Feb 19, 2019 | Freehold Township, Ice Hockey
Freehold Township on Ice
By Eugene Stewart
The Freehold Township ice hockey team is wrapping up another “routine” year for the club. In coach Mike Celano’s 11th year as coach, the Patriots have now qualified 10 of those years for both the Shore Conference and state playoffs. You can’t argue with success.
“This year, we started off hot then, the injury and sickness bug bit us,” said Celano.
Freehold came out of the gate strong, skating to an early record of 5-0 behind five elite level players against the likes of St. Rose/Donovan Catholic, Mountain Lakes/Boonton, Jackson Memorial, Middletown North and Freehold Boro/Raritan/Colts Neck.
When asked the strong suits of this year’s team, Celano replied, “We have depth, size and speed.”
December was not kind to the club, as the Patriots managed one win (Howell/Matawan), one tie (Manalapan) and three losses (Middletown South, CBA, Monroe). Three early January wins against Clifton, Jackson Liberty and Red Bank Catholic made for a respectable 9-3-1 record before another tough stretch including a loss to Indian Hills, a tie with Glen Rock and a loss at Marlboro/Holmdel. Late January saw the team right the ship against Woodbridge Township before alternating losses and wins to close out the season against Wall (L), Central Regional (W), Rumson-Fair Haven (L), Montville (W) and Saint John Vianney (L).
The Patriots closed the regular season at 12-8-3 with an A North record of 4-4-0 and with a .500 winning percentage through February 7, qualified for the sixth seed in the SCT and state playoffs.
The Patriots’ first game of the Shore Conference Tournament ended regulation in a 3-3 tie and their opponent, Middletown North, produced three goals in the shootout and Freehold was unable to light the goal. The game ended Freehold’s SCT quest for 2019 and the Dowd Cup.
In the contest, Freehold was led by junior Jacob Liebross, who registered a goal and an assist. In addition, seniors Evan McNamara and Niko Neron scored a goal apiece. Freehold turned back 53 shots with senior Michael Ottone in goal.
“Their goaltender played phenomenal and Midd North deserves all the credit in the win” stated Celano.
Celano is very proud of this year’s team and says next year will be a rebuilding year as he is scheduled to lose 11 seniors, a stark contrast from this year when the entire team returned. The team has been led this year by sophomore Tyler Desrochers, who verbally committed to Providence College as a freshman. For his two-year career, he has 13 goals, 24 assists, totaling 37 points.
“Evan McNamara, Colin Sullo and Tyler Sanborn, three of my seniors, have also provided roughly 25 points apiece, points that will be missed next year,” said Celano.
In Monmouth County, the Regional Ice Hockey Association (RIHA) is the life stream for high school ice hockey. Colts Neck, Freehold Township, Freehold Boro, Howell, Manalapan and Marlboro work together and coordinate comedy shows, golf outings and other events to raise the funds necessary to sustain the sport.
“The RIHA was started by Ron Reid and the organization is single handedly responsible for ice hockey in these five schools. Not only does the RIHA pay for the programs, but they’re also responsible for clinics and building a culture around the kids through ice hockey,” explained Celano.
The RIHA is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization formed in 2008, comprised of parents and volunteers, supported by parents, sponsors and donors without a direct affiliation. It is estimated the organization meets a budget of close to $300,000 anually covering coaches’ salaries, equipment, referee fees, ice rental and uniforms. The current president of the RIHA is John Kerber and he can be reached at for information on fundraising efforts or direct donations to RIHA for ice hockey expenses.