By Jimmy Allinder
Robert DeStefano, a junior forward for the Edison High School-J.P. Stevens High School co-op ice hockey team, had 46 goals at season’s end — the most in the state.
However, DeStefano may not finish as top goal scorer because players from other teams that could go deep in the NJSIAA state tournament may overtake him.
It’s been a difficult winter for the Eagle-Hawks in more ways than one. Record-wise, they finished 5-16 and lost all eight games against Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) opponents. Perhaps the biggest blow was the loss of senior Tom Wales, who suffered an injury in a bus accident when the team returned from a match in January.
Still, head coach Russ Berner said positives emerged from an otherwise tough season — not the least of which was Wales’ return for the final five games when he helped the team win three and contributed two goals and three assists.
“Tom’s absence was a huge loss, but he worked really hard and surprised us all by getting cleared by the doctors to return,” Berner said. “His contributions were big on the ice, but he also gave [the team] a huge emotional lift by coming back.”
Berner said DeStefano’s exploits were easily the most impactful.
“He’s one of the most gifted players in the state,” Berner said. “Robert’s modest, unselfish and it’s been a pleasure to have him on our squad. It’s very refreshing in a ‘look at me’ world that Robert never draws attention to himself but just gets ready for the next faceoff after scoring. And he had some pretty amazing goals this season.”
Other contributions came from junior defenseman Chuck Youse (11 goals, 13 assists) and senior defenseman Mike Tutalo (five goals, seven assists). Senior Dan Lesch (three goals, seven assists) centered the top line, and freshman Anthony Gardner (four goals, four assists), came on strong after returning from an injury.
DeStefano and Youse are J.P. Stevens products, while the others mentioned are from Edison.
The NJSIAA Region 5 Wrestling Tournament was held Feb. 24 and 26-27, and a number of area competitors advanced to the state championships March 4-6 in Atlantic City.
Although no area wrestler stood on the top pedestal of the medal podium, three will head to the states as a result of two runner-up finishes and a third-place medal.
Bishop George Ahr High School senior captain John Sheedy (145 pounds) battled his way to the finals before bowing, 12-4, to Mekhi Lewis of Bound Brook High School, while Edison junior Robert Cleary (132 pounds) suffered his first loss of the year when he was edged by Somerville High School’s Evan Drill, 3-2.
In the consolations, Bishop Ahr junior Andrew Brazicki (182 pounds) registered a 13-7 victory over Anthony DelGuerico of Hillsborough High School.
While the season continues for Brazicki and Sheedy, Bishop Ahr ended the campaign at 5-16. Despite the record, head coach Nick Tonzola believes the program is moving in the right direction, especially considering the accomplishments of Sheedy and Brazicki.
“We’re excited about them making it to the state finals,” Tonzola said. “Andrew has a great head on his shoulders, is a tremendous leader and we’re looking for even better things next year.
“John was our senior captain and our hardest worker in the practice room.”
One of the team’s highlights came before the regular season when it took a trip to Disney World in Florida, where the Trojans met opponents from around the country.
“It was a great bonding experience,” Tonzola said. “New Jersey is one of the top states for wrestling and it’s always a great experience to compete against teams from other states so we can compare styles.”
A number of area high school bowlers earned recognition from the GMC for their seasons.
On the boys side, Edison’s Tom Leone was named all-conference and all-division. The Eagles’ Jason Smith earned all-division honors, as did Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen’s Joe Chrobak, Billy Milligan and John Hoban.
On the girls side, Edison’s Samantha Salzone was named all-conference and all-division, and the following earned all-division honors: Edison’s Tori Holmes and Bishop Ahr’s Chelsea Alers and Katie Eicher.
Edison’s Traci Smith was honored as girls conference and division coach of the year, and St. Joe’s Russ Thomsen was named division coach of the year. Edison also received the boys and girls sportsmanship of the year award.
Bishop Ahr’s Sarah Hardy made a splash in her debut at the Meet of Champions Feb. 27. The freshman captured the 200-yard individual medley in a time of 2:02.44, which topped last year’s champion, Megan Bull of Hillsborough.