If he had amassed his 1,000th-career victory or his first in the coaching ranks, Rich McLaughlin would nevertheless retain his humble and gentlemanly demeanor as always.
J.T. Zangara scored twice, Will Zimmer collected the game-winning goal and Trevor Stenberg halted 21 shots as Randolph rallied for a 3-1 victory over Mennen Division opponent Roxbury yesterday at Mennen Arena – allowing McLaughlin to stash away the 400th victory of his illustrious career.
When you think of Randolph hockey, you think of an opponent who will wear you down with its disciplined defensive play. Hard on the puck, relentless on the forecheck, sturdy goaltending; and nearly always finding a way to deliver the key goal.
That reputation stems from the storied foundation that McLaughlin installed 23 years ago when he stepped behind the Randolph bench.
“It means I’m old,” McLaughlin, a 1978 graduate of Livingston, said as he drove from Mennen Arena shortly after reaching the milestone. “It was fun. It’s my 25th year coaching and it really has gone so fast. I just think of all the people who have helped me. Mike Valvano has been with me as a goalie coach for 25 years. John Beatrice has been my assistant for 22 years and Kyle Krannich has been with a long time, too.”
In his 23 years at Randolph, McLaughlin has guided the Rams to eight NJSIAA Public schools’ championships (three overall public titles and five Public A crowns). He began his coaching career prior to that for two seasons at Livingston, where he was a standout left wing on an outstanding line with Beatrice on the right flank and Billy Grum at center.
McLaughlin, a New Jersey High School Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, now sports a 400-178-61 career record.
“A lot runs through your mind,” McLaughlin continued. “You think about the hours and time spent practicing, planning and playing all those games. All the players we’ve coached who’ve put so much time into the program. I’m trying to remember all the players, parents, coaches and administrators who have helped along the years. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without all of them.”
McLaughlin recalled Randolph’s 3-15 record in his first season.
Those days are long gone.
I spoke with former Randolph All-Stater Dan Pencinger today, who chatted from his home in South Boston about his Randolph days and pondered his former coach’s quest for that 400th victory. McLaughlin calls Pencinger the best player he’s ever coached, and one of the best high school players he’s ever seen in New Jersey.
“Rich McLaughlin was always a great guy and I’m so happy for him,” said Pencinger, who finished his stellar career at Randolph with 176 points (94-82) and helped lead the Rams to their first state title in 2003; and will be inducted into the New Jersey High School Hockey Hall of Fame next spring. “As a coach he always preached discipline. That was his biggest thing, but he was just a fun guy to be around, too. He stressed attention to detail and he wanted structured teams. He gave me some offensive freedom, but he preached defense first.
“He would always drill us that it was everyone back to the house. If you weren’t backchecking, you weren’t playing. But 400 wins for him, that’s awesome. It couldn’t happen to a better man. Rich was always there for us. What he’s done for Randolph hockey year in and year out has been amazing, but he’s one of the humblest guys you’ll ever meet.”
That is true.
Congratulations coach McLaughlin on a well-earned milestone!
McLaughlin becomes just the fourth coach in NJ history to earn 400 wins, joining Brick’s Bob Auriemma (730), Chatham’s Harvey Cohen (547) & Seton Hall Prep’s John Warchol (506). @Hockey_Clan @RHSRamsSports @HockeyAdvantage @BrickHSHockey @ChathamHSHockey @SHP_Athletics
— Paul Bruno (@PaulBrunoHS) December 23, 2017
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: The Randolph Rams celebrate with their coach, Rich McLaughlin, on the ice at Mennen Arena in Morris Township after winning his 400th-career game. (Photo Courtesy of Sarah McLaughlin)
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