Hockey team aims to overcome limited preparation for 2021 season

2021 hockey season begins after being delayed

After+being+delayed+due+to+the+COVID-19+pandemic%2C+the+hockey+season+is+underway.

BJ McGrane

After being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hockey season is underway.

BJ McGrane, Sports Editor

Sports are back at Pascack Valley.

With the winter season underway, PV sports have returned – just a little later than expected.

BJ McGrane

The hockey season usually starts in early November, however it was pushed back a number of times due to the pandemic. But despite all the changes, the team stayed focused on the season ahead.

“These kids have been great so far,” head coach Sean Cosgrove said. “It has been an easy transition with these kids. Even though we [had] been on the ice four times, we’ve picked up pretty quickly from where we left off last year.”

The hockey team is quite different from most teams at PV, with the team consisting of players from Pascack Hills and Park Ridge High School in addition to those from Valley.

“When the program was started in 1999, it’s always been those two schools [Valley and Hills],” Cosgrove said. “Three years ago, we added Park Ridge.”

With students coming together from three different schools to play on one team, many of the players are taking the ice with teammates they’ve never met. Cosgrove stresses the importance of the players embracing each other as teammates, and not as rivals.

“Now you’re taking kids who have never really met before, and sometimes they might see themselves as strictly being a Hills student or a Valley student,” Cosgrove said. “Whenever we get on the ice, that’s a point of emphasis that we’re one team here.”

Not only do the players have to deal with meeting new teammates, but with Cosgrove not being a teacher in the district, the players are being coached by an unfamiliar face as well.

“I just had to adapt a little,” Cosgrove said about coaching players he’d never met before. “With the appropriate planning, it’s just another obstacle to overcome.”

Even though he had little experience with his current players prior to becoming head coach, Cosgrove has his fair share of coaching experience. He serves as head coach of the golf team and assistant coach of the boys soccer team at Waldwick high school, where he teaches – and better yet – has a greater opportunity to get to know his players.

Similar to the way Cosgrove needed to get to know his players, the team will need to learn how to play together rather quickly, only having a few practices together before the start of the season.

“In a normal season we’d have two to three weeks of practice,” Cosgrove said. “Then we’d have a few scrimmages and then we’d jump into the regular season.”

The team was put at even more of a disadvantage when Pascack Valley shut down in early January as a result of positive COVID-19 tests from individuals in the school. When PV shut down for two weeks, the hockey team was not allowed to practice, which left the team to find new ways to prepare for the season.

“It was a lot of virtual meetings, virtual workouts, going over systems and stuff like that,” Cosgrove said. “We were still meeting, but with a different element to it.”

Following the departure of last season’s senior class, the team will turn to many of its seniors to step up in a big way in 2021.

“We lost a good amount of seniors from last year’s team, but definitely we’ll be relying heavily on this year’s seniors – Kevin and Sean Cuffe, and Vasili [Karalewich],” Cosgrove said.

Although the team will be relying on its seniors, the freshman class will have their time to shine as well. Kevin McNamara, Zachary Groves, Dan Epstein, and Christian Grubic will all be a part of the rotation this season.

“These kids are going to see time, but a lot of it can be attributed to their skill set,” Cosgrove said.

Just as many of the coaches of fall sports teams were focused on getting through the season without any pandemic-related issues, the hockey team is looking to do much of the same.

“We’re very grateful just to be on the ice,” Cosgrove said. “It’s easy to set goals for ‘x’ amount of wins, at this point, we’re out there, we’re gonna compete hard, and go week by week.

With the season taking place under unique circumstances, Cosgrove emphasizes the importance of getting through each and every day.

“I’ve been telling the kids to take it one day at a time,” Cosgrove said. “If you look at the big picture, it can be very overwhelming. So, whenever we’re meeting I just have them be present.”