Pirates hockey team gets back to elite status

WEST ORANGE, NJ – When John Warchol was the head hockey coach at Seton Hall Prep, the Pirates had one of the top programs in the state. Warchol, who is now an assistant coach, led SHP to 506 wins, including 16 major championships.

In recent years, the SHP ice program has slipped a bit. However, in 2017-18, things began to turn around for the West Orange parochial school. Seton Hall finished with a record of 12-8-5, and played well in both the Gordon Cup playoffs in the N.J. Interscholastic League, and the Non-Public Schools state tournament. In both events, SHP lost close games to CBA, which is a perennial state power, along with the likes of Delbarton and Randolph.

Mike Atkinson, in only three years at the helm, has put SHP back in the state spotlight. Other than Warchol, the only other Pirate coach to guide the team to state prominence was Peter Herms. As a co-coach with Warchol, Herms, who was a great player in the late 1970s at SHP, helped the Pirates win three NJSIAA championships.

At the outset of the 2017-18 season, SHP showed its potential by playing powerful Don Bosco Prep to a scoreless tie at the Prudential Center. And later in the season, SHP held Randolph, the Mennen Cup champs in the Morris County Scholastic League, to a 1-1 tie in a holiday event. On Dec. 19, the 100th anniversary of the NHL, the Pirates didn’t play all that badly against Delbarton which has the top program in the state. The Green Wave won that encounter, 5-2.

Interestingly, on Monday, March 5, Delbarton, Don Bosco Prep and Randolph were all involved in state finals at the Prudential Center. The other five teams in action had to take a backseat to those squads. Delbarton won the Gordon Cup, and Don Bosco won the Bergen County championship.

For the Pirates this winter, a number of players came up with top efforts, starting with junior goalie John Profaci. In the ties against Don Bosco and Randolph, the talented youngster stopped 59 or 60 shots.

Profaci, who was always a cool customer in the nets, was helped by such talented defensemen as Liam Carroll and Harrison Rocheville, who was only a freshman. Good defense has always been a trademark for the SHP hockey teams, starting with the late Bill Leppla, who helped the 1979 club reach the state finals against Brick. Herms, at forward, and junior goalie Chris Seebode were the other standouts on that team. Herms, only a sophomore, left after that campaign to attend private school.

Seton Hall, which had its best season in 1997-98 when it went 25-2 in the process of winning Gordon Cup and state titles, also had some quality players up front, led by senior Stephen Buck, who had 24 goals. Tom Colucci and John O’Hern were two other scoring threats at the forward position.

Warchol, who is third in career victories behind Bob Auriemma of Brick (730) and Harvey Cohen of Chatham Township/Chatham (547), had some special thrills this winter, because two of his former players led their teams to Cup titles.

Brandon Doria, the big gun in 1997-98, coached Millburn to the Kelly Cup in the NJIHL. And in the MCSHL, Alex Beatrice led Montville to the Haas Cup.

“I learned a lot about the game from John Warchol and Peter Herms,” said Doria. “As coaches, they could help players in different ways.

“It’s nice to see the Seton Hall program back among the state’s elite. I really enjoyed playing hockey at the school, and I think today’s players feel the same way.”

ICE CHIPS – Seton Hall emerged on the state scene when it won the 1978 Gordon Cup. At the time, SHP was located in South Orange.