HOPEWELL VALLEY: Ice hockey team salutes veterans 


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Hopewell Valley’s varsity ice hockey team. The Salute to Service game finally came together on Saturday night, Feb. 13. The Bulldogs played against Howell High School Rebels to a packed house.
There was no shortage of patriotism at Louck’s rink on the Lawrenceville School campus. Red, white and blue covered the arena and veterans and active duty servicemen and women drove the spirit of the event.
Hopewell Valley Veterans Association President Ken Baker, along with Hopewell Valley residents Weed Tucker and former hockey player Bob Koch, were honored.
It was a proud moment for senior and Alternate Captain Johnny Vagott and his freshman brother Nick as their grandfather veterans took to the bench to be recognized. Navy veteran David Vagott served on the USS Olsen as a helmsman in 1957-59 and Army veteran George Dorsett served with the motor pool ranked as SP4E4 as an auto mechanic, sharpshooter (carbine) and marksman from 1960-67.
Senior and Alternate Captain Chris Nathan couldn’t have been more proud to see his grandfather, Lt. Malcolm Lovell, who served in World War II, on the hockey bench. Lt. Lovell was a naval supply officer in China behind Japanese lines with the Sino-American Cooperative Organization. His role was to spy on Japanese shipping activity and report to U.S. Naval fleet for attack preparations.
Bulldogs varsity coach Bob Gialanella was in the Navy from 1999-2005 and served on The Sullivans. His last rank was lieutenant. Gialanella knows all too well what hard work and discipline mean to a team. Tonight, the boys showed it, they had each others’ backs, and they played as a team.
The patriotic spirit of the night was supported by Boy Scout Troop 1776 from Titusville, which led the color guard flag salute, and the voices of the Hopewell Valley Central High School Choral Program, led by Randy White, who sang the National Anthem.
Hopewell senior and captain Gilford Daley, Rebels captain Zach Mazik, Hopewell Veterans Association President Ken Baker, Schools Superintendent Thomas Smith and Athletic Director Tripp Becker dropped the ceremonial first puck.
The Bulldogs battled it out to the end. The Vagott brothers, who are winding down their ice time together, as Johnny will be graduating this year, both contributed to the scoreboard. James McCall and Johnny Vagott scored, both on assists by Jack Boyer to bring the game to 2-2 in the third.
Freshman Nick Vagott netted the third goal with an assist by James McCall to put the Bulldogs back on top. The Bulldogs held on down to the last seconds as the Rebels scrambled to come back, but goaltender Curtis Hart and the fierce Bulldog defense kept that from happening. Hopewell Valley closed out the game with a hard fought 3-2 victory that offset a loss to Howell, a Public A team, earlier in the season.
Captain Gilford Daley called it “a perfect night.”
“I have always appreciated the military and all the veterans that come out of battle,” he said. “It was an honor to meet them and thank them for their service. We had to win the game. We had to do it for them. The team performed perfectly; it was a perfect ending to an even more perfect event.”
Thanks go to the Cowhey family and Alternate Captain Michael Cowhey, a senior, who was inspired by his brother, Jeffrey Cowhey Jr., a Marine recruit, at MCRD Parris Island, 1st Battalion, Platoon 1017, Delta Company, to come up with the Salute to Service game as an opportunity to give back to the community.
All proceeds from the event were donated to the Hopewell Valley Veterans Association.
Michael was honored by Governor Christie for his compassionate and charitable efforts in support of men and women of the armed forces.
The Salute to Service game was a success on many levels and the varsity ice hockey team extended a heartfelt thank you to the community who came out to support this event.

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