SHP ice hockey team looks for winning season with mix of vets and rookies

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The Seton Hall Prep ice hockey team opened its preseason with a practice on Sunday night, Jan. 3. The team’s game schedule commences Friday, Jan. 15, with a 6 p.m. face-off against Gloucester Catholic at Richard J. Codey Arena in West Orange. The Pirates finished last season with a respectable 11-13-2 record against one of the toughest schedules in the state. There are tangible goals for the Pirates, including continuing to play effective, fast-paced, rush-oriented offense, while also relying on the strength of a solid core group of defensemen and one of the better goaltenders in the state.

“We will be attacking this year the same as we have in the past, but just a little more speed this season,” sixth-year head coach Mike Atkinson said. “We will be keeping a very competitive roster when it comes to our makeup for the first game. The players will be big factors in determining that lineup. We are trying to continue to build this season as we have found success over the last few years getting our team to be both fast and rush-oriented, as well as disciplined in the defensive zone.”

Leading the protection behind the blue line will be junior goalie Jake Schunke — 9-12-1 last season with a 2.96 goals against average and one shutout — while key defensemen in front of him include a quartet of seniors: Harrison Rocheville, Oliver Grinkin, Benjamin Colucci and Sam Rojas. 

“All four of those guys are going to be a big part of our core defense and Jake is obviously a big part as well,” Atkinson said. “We will need all of them to show great maturity. We are excited about the back end of our team.”

A veteran arsenal of forwards is led by seniors Ryan Rodrigues with five goals and 12 assists last season, and Brendan Waivada with six goals and eight assists last season; juniors Aidan D’Urso with eight goals and eight assists last season, and Patrick Zincone with 10 goals and eight assists last season; and sophomore Thomas Klochkov with five goals and four assists last season.

“Those forwards will be counted on as well as many of our sophomores, who will be asked to carry a lot of the offensive load,” Atkinson said. “Overall, we have a great deal of optimism while preparing this talented group for the season ahead.”

Overall, the combination of veteran players and an infusion of rookies could translate into a continuation of success for the Seton Hall Prep ice hockey team while facing the tough slate of foes in the Gordon Conference.

The 2021 schedule is as follows:

  • Friday, Jan. 15, vs. Gloucester Catholic at 6 p.m.
  • Monday, Jan. 18, at Morristown-Beard at 6:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 20, vs. Pope John at 4 p.m.
  • Monday, Jan. 25, vs. Don Bosco Prep at 4 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 27, at CBA at 4:45 p.m.
  • Friday, Jan. 29, at St. Augustine at 4:30 p.m.
  • Monday, Feb. 8, vs. St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City at 4 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Feb 10, vs. Delbarton at 4 p.m.
  • Thursday, Feb 18, at Bergen Catholic at 2:45 p.m.
  • Sunday, Feb. 21, at St. Joseph in Montvale at 5:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Feb. 25, the 63rd Gordon Cup quarterfinals.
  • Monday and Tuesday, March 1 and 2, the 63rd Gordon Cup semifinals.
  • Thursday, March 4, the 63rd Gordon Cup final.