In this recently passed ice hockey campaign, Steve Scanapicco entered the fourth year behind St. John Vianney’s bench and saw the seeds of a championship blueprint planted back in 2009 mature and produce the most successful season in the history of the Lancers’ program. He just didn’t expect to reach such heights so soon.
“I didn’t see a season like this coming at this time,” said Scanapicco, who admitted he and the Lancers were merely looking to build upon the organization’s 14 wins from the previous year. “After making an early exit from the Shore Conference playoffs last year, we felt that we should’ve been a little more successful than we were. With that, we were looking to finish up anywhere between 14 and 18 wins this season.”
In fact, St. John Vianney would finish with an overall record of 20-2-3 placing the Lancers behind only CBA (23-3-2) for the Shore Conference lead in wins. Included in that total was the program’s 8-1-1 Class B North record and a 23-game unbeaten streak snapped by the eventual Non-Public Champion, Delbarton, in the second round of the NJSIAA tournament.
“It was a pretty amazing run,” explained Scanapicco. “We lost our first game of the season and the last game our season, but to have a run like that, it relates back to our total team effort throughout the year.”
The concept of “total team play” is one the Lancers’ charger instituted from day one of his tenure, and to see it take so well with this crop of players is a prideful moment for Scanapicco that he admittedly owes.
“When we took the program over four years ago it was highly talented, but not a team effort. Since then we’ve been telling our guys that talented players can win games, but it’s the complete teams that win championships. This group of seniors and juniors, along with my coaching staff and the school administration that gave us the time to rebuild, were really the first ones to buy in to that idea and they ran with it.”
But don’t take Scanapicco’s word for it. The proof is in the numbers as the Lancers, unlike many of their contemporaries, failed to rely on a single sniper or stud-littered top line, but instead produced eight 20-point scorers, including six forwards (Matt Kidney 37, Mike Gelatt 36, Mike Davie 34, Dave Delseni 26, Andrew Galante 24, Joe Poretta 22) and two defensemen (Tim Gelatt 22, Drew Fisher 20).
With that notion of collective achievement in mind came the accolades that were predicted as St. John Vianney captured its first Shore Conference Tournament title in program history with a 4-1 Handchen Cup victory over St. Rose. And in a fashion similar to what the Lancers had practiced throughout this 2012-13 campaign, it grew from a group effort on both ends of the ice.
Three different goal scorers in Delseni, who netted a pair, Mike Gelatt, and Kidney combined with the composed patrol of the blue line and defensive zone by Fisher and Tim Gelatt, and congestion between the pipes via junior net minder, and second-team All-Shore selection, James Ellis, who turned away 26 of 27 shots faced proved to be the proper recipe to obtain the title.
“Unless you make it through the state tournament your season ends on a loss, which sometimes makes it difficult to reflect on all that was accomplished. But we had certain goals in mind entering this season. We wanted to get to 18 wins and we did. We wanted that Handchen Cup and we got it. It’s been three weeks since our last game and these achievements are still very surreal.”
Said Scanapicco of the team’s mindset surrounding the team throughout this run, “The coaching staff and myself always tried to keep it in perspective for the guys. ‘Sure, we won tonight, but we haven’t really won anything yet.’ After the Handchen Cup victory, we walked into the locker room and the kids held up the plaque and said ‘Look Coach, we finally won something.’ It was a great moment I’ll never forget and I’m very proud of all of them.”