The state tournament atmosphere combined with an emotional rivalry and some possible record-setting intrigue will all be thrown onto the ice when Gloucester Catholic plays host to St. Augustine Prep on Monday at Hollydell Ice Arena in Sewell.
“In terms of ice hockey in South Jersey, it’s as good as it gets,” said St. Augustine coach Tim Fingerhut. “Even more the last few seasons, the intensity of our games has really escalated.”
Such should be the case again when fourth-seeded Gloucester Catholic (9-12-1), No. 9 in the Hockey Night In Boston New Jersey Top 10, squares off against fifth-seeded and 10th-ranked rival St. Augustine (9-12-2) before an expected crowd of 1,000 in the quarterfinal round of the NJSIAA/New Jersey Devils Private Tournament at 3:30 p.m.
The winner will advance into the semifinal round to play either top-ranked Don Bosco Prep or No. 6 Seton Hall Prep on Feb. 27/28 at Codey Arena in West Orange.
“We played St. Augustine four times last year and this will be the fourth time this season,” noted Gloucester Catholic coach Tom Bunting. “It’s eight times against each other in about 30 games. There are no surprises between the two teams. The crowd will be wild and there will be a lot of energy.”
The two rivals just clashed in the quarterfinal round of the Gordon Cup on Feb. 11 and battled to a 4-4 tie before Gloucester Catholic advanced by winning in the shootout – which saw each club send 13 skaters out for the skills competition.
Last season St. Augustine defeated Gloucester Catholic, 5-4, in overtime in the Gordon Cup quarterfinal, but the Rams exacted revenge and beat St. Augustine, 3-1, in the Private quarterfinal round 13 days later. Could it be a role reversal this season?
The teams have played to a 1-1-1 record in their three meetings this year.
Added intrigue comes as Gloucester Catholic standout senior forward Dom Garozzo is on the verge of breaking the school-record of goals in a season (30) held by New Jersey hockey legend Johnny Gaudreau. The former All-Stater, NCAA Champion, World Junior Gold Medal winner, Hobey Baker Award winner, Lady Byng Trophy recipient and current Calgary Flames’ star, set the Gloucester Catholic record (30 goals) in his junior year (2008) when he finished with 60 points.
“Congratulations on a great season to Dom,” said Gaudreau via email. “Records are meant to be broken and I’m happy to hear Dom is on the verge of passing me in the record books. And what a perfect stage to do it on, against St. Augustine! Good luck to Dom and Gloucester Catholic on Monday.”
Bunting knows as well that it would be a fitting setting for Garozzo to surpass the legendary Gaudreau.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Bunting. “Honestly, there would be no better situation for him to set the record. A state tournament game against St. Augustine, at home before a big crowd. Dom has such a speed game, is very skilled and works hard. He wasn’t even aware of the record until a couple of weeks ago. But with John Gaudreau being who he is? I think to just be mentioned in the same breath with Johnny Gaudreau is something.”
Despite his skill and scoring prowess, Garozzo is humble about his exploits and is merely concerned with the outcome.
“The most important thing to me is to get the win and move on,” Garozzo said. “And, hopefully, I can get some scoring chances.”
Garozzo (30-8-30) highlights a swift group for Gloucester Catholic along with senior P.J. DeMetrio (4-12-16), junior Connor Milliken (4-17-21), sophomores Dylan Koski (7-8-15), Matthew Frett (9-9-18) and Tyler Carter (7-7-14). In goal is the solid junior Christopher Liscio (.900 save %).
Fingerhut has nothing but admiration for Garozzo from the opposing bench.
“Dom Garozzo is a game-changer. He has that eye-opening separation, that breakaway speed. When he gets behind you, you’re not catching him. He may be the fastest kid in the Gordon Conference; and he can finish.”
Gloucester Catholic is looking to earn its first state title and make its deepest run since it marched to the Private final in 2010 – Gaudreau’s last season scholastic season – before falling to Delbarton.
St. Augustine is eyeing its first state championship since winning it in 2007. That winter the Hermits posted a 23-0 record and remain the lone club in state history to finish with an unbeaten/untied record – that squad was inducted into the New Jersey High School Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018. The only other unbeaten team ever remains St. Joseph of Montvale, which went 26-0-1 in 1984. St. Augustine’s last Private championship appearance came in 2011 when it lost, 3-2, in overtime to Delbarton.
The Hermits rely on their top line of junior Alex Scimeca (10-7-17), senior Julian Boisclair (7-5-12) and sophomore Josh Karnish. Senior Brendan Karnish (2-3-5) secures the back lone for senior goalie Jacob Brown (.915 save %).
Fingerhut, who skated collegiately at the University of Vermont with John LeClair, has few doubts what kind of game is expected when the two clubs bring it.
“It’s fast and physical hockey,” Fingerhut said. “We’ve had a great rivalry for a long time. It’s a different atmosphere when St. Augustine and Gloucester Catholic play. Every kid on the ice has played with each other or against each other since pee wees. It’s a war for an hour and a half and then they’re hugging each other in the lobby when it’s over.”
Bunting knows what his team needs to match.
“One thing about St. Augustine is that they are always physical,” Bunting said. “They always battle. If you don’t finish your checks, you won’t play for Tim.
“I think the game will come down to the third period and which team is stronger at the end. We can’t let them wear us down.”
NJSIAA QUARTERFINALS — STATE BRACKETS
5-St. Augustine Prep (9-12-2) vs. 4-Gloucester Catholic (9-12-1)
8-Seton Hall Prep (14-8-3) vs. 1-Don Bosco Prep (24-1)
11-Bergen Catholic (10-13-2) vs. 3-Christian Brothers Academy (18-6-1)
7-St. Peter’s Prep (11-10) vs. 2-Delbarton (17-6-4)
2018 Champion: Delbarton — GAME STORY
9-Ocean Twp./Shore/Monmouth Reg. (14-6-3) vs. 1-Hillsborough (19-6-1)
5-Marlboro (13-2-2) vs. 9-Wayne Hills/Valley (14-8-3)
6-Paramus/Lyndhurst/Hackensack (15-5-2) vs. 3-Montclair (13-8-4); winner vs. 2-Morris Knolls (11-9-3)
2018 Champion: Hunterdon Central — GAME STORY
5-Point Pleasant Boro (17-4-1) vs. 4-Middletown South (12-8-2); winner vs. 1-Randolph (20-4-2)
6-Princeton (14-9-3) vs. 3-Westfield (16-5-3)
10-Gov. Livingston/New Providence (13-12-2) vs. 2-Ridge (16-7-3)
2018 Champion: Northern Highlands — GAME STORY
4-Summit (17-6-1) vs. 1-Indian Hills (21-4)
6-Chatham (11-11-2) vs. 3-Lakeland (18-4-1)
7-Northern Highlands (8-10-3) vs. 2-Madison (17-3-5)
2018 Champion: Summit — GAME STORY
Looking Back 20 Years: 1999
Star-Ledger Trophy Winner: Princeton Day (21-2-1)
Coach of the Year: Cory Robinson, Hudson Catholic
New Jersey Devils Player of the Year: Brandon Doria, Seton Hall Prep
State Champion: Seton Hall Prep (3-1 vs. Brick)
Public Champion: Brick (5-1 over Randolph)
State Scoring Leader: Dave Bodson, Bayonne (40-59-99)
All-State Goalie: George Tsiatsios, Bergen Catholic (1.52 GAA)
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
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