When the Old Bridge High School ice hockey team defeated St. Joseph of Metuchen, 2-1, back on Jan. 8, the Knights sent a message to the Falcons that it wasn’t a one horse race within the Greater Middlesex Conference.
At the start of the year, pundits had projected the Falcons to just cake walk through the conference for their third straight league title, and, rightfully so. After all, St. Joe’s hadn’t lost a regular season conference matchup in the GMC’s history.
But, that all changed when the Knights upset their conference rival.
“That game proved we can play with anyone,” first-year Old Bridge head coach Damien LoNigro said. “We knew going into that game that if we played smart, played within our system and everyone did their job that we could hang with them.”
For a group that graduated nine players off of its most successful team in school history from a year ago, Old Bridge has done a remarkable job in not skipping a beat. Sitting atop the GMC and possessing a 10-2-1 record is enough evidence of that.
Defensively, the Knights have been solid all year thanks to a great goaltending combination of Dan Rubin and Nick Marzullo allowing only 1.9 goals per game.
“We’ve been holding a lot of our opponents to under 20 shots,” LoNigro said. “That’s really been our mindset. Not only do we not want to give up goals, but we don’t want to give up shots. The kids have been playing with great discipline. It’s been a team effort.”
On the offensive side, Old Bridge has been led by senior forward Jared Layer spearheading a top line that has helped the Knights average 4.5 goals scored per game.
“It all starts at practice,” Layer said. “We go to practice about four days a week and everyone is working hard to correct the things that we’ve done wrong. We’ve set high expectations and we’re playing up to those expectations. That’s the reason we’ve been playing so well.”
Along with Layer, fellow senior Peter Krzewinski and junior Mike Cistone have been main cogs on the top line.
The trio has great chemistry together on the ice and are a handful for any opponents defense.
“We always know where each other are going to be at the right time,” Layer said. “Peter and I have been playing together for a long time. We’ve played travel together and Mike and I have been playing with one another since he was a freshman. Sometimes we don’t need to pick our heads up in terms of where we need to put the puck because we know one of us is going to be there.”
With the season entering the stretch run and having already beaten the conference powerhouse, Old Bridge believes the best is yet to come.
“We expect to be back in the GMC championship facing St. Joe’s again,” Layer said. “We expect to go far in states. If we keep up the hard work, beat the tougher teams that we have later on in the year we’ll be fine.”