Central Hockey Into the Real World

CJ Simione, Staff Writer

The Central Catholic Varsity ice hockey team has been having a tremendous season.  The team has faced many competitive opponents in the AAA division this season, and is currently in first place.  The Vikings haven’t won the Penguins Cup since 1998, but teams have come close in recent years.  This year’s group has their eyes on the Penguins cup this season once again, hoping to bring it back to Central Catholic this year.

When asked what the team needs to do to have continued success for the remainder of the season Coach Connelly replied, “ We all need to stay together and trust in our roles and responsibilities.  We didn’t get here by accident, but after a lot of hard work. “   This year there are 11 seniors on the team, which is a key factor in the team’s success.  Many of these players have been in the program since 6th grade as members of the developmental Middle school team.  Over this time they have developed both not only their hockey skills, but also a strong bond with their fellow Vikings.

It seems like a cliché to say that a team is successful due to teamwork, but according to Captain Jake Tepe that is exactly why the team is doing well.  “ We’ve been successful this year because we’ve been playing as a team, consistently.  We have been playing to our strengths as we continue to come up in clutch situations.” He continued to say, “This season is different that the last because we’ve lost a couple of key senior leaders who really brought the team together.  This year’s seniors have really stepped up, continuing to bring everyone together, keeping everyone on the same page.”

Along with the seniors’ contributions, there are many strong underclassmen who are also contributing to the team’s success.  They also attribute the teams’ accomplishments to team chemistry and a tight knit friendship on and off the ice.  They can see that losing in the semi finals last year made them hungrier to win the Pens cup this year. “Every kid on our team knows what they have to put on the line day in and out for their brothers, not only in games but  in practice.   I think this is the year we have all the tools to win the Penguins cup.”

The team has been invited to the USA Hockey National Championships for the second year in a row. Twenty teams are invited from across the entire country, and Central Catholic received the local bid. This is a testament to the talent level of the team. This year Nationals will take place at Gilmour Academy near Cleveland March 30th to April 2nd. Whatever the outcome in the quest for the Penguins Cup and Nationals, these players have learned the importance of playing as a team. As Sidney Crosby said “I promise to play for the logo on the front of my jersey, not for the name on the back.”

One teammate who has taken the lessons learned at Central into the “real world” is last year’s captain Sam DeLucia. Sam is currently playing in the U.S. Premier Hocky League (USPHL), for the New Jersey Hitmen. He had many adjustments to make when he started with the new team. Getting used to the faster paced, different style of play was one adjustment he had to make. Another adjustment was moving away from home and living with a billet family. Sam’s experience at Central Catholic has prepared him for this phase of his life in many ways. He says, “Central taught me how to be a man and handle my own. I’m living on my own 400 miles away from all my family and my closest friends and all my Central Catholic Brothers. Central taught me work ethic. You can accomplish whatever you want as long as you put in the work day in and day out. Central also taught me how to hold my own and take care of myself and be responsible for anything I do on and off the ice.”