What Dreams May Come

Gloucester Catholic senior and Sewell resident Domenic Garozzo is one of the state’s most prolific scorers this season, has secured a scholarship to play hockey in college, and has an idol that helps fuel his athletic ambitions

Domenic Garozzo skates toward the Bergen Catholic goal during a recent game at Hollydell Ice Arena. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun) Insert photo, of a young Garozzo meeting up with GCHS grad Johnny Gaudreau at Boston College, provided by Garozzo family.

For many Little Leaguers, midget football players, and youth hockey, basketball, or soccer players around the country, growing up to become a pro athlete is the dream.

As they get older and make the jump from grade school to middle school and then middle school to high school, it can begin to feel more like a pipe dream.

With age comes wisdom, and reality can cloud the fantasies you played out in your backyard or local ice rink.

But it’s easier to keep those childhood daydreams alive when you have a living, breathing example of a sports success story who came through your high school.

Domenic Garozzo, a Sewell resident and senior at Gloucester Catholic High School, is one of the top prep hockey scorers in the state. Entering February, he had four hat tricks in 16 games (only nine New Jersey players have more) and he’s scored a total of 24 goals in 16 games for the Rams. He also has a Division-1 scholarship in hand.

Garozzo, one of the most prolific scorers in the state this season, committed to St. Lawrence University last month. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

But as the 18-year-old Garozzo continues his athletic journey, he has NHL superstar, Calgary Flames forward, and Gloucester Catholic alum Johnny Gaudreau as a hockey idol, too.

“He’s definitely a role model,” Garozzo said. “I just want to go as far as I can with hockey and try to make my name the biggest it can be, just like he did.”

Garozzo began playing hockey only a few years after he learned to walk. He laced up at Hollydell Ice Arena as a 4-year-old and learned the game from the same person who taught Gaudreau.

“Coach Guy (Gaudreau, Johnny’s father), he taught me how to skate,” Garozzo said. “I would definitely say he has been my biggest mentor, teaching me to skate and just giving me the drive to get better and better.”

Hoping or expecting another South Jersey kid to become the next Gaudreau is about as unfair as hoping another Mike Trout emerges from local baseball fields. But reaching the ultimate goal — the professional ranks — is possible, even if you’re not a superstar like Gaudreau or Trout.

Gloucester Catholic senior Dom Garozzo chats with Rams head coach Tom Bunting after the first period of a recent game at Hollydell Ice Arena. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

Like Gaudreau, Eric and Buddy Robinson are both former Gloucester Catholic students who made it to the NHL within the last half decade. Fellow Sewell native Anthony DeAngelo currently plays for the New York Rangers, Moorestown’s T.J. Brennan played for part of four seasons in the NHL not that long ago, and Cherry Hill native Bobby Ryan is a three-time All-Star who plays for the Ottawa Senators.

Being able to follow Gaudreau’s journey has helped keep Garozzo’s own dream alive.

“He’d be at all of the camps that I used to go to and he would come on the ice with us,” Garozzo said. “He’s just an amazing hockey player. I mean every time he’d be on the ice with us I just wanted to be like him, I wanted to learn from the things he did and just do what he did.”

Before he can even think about a possible pro career, Garozzo, of course, has to graduate high school. After losing in the state semifinals last year, the Rams (7–9 entering February) are hoping to make another postseason run this month despite losing a dozen players to graduation last year, including five or six defensemen who saw regular ice time.

“This is a much younger team,” Gloucester Catholic coach Tom Bunting said. “I have a lot of sophomores that play. So it’s a tough league when you have that many young guys.”

Gloucester Catholic goalie, Chris Liscio, is another Washington Township resident on the Rams ice hockey team. Other Washington Township residents on GCHS’s team, along with Garozzo, include Ryan Talarico, Alex Castells, Nate Maeser, P.J. DeMetrio, Tyler Carter, and Zach Johnson. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

But Bunting’s team did get a boost when Garozzo decided to return to the school after spending one year at Washington Township High School.

“He has a high level of skill, he’s our most talented guy,” Bunting said of his 5–11 forward. “He’s got quick feet, great hands, he’s just a very gifted offensive player.”

Garozzo will graduate Gloucester Catholic in a few months and begin a new chapter of his hockey journey in upstate New York. He recently committed to St. Lawrence University, a school that’s produced the likes of former Flyers coach Mike Keenan and current Devils general manager Ray Shero.

“I’m just really excited for it,” said Garozzo, who also credited his Virtua club team coaches Jeremy Hall and Jared Beech for helping with the college process. “I can’t wait. … It’s a smaller school like GC, so I like that a lot. And their coaches, honestly, were the most friendly and welcoming of any coaches I’ve ever experienced. I just loved it there.”

The ability to play Division-I ice hockey is a blessing in itself. It also keeps the dream of one day turning pro alive.

“I feel like everything is going well for me right now, I feel like right now I’m at the best I’ve been ever, but I just want to keep getting better,” Garozzo said. “I love the game, so I love working hard and getting better every day. I have a lot of determination to go as far as I can with hockey, and make it as far as I can.”

Garozzo skates past the Bergen Catholic defense for a breakaway opportunity in Monday’s game at Hollydel Ice Arena. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)