By ALISON PARK, freshman

When the dismissal bell rings and everyone runs to catch their bus home, the JP/Edison ice hockey team waits another hour for its bus to drive them to the ice rink for practice. The fairly new team hopes use last year as a stepping stone to improve immensely with the help of exceptional returning members Robert Distefano (11), the defensive leader, and Chuck Youse (11), the offensive leader. Robert is currently only two goals away from having fifty career goals, and even received an invitation to play for the Eastern Hockey League; Chuck also tallied seven goals and eight assists in the 2014-15 season.

On November 29, the JP/Edison team suffered a close loss with a game against Frisch. However, the team still managed to show its strength with three goals made by Robert Distefano (11), Chance Berry (10), and Michael Tutalo (12). Parker Mckenna (10) also proved to be a great goalie after making twenty saves. Although the team has not started the season as well as they had hoped, after suffering another loss against South Brunswick on November 30, the team still remained hopeful. Chuck Youse (11), despite the losses, keeps a “positive mindset,” saying “ it’s highly plausible that Edison Township will become a team that maintains a strong standing in the Red Division.” Youse personally also looks forward to “improving on [his] play style in the defensive zone.”

Despite their early losses, the Hawks and Eagles turned their performance around, winning in a match against West Windsor-Plainsboro North/Ewing on December 7. The Knights were defeated quickly: the Hawks/Eagles led 2-0 during the game’s first thirty minutes. Distefano, the best offensive-defensemen in the state, made four goals, leading the team to a 6-2 victory. Youse and Berry also contributed one goal each to the win.

Only the Co-op’s team third year, Robert acknowledges the team’s inexperience but is motivated by their work ethic. He notes that though the JP/Edison ice hockey team consists of players who only started during their freshmen year and that “most teams [they] play are filled with kids who have been been playing hockey most their lives,” the team’s relative inexperience doesn’t “discourage [them] from working hard and always wanting to improve.” In hopes of enhancing everyone’s performance during games, the team practices with drills to work on positioning, simulates game-like situations, and ends every practice with a ten minute scrimmage. The team also looks beyond just playing practice games by conditioning with sprints and skating drills. Slowly but surely, the Hawks and Eagles are refining their talents and getting into better shape.

Coach Berner also looks positively at this year’s season and hopes “to improve every time we step on the ice, and look to qualify for our first-ever state playoffs.” Although this feat has never been achieved before in JP history, Coach Berner doesn’t hold back on his dreams for this year’s season. Last year, the team showed consistent improvement, and the team continues to move up their ranks in the county. Coach Berner admits the team will still have a long way to go, but he focuses on having “perhaps our most talented returning men in years and [the addition of]  two players with extensive experience, who while freshmen, should make immediate impacts on the squad.”

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