senior center Gavin Angulo. The wingers are junior Anthony Martine on the right side, and senior Chris Baumann at left wing.
“Gavin is very good on face-offs,” said Atkinson, who has great respect for CBA head coach Ryan Bogan. “Martine shows great speed on the ice, and he looks very good so far after coming back from an injury last winter.”
Atkinson, who wants his kids “to be grinders on the ice,” thinks his team can make a run at the 60th Gordon Cup title, as well as a state crown.
“We have to play as a team in every game,” said the coach. “The guys know our tradition in the sport, and they want to put our program back on top.”
ICE CHIPS — In the opening game, Profaci had 15 saves… The best SHP team was the 1997-98 squad which won the Gordon Cup as well as a state title… Herms left SHP after his sophomore season to attend private school, and Atkinson did the same after his freshman campaign.