March 16, 2001


Winning the championship of the South Jersey Ice Hockey League has done nothing to stop Washington Township’s feeling that it has something to prove. On Tuesday, the Minutemen will get their chance in the Class AAA Flyers Cup tournament. The Flyers Cup is a single-elimi- nation tournament featuring the best teams from South Jersey and Pennsylvania. It is a chance for South Jersey teams to challenge the more established teams from Philadelphia and its suburbs. “That’s a big deal for us,” Township forward Joe Gori said. “All the top teams from every division are there. We have to show teams from Pennsylvania that we can play with them.” No team from South Jersey has ever won the Flyers Cup. Washington Township lost in the semifinals last season. Twenty-eight teams from New Jersey and Pennsylvania are involved in the three Flyers Cup divisions. The top four finishers from South Jersey receive automatic bids. The Class AAA championship game will be played on March 27 at the First Union Spectrum. The Minutemen, 14-0 in the South Jersey Ice Hockey League’s regular season, received a first-round bye in Class AAA and will play at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees against the winner of the Pennsbury-Abington first-round game. Eastern, which was second in the regular season and is also in Class AAA, plays Archbishop Ryan on Monday at Grundy Rink in Bristol, Pa. Third-place Clearview, in Class AA, will also play Tuesday, against the Flyers Cup defending champion, Father Judge, following the completion of Township’s game. Cinnaminson, playing in its first Flyers Cup, takes on Conwell-Egan at Grundy Rink in a Class A game on Tuesday. Even though teams from South Jersey are gaining momentum with increased participation in the Flyers Cup, the edge still goes to teams from Pennsylvania. “My goal was to win South Jersey, and everything else is a bonus,” Township coach Steve Brown said. “But I think we finally have a chance to go to the finals this year.” The Minutemen dominated teams from South Jersey

this season is behind the firepower of the league’s best scorers. Forward Eric Marano led the league with 21 goals, while line-mate Gori had a league-best 24 assists. Teammate Buddy Anderson, a defenseman, led the league in overall scoring with 38 points (19 goals, 19 assists). “We were fortunate to have a lot of depth this year,” Brown said. “Our first two lines were as good as anyone’s first line.”

Still sinking in. Washington Township is still buzzing as a result of its dramatic league title win last week over the defending champion, Clearview. Last year, Clearview beat Township by winning two straight games after losing the first in the best-of-three series. This season, the roles were reversed. Township, which beat Clear- view twice in the regular season, lost in an unlikely 7-1 blowout in Game 1. It was the first time all season that the Minutemen failed to score more than one goal. Township took Game 2 in overtime, 6-5, and clinched the title in Game 3 with a 5-2 win. The teams have probably the most noted rivalry in South Jersey because their players competed with one another in youth leagues. “These kids have been battling each other since they were 12,” Brown said. “It makes for good hockey.” More than 500 spectators watched Game 3 at the Hollydell Arena in Sewell. The arena is used as both teams’ home ice. “It’s nerve-wracking,” Gori said. “You’re thinking to yourself, “This is it.’ The crowd is yelling right behind you. It’s a time when you have to skate your hardest to show them what you can do.”

No chance. For those wondering, teams from South Jersey do not play in the NJSIAA state ice hockey tournament. The reason mainly concerns health insurance. Teams in the South Jersey Ice Hockey League are insured through USA Hockey, not the schools. Under the NJSIAA, said Township coach Steve Brown, the schools would be liable for injuries. “That can be a big chunk of change,” he said.

There are other factors. As it stands, coaches in South Jersey are satisfied with the following that the sport is attracting. Playing through the NJSIAA would mean the rivalries that have grown here as Township and Clearview would end. Only two ice hockey teams south of Trenton are sanctioned by the NJSIAA: St. Augustine and Bishop Eustace. Public schools are hard-pressed to get the funding that private institutions collect, Brown said. Teams from South Jersey, under rules stipulated by USA Hockey, cannot play NJSIAA-sanctioned teams, even in exhibitions. “I would like to see it sanctioned eventually so we could be eligible for state championships,” Brown said. “We feel left out. But it’s not a cheap sport.”

Coming soon. The league might get as many as four new teams next season. Williamstown, Paul VI, Overbrook, and Moorestown all petitioned the league to start teams next season. Final approvals will be made over the summer.

Numbers and notes. Cinnaminson was perhaps the surprise team of the season. The Pirates moved from the bottom of the standings to among the top four teams this year. The Pirates improved to 7-6-1 and edged Shawnee (6-8) for the fourth and final bid to the Flyers Cup…. Clearview’s Mike Gooch led the league’s playoff scorers with eight goals and 10 assists. His brother, Dave, was fifth with six goals and four assists in the playoffs…. After Anderson, Gori, and Marano from Washington Township, Patrick Henderson of Cherokee was fourth in scoring with 16 goals and 17 assists…. Township goaltender Mark Buckalew led the league with a 2.13 goals-against average. Cherry Hill East’s Brendon Ramsey was second with a 3.87 average.

By Kristian Pope
The Philadelphia Inquirer