Rebound season for Hudson Catholic hockey After losing season, Hawks soaring once again

After taking over for Cory Robinson as the head coach of the Hudson Catholic hockey program a year ago, Frank McGady had to endure some growing pains, as did the rest of his team.

"It was a learning experience for all of us," McGady said. "I think we all learned from what happened last year."
The Hawks, who won the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title in 2000, fell to new depths. They finished the season with a 4-15-3 record, certainly not the way McGady wanted to start out as a head coach.

"Although it was a nightmare season in terms of our record, I really felt that we could skate with any team in the state," said McGady, who was a long-time assistant to Robinson before taking over the reins last year. "We would always just come up a little short in the third period for some reason. We were competitive in almost every game."
McGady cited late season losses to state powerhouses Bergen Catholic (3-1) and Seton Hall Prep (2-0) as examples how the Hawks were right there, but just a little short.

With the team a year older and more experienced, McGady knew that there would be better days ahead for the Hawks in 2002-2003. So far, so good.

The Hawks are currently 7-2-1, thanks to a two wins and a Constantino Cup championship in the Secaucus Mayor’s Cup Tournament last weekend and a 3-2 victory over defending New York state champions St. Mary’s of Long Island Tuesday night.

"We have pretty much the same team back from last year," McGady said. "It’s not like we needed to bring in a new bunch of players and have them learn all over again. The older players are stepping up and playing well. We’re also not losing leads in the third period this year."

McGady knew that he had the makings of a vastly improved squad after the Hawks soundly defeated Christian Brothers Academy, 4-0, early in the season.

"That was a good sign," McGady said.

Another good sign was having talented junior winger Danny Galella back after missing almost all of last year due to knee surgery.

Galella, who scored eight goals and had 11 assists as a freshman two years ago, played in only five games last year. But Galella has scored seven goals and three assists already this season, so he’s well on his way to topping his freshman totals.

"I was expecting him to do better," McGady said. "Although Danny’s not 100 percent yet, he’s still an excellent player."

The other players on Galella’s line have also been performing very well. Junior center Ryan Sherry, who had 19 points all of last season, has already collected six goals and 12 assists this season. Senior right wing John Jurik is playing with a lot more confidence, according to McGady.

"Ryan worked very hard in the off-season to get bigger, stronger and faster," McGady said. "Last year, they all got thrown into the fire together and were asked to respond. Now, they’re more mature and definitely more confident."

McGady said that he doesn’t have one line that stands out over another.

"We really have two top lines," McGady said. "They alternate starts and they’re pretty equal. I couldn’t pick one over the other."
The other "top" line is centered by senior captain Skylar Cauceglia, who is flanked on the right wing by sophomore Mike Redmond and on left wing by senior captain Peter Hand.

Of course, a hockey team is only as solid as the player who defends the goal, and the Hawks have one of the best around in talented junior A.J. Drago, who is one of the most respected and revered goaltenders in New Jersey.

"In my honest opinion, A.J. is the best goalie in our [Gordon] division," McGady said. "He could be the best in the state. He’s improved a lot and is a very hard worker who spends countless hours on the ice."
Drago also plays with the prestigious Mercer Chiefs junior team during the time he is not playing with the Hawks.

A year ago, Drago had a 3.77 goals against average, and a save ratio of 88 percent. This year, Drago owns a 1.94 GAA (almost half of last year’s mark) and a save percentage of 94 percent.

The Hawks also have a host of talented players in their defenseman corps. Leading the way is junior captain Rick Tauber, who has scored a goal and added seven assists, but does a lot of other things to stabilize the Hawks’ back line.

"Rick has the ability to take charge of the defense," McGady said. "He can carry the puck and is very capable of jumping up with the offense."

Seniors Ryan Lucas and Tom Laba are very steady and reliable defensemen. Juniors Tom Mahalchick and Joe Kazimar, as well as sophomore Jeff Aliseo, the younger brother of former Hawk All-State standout goalkeeper Joe, also solidify the back line.

The Hawks are also fortunate to have a third line that is performing well thus far, namely sophomore center Edgar Soto, junior left wing Anthony Buttner, and sophomore right wing John Reid.

McGady said another key to the Hawks’ early success has been the diligence of the team’s penalty killing unit, where Cauceglia really stands out.

McGady said that he was pleased with the Hawks’ performance in the prestigious Secaucus Mayor’s Cup tournament, which featured eight teams from all over the country, as well as Canada. The Hawks dropped a 5-4 decision to eventual champion Malvern Prep of Pennsylvania, the No. 1-ranked team in that state, in the opening round, but then rebounded to defeat Monsignor Farrell of Staten Island and LaSalle of Philadelphia in the next two games.

"It was a good experience for us," McGady said.

As has been the last year.

"I think the kids really feel good about themselves," said McGady, whose team will face defending state champion Delbarton Monday and will lock horns with defending public school state champion Brick Township Feb. 14. "They all have a lot more confidence. They feel like they belong and can compete with anyone. I’m very happy with that."


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