St. John the Baptist looks like it’s turning its season into one of those "worst to first" stories in the Suffolk high school hockey league.
St. John won just a single game in the 2010-2011 season, and flirted with .500 last year to earn the last playoff spot in Suffolk. This season, though, the Cougars are off to a hot start at 8-1 and sit in second place behind Half Hollow Hills (9-1).
“We have a young team that’s maturing," coach Thomas Fuccillo said. "They’re just doing real well and it’s a product of their hard work. I wish I could tell you I had a special formula but the guys are just dedicated and getting better.”
The Cougars are led by a core of young players, including junior defensman Brett Rooney. Fuccillo said Rooney is one of the top blue line players in the league, and “doesn’t leave the ice,” logging more minutes than anyone on his team.
Up front, St. John’s leading scorer is sophomore forward Chuckie Peck. With him are centers Matthew O’Shaughnessy, a junior, and Josh Wager, a senior who Fuccillo said is one of the smartest players he’s coached.
“Wager has incredible hockey IQ. All he cares about is winning,” Fuccillo said. “He’s not a stat guy but he accumulates a lot of [points] because of that. He gets Chuck and Matt the puck so they can do their thing.”
Fuccillo said he feels his team can compete with anyone this season, and hopes to be one of the last teams standing at the end of the season. The biggest difference from two seasons ago, he said, is the selflessness and commitment that this team displays every time they step on the ice.
“In the past we were more selfish, and now we’re buying into the team concept,” Fuccillo said. “It’s a big help when you don’t have egos.”