Last week, St. Rose hockey captain Ryan O’Malley partook in the program’s annual year-end intrasquad game, and was convinced it was the last time he’d put on purple and white.
It was a difficult time for O’Malley and the rest of the Frozen Roses’ senior class, as the group failed to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament, before rounding out its regular season schedule with a loss to Rumosn-Fair Haven.
Staring down an abrupt end to his scholastic career, O’Malley paid no mind to a text message delivered by St. Rose coach Dan Grothues, stating that the Belmar-based club stood an outside chance at earning an at-large bid in the NJSAA Non-Public Tournament.
However, on Tuesday afternoon that vision was realized, as St. Rose drew the No. 19 seed in a 19-team Non-Public field, extending its season by at least one more game.
“Nobody wanted to say it and I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up when I sent that message, but I knew there was a chance we could get in, ” St. Rose coach Dan Grothues said. “All the guys really needed a lift after not getting into the conference tournament and losing to Rumson, so I wanted to let them know we had a shot.”
“To be honest I didn’t really pay any attention to that text message,” said O’Malley, who is second in scoring for St. Rose with 35 points on 21 goals and 14 assists. “I was pretty mad after losing to Rumson, and figured my season and my career was over. At best I saw us getting into the tournament as a long shot, because there were just so many good private school teams.”
“But we’re very excited right now,” O’Malley added. “We had practice on Monday because there was the outside chance of getting in and I was happy to see that the focus and intensity was there. We had a shot, and that was something to go hard for. Now that we’re in, I know we’ll be ready to go.”
O’Malley and his teammates won’t have to travel far for its opening round game as the Frozen Roses (8-10-1) will be hosted by No. 14-seeded St. John Vianney, a Class A Central rival that defeated St. Rose on Jan. 6, before the Lancers (15-4-2) dropped the regular-season series finale 5-3 on Feb. 6.
“We’re very excited about facing St. John Vianney because over the past few years we’ve developed a solid rivalry with them,” O’Malley said. “We just recently beat them in an exciting game so hopefully we’ll be able to build off that.”
“I really believe this is the best case scenario for us,” Grothues said. “This is a team we’re familiar with and one we’ve beaten. We’ll prepare like we have all year long, with some competitive, fast-paced practices.”
The winner of St. Rose and St. John Vianney’s first round meeting will also remain local in the second round, but with no easy task ahead, as third-seeded CBA (18-4-0) lies in wait after earning a bye as one of the top three seeds in the draw, alongside first-seeded Delbarton and second-seeded Don Bosco Prep.
Red Bank Catholic (16-5-3) drew the No. 11 seed in the Non-Public field and will open its tournament at sixth-seeded Morristown-Beard, while No. 18-seeded Donovan Catholic (12-8-3) will travel to No. 15-seeded St. Joe’s Montvale.