TASTY TIDBITS Prep hockey team off to roaring start

ASU national ranking; hoops season to begin; All-Area grid team next week
GREAT START – St. Peter’s Prep junior defenseman Phil DeCresce, shown here in last week’s win over Vernon, had a goal and four assists in the Marauders’ two big wins last week. Photo courtesy of Marc Cozzarelli
GREAT START – St. Peter’s Prep junior defenseman Phil DeCresce, shown here in last week’s win over Vernon, had a goal and four assists in the Marauders’ two big wins last week. Photo courtesy of Marc Cozzarelli

When Ken Such decided to return to coach the St. Peter’s Prep hockey team once again after being away for more than two decades, he had no idea what to expect from his new team, except that he was getting the opportunity to coach his son, J.T.
Now, the veteran coach is back after 23 years and he likes what he has seen from the Marauders, who exploded out to success in the opening stages of the new hockey season, winning clutch games against Vernon and Northern Highlands, two teams that have state playoff aspirations.
“I think the response of the team was very good,” Such said after defeating Vernon, 6-3, last Sunday and Northern Highlands 6-4 a day later. “We had leads in both games, lost the lead and got it back. We’re getting scoring from all over the place and that’s terrific.”
But Such was a little reluctant to go overboard with the two big wins.
“I’m an old school coach,” Such said. “I like to play solid defense. I want to make sure that we play 45 minutes of solid hockey each game. We have a lot of work to do. We’re nowhere near where we have to be.”
Leading the way in the two wins is junior center Christian Della Rocco, who had three goals and two assists. Della Rocco scored two goals in the win over Vernon.
Senior right wing Shane Shell is the Marauders’ leading scorer from last season. Shell had two goals and an assist over the weekend.
Junior left wing Matt Zdanowicz also found the nets twice in the win over Vernon.
Junior left Tyler Pezzolla also scored twice over the weekend. Such’s son, J.T. had a goal and an assist. J.T. Such is a senior right wing.
Junior left wing Brandon Balatbat had a goal and an assist, while junior defenseman Phil DeCresce had a goal and four assists.
The elder Such had some worries entering the season when veteran goalkeeper Nate Bryant was slowly recovering from offseason hip surgery. Bryant, also a junior, was the Marauders’ main goalie last year and was expected to be between the pipes this season. However, the rehabilitation after the surgery has been delayed.
So Such had to put junior Dean Maher in net for the first two games and Maher responded by making 22 saves against Vernon and 24 saves against Northern Highlands.
“He made some big saves,” Such said of Maher. “He’s been a pleasant surprise for us. Right now, he’s the man there.”
There’s no word as to when Bryant will be able to return.
Still, it’s a 2-0 start for the Marauders against two of the top public school programs in the state. Northern Highlands was considered to be one of the top teams in Bergen County and has state playoff hopes.
“I think this start validates that we have a good team,” Such said. “We had a very good preseason.”
Such credits the workout regimen implemented by fitness expert Vinnie Que, a former Prep football player who came back to help the Marauders get ready physically for the hockey season.
“The kids bought into what Vinnie was doing,” Such said. “The strong start happened because we were physically ready. I think this validates what I’ve been preaching to the kids since I got the job over the summer.”
And it certainly helps the Marauders as they move forward with their new coach who is essentially the old coach…
After having a rough 15-18 season a year ago as the head basketball coach at Arizona State, Bobby Hurley has the Sun Devils roaring in the early portion of this season. Arizona State has scored more than 90 points in each of their first six games this season, winning all six and earning the No. 20 spot in the latest Associated Press rankings.
Hurley, the former Duke All-American and son of the legendary Hall of Fame St. Anthony coach Bob, has the Sun Devils in the national rankings for the first time since 2009.
Leading the way for Arizona State is senior Tre Holder, who had 40 points in the Sun Devils’ solid upset win over No. 15 Xavier last week. Holder also scored 35 in the ASU win over UC-Irvine the prior week.
With Bobby’s younger brother, Dan, doing a fine job at Rhode Island, getting a win over Seton Hall last week in Brooklyn, it looks like the Hurleys have their respective teams pointed toward the NCAA Tourney. It’s certainly a dramatic turnaround in a hurry for Bobby and his dutiful assistant, fellow Jersey City native Rashon Burno
Speaking of Burno, his older brother Frank is now the new head coach at Marist High School. Frank Burno paid his dues coaching at the Jersey City Boys’ Club and then as an assistant at St. Anthony before now taking on the responsibility of being the head coach at Marist…
And as for Arizona State, Jersey City native and former Lincoln High School standout Frank Darby is making a major impact with the Sun Devils’ football team. Darby had three long receptions in the Sun Devils’ win over Oregon State and a 48-yard catch in a win against rival Arizona for the Territorial Cup…
If you heard a lot of basketballs bouncing around the neighborhoods of Hudson County this week, it’s because basketball practices began in earnest Monday afternoon.
As the season tips off in a few weeks, the Hawks of Hudson Catholic are not only the top team in New Jersey, but also earned a national ranking as well. One national poll has the Hawks at No. 4 nationwide in the preseason. We will have more on the Hawks and their Big Three of Jahvon Quinerly, Louis King and Luther Muhammad in a preview next week…
Also next week, the annual Hudson Reporter All-Area football team will be revealed. It should once again be a star-studded squad with some familiar names. The Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year will also be announced, so stay tuned…
We will also have in-depth coverage of the St. Peter’s Prep-Bergen Catholic Non-Public Group 4 state title game from MetLife Stadium, as well as the Union City-Montclair North 1, Group V championship game also from MetLife, played prior to the Prep-BC showdown.
Both games were played prior to press time, but check with www.hudsonreporter.com for Breaking News updates from the Meadowlands in both contests. Win or lose, the Hudson Reporter will be there with updates and analysis…– Jim Hague.

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.