This season has been an especially good one for
Eustace -- the No. 8 team in New Jersey as ranked by the Star Ledger.
The Crusaders won the eight-team Lawrenceville
Tournament over the holidays and defeated powerful St. John Vianney, the
state's No. 1-ranked team. Eustace is the only New Jersey team to
accomplish that this season.
Before that, Bishop Eustace took highly regarded
Brick Township, perhaps the state's best public school team, down to the
final five seconds before losing 5-4.
In the hockey community, the Eustace surge has been
"There's no doubt that in North Jersey we're looked
on as a competitor for the best team in the state," said Eustace coach
Green credits a solid group of seniors and
sophomores for leading the team's success.
"Dave Baratta, Joey Johnston and Sean Kohler are
top-notch sophomores who really helped turn the team around when they
came in as freshmen last year," Green said. "And our seniors -- Tom
Garvey, Ted Wooley, Nick Lepore, Phil Passarelli, Greg Ball and Romeo
Pacifico -- have all performed well.
"That combination gives us a good team effort.
Those players can compete with anybody in the state."
Garvey, one of the team captains, has seen the rise
in respect Bishop Eustace has earned over his years with the team.
"Ever since Mike Green took over as coach a few
years ago, it's been uphill for us," he said. "For the first three
years, I think a lot of teams were looking down on us. But now we're
starting to make our mark. I think when we lost to Brick in the last
five seconds, we started to get some believers. But then when we beat
St. John Vianney, that was the highlight of the season.
"Hopefully, it won't be our last highlight."
More than 100 high schools are sanctioned to
compete in ice hockey by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic
Association. But only two -- Bishop Eustace and St. Augustine -- compete
in South Jersey.
That makes for a lot of time traveling on buses,
but the players have learned to use their time together on the road to
create their own advantage.
"When everybody gets together on the bus, it gives
us a chance to work out our game plan and strategies," said Passarelli.
"I think it helps us come together as a team."
If there are problems, they have not been
staggering. With each passing season, the Eustace program has grown in
The student body has become accustomed to following
the team's exploits, and Green had 40 prospects come out for the team
"The level of player we're getting is getting
better every year," Green said. "Hopefully, we can keep improving as a