In its first varsity season since 1981, the Gill St. Bernard’s High School ice hockey team has exceeded expectations through the first half.
Many people would look at its 3-6-3 overall mark and think that it isn’t all that big of a deal. But the Knights have not had a varsity program in over 30 years and can be proud of hovering around the .500 mark.
Since the program was reinstated eight years ago and had been playing on the junior varsity level since that time, coach Peter Roslund has been waiting for this opportunity. He said the players he has now are the ideal building blocks to what he hopes can be a winning outfit for years to come.
“We have a lot of faith in this young core that we have right now,” Roslund said. “The meat of the roster that we have is made up of sophomores and juniors. Last year as freshman and sophomores, they were the group that the coaching staff believed we can build around to move to the varsity level and have for the next two to three years.”
Players that are leading the Knights in their first varsity season in over three decades include a hard-working, third-year captain in junior Chris Ward, who has seven goals and five assists this season. On the defense, the Knights boast senior Nick Blackman, a hard-hitting defenseman who appreciates the varsity ice time in his final year of high school. Finally, there’s sophomore winger Alyx Schrecengost, a highly skilled forward with a great hockey IQ. Schrecengost is the only female on the team and is second on the squad in scoring.
With seven games to go, Roslund would like to finish with a .500 record, since the Knights have a favorable schedule slated in the final month of the season.
“We have a stretch of five real important games coming up here,” said Roslund, whose team is a member of the Morris County Secondary Schools Ice Hockey League’s Haas Division. “I would love for us to go 3-2 in those games, which would be the benchmark that it would set for them. I would say .500 is definitely a goal we’re looking to achieve this year.”
Coach Nick Crouch knew it would be a challenge for Bernards in its first season of Skyland Conference play. But, he probably didn’t think it would be this much of a challenge.
The Mountaineers, who split conference time between the Skyland and the New Jersey Ice Hockey League’s Western Division, were winless through their first five Skyland games. When you compare that to their undefeated 4-0-1 mark in the NJIHL, it is a stark contrast.
Luckily for the Mountaineers however, they have since won back-to-back games in the Skyland defeating Watchung Hills and Montgomery, putting their Skyland mark at 2-5 through seven conference games.
Games to watch
Bridgewater-Raritan faces off against Summit Tuesday in a nonconference matchup at the Warinanco Ice Skating Center in Elizabeth at 6 p.m. Hunterdon Central looks to continue its stellar bounce back season when it takes on Skyland front-runner Ridge on Saturday at the Bridgewater Sports Arena. The puck drops at 8:30 p.m.