They did it #ForTheHats
Regardless of the club’s true motivation, you can’t beat the end result, as the Jersey Shore Whalers 18U program ventured to Connecticut on Oct. 13 and after three days and five games had captured a White Division Championship at the East Coast Classic College Cup Tournament .
The Whalers cruised through Pool Play, taking three victories in the first two days of tournament competition from the Neponset Valley River Rats (Boston, MA), Exton Bulls (Exton, PA) and Elite Hockey (CT) by a combined score of 11-3.
The Whalers drew the second seed in the four-team playoff and dismissed the third-seeded Rifles by a 3-1 decision in the semifinals.
The Finals pitted the Whalers against the top-seeded Boston Jr. Bruins, and a goal with 12.7 seconds remaining in regulation by Fort Wayne, Indiana native Jared Fisher – by way of a helper from Jackson Memorial High School standout Nick Swain – made a 3-2 winner out of the Brick Township-based club, and provided them some much needed success according to Head Coach Anthony Matarazzo.
“Playing a tough [USPHL] schedule back home can be a grind, especially when there’s not a lot of winning being done, so we really needed these wins,” said Matarazzo, who was a four-year head man at Suffolk University, and will enter his third season at the helm of the Rumson-Fair Haven High School program this winter.
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“There’s seven teams in our [USPHL] division and five of them are ranked in the Top 25 nationally,” Matarazzo said of the USPHL 18U Southern Division, which currently see the Whalers sitting behind a bevy of nationally recognized organized, including Skipjacks Hockey Club, the Jersey Hitmen, New Jersey Rockets, P.A.L. Junior Islanders and Selects Academy. “But playing against competition like that put you in position to win tournaments like this.”
Matarazzo touted the netminding efforts of Cam Conrad – who is preparing to suit up for his senior year at Southern Regional – and Ryan Dowds – who will return to Toms River North for his senior campaign – who were at the backbone of the Whalers title run through this East Coast Classic College Cup Tournament, as well as the leadership of his captains Cody Jablonski (Jackson Memorial) and Liam Noonan (CBA).
“You really couldn’t ask for two better leaders,” Matarazzo said of Jablonski and Noonan, who were recently named captains of their respective high school programs. “They both lead by example on and off the ice and they’re the caliber of players and people who embrace the responsibility of that role.”
The Whalers 18U program will be back in the area on Nov. 19 to host the New Jersey Rockets at Howell Ice World for a 5:40 p.m. puck drop, and are scheduled to be back on the tournament circuit in mid-December when the team will travel to the Beantown Classic.
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