Liodice: Friars relish Coliseum opportunity
There wasn’t a sold out crowd.
They video screen above the rink wasn’t on.
The goal light didn’t flash red every time the puck ended in the net.
But to the St. Anthony’s High School hockey team, playing at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum once a year is a real thrill.
“They (the players) love it,” St. Anthony’s head coach Jeff Stemlok said. “We love it too. This is the third year we’ve done this with the Islanders and it’s a lot of fun every year.”
The 40-year-old home to the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders hosted a cross-region Catholic High School Hockey League game in which the Friars of St. Anthony’s defeated Westchester’s Iona Prep, 7-1 Saturday afternoon.
Although the home of the Islanders has had its critics and detractors over the past few years, Coach Stemlok made sure to put the whole experience in perspective to his team.
“People knock the Coliseum because it’s a little bit old and a little bit weathered,” Stemlok said. “When you think about it - and I said this last year - Gretzky played out there, Mike Bossy played out there, Mario Lemieux, all of the greats.”
Captain James Mazza recognized the opportunity, while acknowledging the past and the current Islanders stars.
“Just to think that four Stanley Cups were won here and all these great players like Tavares playing here now,” Mazza told reporters after the game. “It’s a great opportunity that we’re afforded here.”
Sophomore Tyler Hall was someone who relished that opportunity by scoring four goals in the victory. Hall’s linemate Mike Marnell was impressed with how he handled the big stage.
“He played amazing, especially on the big ice at the Coliseum,” Marnell said. “He had some snipes.”
It may be an old arena but to those kids out there, it just looked like another game.
You wouldn’t notice by the final margin on the scoreboard, but St. Anthony’s was missing a few key pieces to their line-up at the Coliseum.
Absent from the lineup card were Dylan Corcoran, Chris Wallace, James Gobetz, Ryan Wolsiefer (shoulder injury), and Joe Loaicano (illness). That obviously didn’t slow the Friars down one bit, as every skater upped their game.
“It’s refreshing because the guys who may not be the big players and the junior players, it’s obvious to see how much they’ve come along, and to see how much confidence they’ve acquired over the year,” Stemlok said following the game.
“One thing we take a lot of pride in at practices and even working on in game situations much like today, is keeping all four lines and all six defenseman on the same page at all times. If you’re playing the same systematic game and everybody finds their niche and know their jobs, it’s going to work.”
St. Anthony’s captain Mazza gave credit to his coaches and the system they put in place.
“It’s a lot of coaching. The coaching has a lot of great systems, and we follow what they tell us to do and it’s a pleasure to have a bunch of great kids on this team.”