The five seniors all said it meant something special to them going into the playoffs with a strong team in their last year
By KRYSTAL NURSE
The Clearview Regional High School Pioneers hosted Holy Lenape Valley’s Devil Hawks at HollyDell Ice Arena on Jan. 18 for Senior Night, signifying the seniors’ last home game of the regular season.
Having played together for nearly four years, with the exclusion of forward Luke Colella, who began this year, the seniors said the game was bittersweet.
“It’s kind of sad to see it all go, but it’s been a fun time with all of our friends,” said forward and alternate captain Chase Dyar.
“Me, [Dyar], and Ross Higgins were all lucky enough to play varsity since our freshman year, and I just think it’s been fun to kind of hang around the older guys,” said captain and forward Luc Froio. “Now that we’re seniors, we get to do the same thing with the younger guys (that we experienced), and it’s just a lot of fun.”
Assistant Coach Mike Wolk Jr., who joined the team as coach four years ago, personally saw the boys grow as both players and students (Wolk teaches media and broadcast news at the high school). Since his entrance to the high school, he said the players have spoken highly of him, which makes him emotional thinking about them graduating.
Despite coming in his last year of high school to play for the Pioneers, Colella, who attends West Deptford High School (West Deptford does not have an active hockey team), said he likes playing with the other nine seniors on the team and it gave him the opportunity to meet new people. Colella added he has played with them prior for travel teams.
The seniors said the team, as a whole, bonds together in and outside of ice hockey with multiple team dinners and outings at local restaurants.
“We’re a close group, and there isn’t anything like it,” said Higgins.
“These guys saw what the professionals were doing in making a bond with each other and the fans, and decided that’s what they wanted, and achieved that,” said Wolk. “There’s not two guys on the roster who have an issue with each other, yet they hold each other accountable for anything, from a play that went wrong, to wearing the wrong color jersey to school on game day.”
As 10 out of 25 players are expected to graduate in June, the boys all said they aren’t too worried on finding new recruits as they have faith in the underclassmen who are on the team and the coaches to get new players.
“We’ll definitely try to go to some of the home games and cheer them on and just try to give them some words of wisdom in the locker room,” said Colella.
“I’m a little worried for the future, but we do have a really strong core of underclassmen and we have a lot of good incoming freshmen,” said Higgins. “So we’ll have a young team next year, but we’ll have a good team.”
Froio also added he and the alternates are eager to see whom the coaches pick to receive the captaincies next year, but also know that “whoever gets it, will wear it proudly.”
While none of the seniors mentioned specifically which college they’re eyeing, they all agreed they’ll seek to end their careers on a high note with a SJHSHL championship win, which is something they’ve been longing for since their freshman years.
“I think we have a very good shot of winning the championship this year,” said Froio. “This is my fourth year of varsity, and I still haven’t won it yet, so it’s something I definitely want to accomplish this year.”
“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be emotional with our last year going into the playoffs, but it’s a great feeling,” said alternate captain and forward Justin D’Alonzo.
Hungry for a win, the seniors said they’re going to miss the camaraderie and are grateful for the support from their parents and the school.
“They only give out one award at the end of the season, and it just so happens that’s the one we want,” said Wolk. “We’re very aware that we have won absolutely nothing this year. These guys are writing their own fate for their high school careers and I think they’re pretty glad the pen is in their hands.”
“Glad to have a night like this where our parents and everyone are involved because without them, none of this is possible,” said Froio.
The Jan. 18 home game against HLV ended in a 3–3 tie. Steven Lento, Dyar and Thomas Rockey each had a goal. They are first in the South Jersey High School Hockey League standings going into the playoffs after defeating HLV on Jan. 25.