WEST ORANGE — When St. Augustine coach Tim Fingerhut found out his 2006-07 Hermits team — the first and only team in state history to deliver an undefeated season — would be inducted into the New Jersey High School Hockey Hall of Fame, his players asked him if they would have to say a few words.
“Probably,” Fingerhut said with a laugh. “But we’re from South Jersey so we’ll probably go last.”
Contrary to his belief, it was the Hermits who were called to the stage first where Fingerhut delivered a rousing performance followed by Christian Brothers and Randolph highlighting induction ceremonies at the 2018 NJHSHOF awards banquet at Mayfair Farms in West Orange on April 15.
“You could see the potential was there,” Fingerhut, a rookie coach when he took the reigns at the Richland school in 2006, said. “I had seen these guys play, but when I took over as coach I don’t think I realized how difficult a task it was going to be going up against the big horses like Delbarton, CBA, Seton Hall Prep, St. Peter’s… but we were up and coming — these guys really put this team on the map to stay.”
With Star-Ledger State Player of the Year Kevin Healey in between the pipes, St. Augustine went a perfect 23-0, capturing the Handchen Cup before defeating St. Peter’s Prep, 3-1, in the final of the 2007 NJSIAA Non-Public State Championships to reach perfection.
“The whole season, the journey we went through, the bond we had as a group — we’re still close to this day,” Healey, who made 15 saves in the state final, said. “We had a couple of close calls — a comeback win against Monsignor Donovan, big rivalry games against Bishop Eustace… but we were able to put it all together, growing each practice, each game — it was just an awesome season.”
Joining the 1982-83 CBA and 2002-03 Randolph championship teams enshrined into the New Jersey Hall of Fame Class of 2018 were players Bobby Acropolis (Brick), Kenny Agostino (Delbarton), Matt Beattie (Pingry), Pat DiMarco (Toms River North, Peddie), Reynold Fauci (Delbarton), Johnny Gaudreau (Gloucester Catholic), Paul Giblin (Bergen Catholic), Don Julich (Livingston), Dan Pencinger (Randolph), Dave Tracy (Seton Hall Prep) and Martin Williams (Chatham) and coaches Donald Eccleston (Montclair), Frank Horan (St. Joseph-Montvale) and Harry Rulon-Miller (Princeton Day). Official Peter Lanigan was also inducted alongside contributors to the game Ralph Dougan, Tom Pengitore and Robert Triebe.
Acropolis, a three-time First-Team All-State selection by The Star-Ledger, amassed 265 points (11th all-time) winning three public school championships in addition to a state title when Brick defeated Seton Hall Prep, 4-0, in 1997.
“It’s humbling when you get the call,” Acropolis, who went on to star collegiately at Quinnipiac, said. “You look down the list of the guys you’re being inducted with, the guys who have been inducted in the past, it’s just an amazing group of hockey people.
“New Jersey hockey is growing in strength and the type of hockey players we produce,” Acropolis said. “To me, it’s just fun to see the list as it grows, the coaches, the players… it’s a good state to be involved in high school hockey.”
Second only to Brick (10) among public schools with eight championships, Randolph is an perennial contender for the state crown. The Morris County school won three straight NJSIAA titles from 2011-’13, but it all began with the Rams’ first the 2002-03 season.
“We had gone to the state championship the year before and lost,” coach Rich McLaughlin, who eclipsed the 400-win plateau this season year, said. “They weren’t the greatest hockey players in the world, but they worked their asses off every night and pulled us through. It was just a great group of kids, a really tight-knit group and they’re all here today.”
McLaughlin said Randolph’s first state championship set the tone for the many more that followed.
“A lot of little kids used to come to those games and those kids are the guys that are here now,” McLaughlin said. “As big of an influence as anything winning that first championship at Continental Airlines Arena. It set the tone for the 15 years since.”
— RHSRamsSports (@RHSRamsSports) April 16, 2018
Pencinger was a member of the 2002-03 Rams championship team.
“It’s all Richie — he’s the man — he’s such a good mentor. Everyone wants to play for him year-in and year-out,” Pencinger, who went on to play at Suffolk University, said. “He’s unbelievable. The heart he brings to Randolph is bar none.
“It’s an unbelievable honor,” Pencinger added. “The spectacle – I had no idea – the magnitude of it all. The inductees — the class is amazing and to be inducted along with Johnny Gaudreau and Kenny Agostino, all these guys. Everything was amazing. A great day that went by really fast and I’m really happy to be a part of it.”
Today I had the honor of filling in for Matt Loughlin as the MC for the NJHSHHOF induction ceremony. It was my pleasure to present the awards to my good friends, Peter Lanigan and Robert Triebe pic.twitter.com/xp7FHn1fTB
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Rich McLaughlin and the 2002-03 NJSIAA Public School State Champion Randolph Rams accept induction into the New Jersey High School Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2018 at Mayfair Farms in West Orange on April 15, 2018.
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