Stepping into Rockville Ice Arena #1, it’s hard not to feel like you’re still at St. John’s. Despite being nearly 10.5 miles from campus, the arena’s newly finished renovations create a feeling that this is home turf for the Cadets, from the logo and school name behind the bench, to the logo painted at center ice, to the hanging red scoreboard, to the banner in the back that reads “Home Of St. John’s Ice Hockey.” The team even has their own exclusive locker rooms, team room, and coach’s lounge.
“I mean, it’s pretty awesome,” A.J. Maner ’21, one of two alternate captains, said of the new facilities. The team room, built above the locker rooms, was named after his family, which includes recent hockey graduate Cole Maner ’18. “Obviously the locker room was an instrumental part of the new facilities. Having it here has really given us a home base, and we’re looking forward to playing here more often.”
The team had already played one preseason game at Rockville this year, but Friday, Nov. 9, marked the first regular season game with the completed renovations. The house was packed for a rivalry matchup against DeMatha, a team St. John’s hasn’t beaten in school history. And while that streak continued for the Stags, the Cadets made their presence felt.
“We were a little overwhelmed with DeMatha’s speed and physicality early on, but when you have nine freshmen and about eight sophomores, it’s hard to adjust to a team that’s got that many seniors,” Head Coach Gregg Marinari said after the 3-0 loss. “We’re small and fast, and our team’s speed can be overwhelming to other teams, so when they play physical against us like that, it kind of slows us down.”
Maner agreed with his coach. “I think we got some tough calls. The team played really well, we looked like we’re coming together. I think all the guys are really ready to work out there, and once we put the work in, we’ll start getting the results.”
In net for St. John’s was freshman Jack Spicer, who saved 20 of 23 last Friday. Afterwards, his teammates had high praise for his performance, even in a losing effort.
“Jack [Spicer] played fantastic,” captain Jack Barber ’19 said. “If he plays like that every game, we should win every single game. We lost because of us, not him.”
Marinari concurred. “He was very good. He made a lot of the first saves, a lot of traffic. DeMatha made it hard on him, they went hard to the net…but he handled it well. He’s a very good goalie, and he allowed us to settle in and recover and stay in the game, keep the score close for us.”
“He’s basically designed to do that,” added senior Patrick Chapman, the other alternate captain. “He’s so good every game.”
Spicer, however, downplayed his night. “I mean, it feels great. It’s a very good accomplishment,” he said of starting for the varsity team. “Nothing much to say about it, it’s just hard work.”
The varsity team is not short on other freshman starters, such as defensemen Ben Robertson and Paul Garza. The freshmen and sophomores are led by what Marinari calls the senior leadership group, which includes Barber and Chapman. When asked about the balance of underclassmen and upperclassmen, Marinari said, “We have a good mix. We have more young guys than veterans, but the mix in the room is right, and the veterans are good at showing the young guys the level of play, what to expect, and how to train and compete every day at a high school level.”
Maner added: “They’ve really been orchestrating the defensive side of the puck, so having them in the back is really helpful for us; along with all the freshmen, they’ve all been playing really well.”
Robertson said that the age of the team was an non-issue. “It’s really not affecting our team.”
After a game against St. Paul’s at home tonight (Nov. 16), the Cadets go on a long string of road games, not returning to Rockville until January. But looking to the future, Marinari said that he felt good about the team. “I’m not happy that we lost, obviously,” he said with a laugh, “but there [were] a lot of positives out there, a lot of young guys playing key roles, but we just had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t finish. As long as we play like that, we’ll be in every game.”
Barber was optimistic about his team’s future as well. “We’re a very good team. We can show that, and I think we’re gonna surprise a lot of teams this year when we come out and play fast, hard, and strong.”