WALL — He knows what adversity looks like.
The sites, sounds and sensations that take hold when facing a complicated task are no stranger to Jim Dowd.
From the moment he was selected by the New Jersey Devils out of Brick Township High School back in 1987 to the day he decided to hang up his skates after a 16-year NHL career, staring obstacles in the face and overcoming them was a way of life for Dowd.
It’s a character trait that was engrained in the New Jersey Hockey legend, and one that has since been adopted by his Jersey Shore Wildcats Bantam AA outfit, a club the ventured to West Chester, PA this past September and battled their way to an International Silver Stick Regional Championship.
“To have that sort of team success at the beginning of the year is a huge confidence builder for our group, but the way we did it is why I’m so proud of these guys and what they accomplished,” said Dowd, who is in his second season at the helm of this Wildcats club.
The way they clinched this tournament title was indeed an impressive run, as the Wildcats stumbled out of the gate with a Game 1 tie, before registering three consecutive victories and overcoming a couple of two-goal deficits — including a 3-1 game heading into the third period — in an eventual championship victory over New Jersey Youth Hockey League (NJYHL) Southern Division rivals the New Jersey Stars.
“Going through something like that early in the year and coming out of it with a championship has been great for their mindset,” Dowd added. “They picked themselves up, stuck with it, focused and got the job done…and now they know what they’re capable of as a team.”
Hoisting the International Silver Stick Regional Championship banner was an eye-opening experience for the Wildcats, and one that winger Nathaniel Block believes stemmed from the chemistry of this club’s core.
“For a lot of us, this is our second season playing together, and that familiarity really has helped us. It helps that we’ve been teammates for a while. It helps that we all know each other and that we’re friends with each other. Our chemistry on the ice is just as good as it is off the ice. That helps build trust, and it goes a long when we get into the game.”
According to top line centerman Anthony Dowd, victory was also a revelatory moment.
“I think the result made us more confident in ourselves, and we learned a lot about what we can do as a team,” said Dowd, whose older brother Jimmy Dowd Jr. is a Penn State University commit, and is currently skating with the New Jersey Titans of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
“We set a goal before the season started. We visualized winning that tournament, and we believed we could accomplish it. Then we put the work in to make it a reality and that hard work paid off. It proved to us that if we visualize something and set our minds to it, we can do anything.”
With the regional championship victory already in tow, the Wildcats will set their sights on an international crown in January, when the team will travel to Port Huron, Michigan for the 56th Annual Silver Stick Finals, which will run from the 18th through the 21st and feature the top Bantam AA talent from the United States and Canada.
“We’re all really good players here, and we can’t wait to go out there to test ourselves against other great players from around the country, and Canadian players too,” said Wildcats winger Chris Laureigh, whose older brother Bryan Laureigh is a blue liner for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
“It’s going to be a high level of hockey and we know we’ll be going against some teams that are a lot better, stronger and tougher than what we’ve seen before, but I can’t wait to get out there with our team. We’re going to compete really hard and we’ll see what happens.”
Before they head to Michigan the Wildcats will continue to their NJYHL regular season schedule – They’re 5-0-0 to this point – on Nov. 11 at the Jersey Shore Arena when the Brick Hockey Club comes to town for a 4:15 p.m. meeting.
The Jersey Shore Wildcats Bantam AA Team Is…
Forwards: #7 Anthony Caruso, #8 Robert Setteducati, #9 Anthony Dowd, #20 Mitchell Ducalo, #26 Nathaniel Block, #27 Jason Andreyev, #29 Justin Lidondici, #79 Tommy Atanacio, #88 Christopher Laureigh, #94 Nicholas Colao; Defensemen: #4 Dominic Schaffer, #10 Nicholas Ochlan, #21 Joey Virga, #23 Yater Henry, #86 Justin Ervelli; Goaltenders: #30 Jack Bilancione, #71 Joseph Colecchia; Coaches: Jim Dowd, Steven Ervelli; Manager: Tammy Laureigh.