Mahwah’s varsity ice hockey team has achieved something that, according to its coach Kevin Sabella, is a rarity among North Jersey squads – it has clinched the Big Green North Cup Championship three years in a row. Although the team fell 5-1 to Verona Monday night in the first round of the state finals, Sabella said the team should be “extremely proud” of what it’s been able to accomplish.
This season, Mahwah entered the league championship as the third seed. The team beat DePaul 4-3 and Indian Hills 2-1 in the first two rounds of the tournament. In the championship game last Friday, Mahwah took on rival Ramsey. The T-Birds were “completely the underdogs,” Sabella said, playing against the number one seed in the league.
“Everyone counted us out,” Sabella said. “And I think it is a real testament to the boys’ character that they were able to tune the world out, and get the job done.” Mahwah beat Ramsey 1-0 to claim the Big Green North Cup for the third year in a row. “They pulled off one of the biggest upsets in a while, and I am so proud of their dedication and perseverance.”
Player Matt Gutierrez scored the single goal of the game, and senior goalie Sean Scannell “led the team to the victory,” Sabella said. “Our strength this season was in our defense. All of the championship games were close, low-scoring matches. That’s how you know we are playing good hockey.”
According to the head coach, the road to the championship was not an easy one. Team members suffered several injuries throughout the season, and two players left the team. “The two weeks prior to the championship, we were a mess. We took two bad beatings to the teams from Summit and Morristown,” Sabella said. So, he made an unconventional move and took the team off the ice for a week before the tournament. “They needed a break, and it paid off.”
On Monday night against Verona, “we just ran out of gas,” Sabella said. But, members of the senior class, who have won league championships since their sophomore year, should be happy, he said. “That’s really something to hang their hats on.”
Sabella said he is not sure what to expect next season, but is looking forward to it. “One thing is for sure, the underclassmen definitely have quite a reputation to uphold.”
The members of the 2011-12 varsity T-Bird ice hockey team include Sean Scannell, Eric Toy, Zach Orton, Dan Sinnaeve, Joe Noonan, Kevin Duffy, Tyler Gutierrez, Chris Curtiss, Steve Loreti, Derek Jordan, Matt Gutierrez, Nick Savino, Charlie Holland, John Kapoian, Tommy Pistocchi and Christopher Ciongoli.