By Chris Rotolo |
MIDDLETOWN — As John Gelatt left the ice following a St. John Vianney victory over local parochial rival CBA on Jan. 3, he was swept up in a wave of jubilation, as a swell of Lancers faithful rushed from their balcony post at the Navesink Country Club to congratulate their standout centerman on one of the most impressive performances he’s ever put forth at the scholastic level.
A normally stoic competitor, a toothy grin overtook Gelatt’s face, and that contortion dislodged bandages affixed to his cheek and lip, revealing the wounds suffered from a first period hit from behind that saw the junior’s head scrape against the side wall.
Though the blow sent Gelatt to the bench for the remainder of the opening frame, it didn’t stop the Lancers leader from notching his third career hat trick in a 5-2 triumph over the Colts, the first time since 2014 that CBA has fallen to a local opponent, and the first time since 2004 that St. John Vianney has gotten the better of the Lincroft club.
Despite the facial lacerations, it was evident in the postgame interview that there was a larger motivation at the heart of Gelatt’s performance, willing him not only to continue in this contest, but to elevate his game.
The overarching theme of the evening was military appreciation, as both outfits donned specially crafted camouflage-style jersey tops in honor of the servicemen and women on hand and in their lives.
“It was a special night for every guy out there, not just because of the rivalry, not just because we were outdoors, but because of the military veterans we were able to play for and raise some money for,” said Gelatt, whose grandfather is a military veteran. “Opportunities like this, to play for something and someone, that’s bigger than the game. You want to do something special, and we did tonight.”
All proceeds from the event — including the sales from tickets, commemorative T-shirts and the raffle of three autographed jerseys from CBA alums currently in the NHL, including James (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Trevor van Riemsdyk (Carolina Hurricanes) and Joakim Ryan (San Jose Sharks) — went to support a pair of military charities in the Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski Memorial Fund and the Paws For Vets Program.
The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski Memorial Fund is a local group founded in honor of the organization’s namesake — a CBA alum who courageously perished during military action in Iraq — and works to improve the morale and welfare of members of the United States Armed Forces and their families by providing scholarships to high school students who embody the leadership qualities of Lt. Zilinski.
Paws For Vets is an organization dedicated to supporting military veterans and providing shelter animals a second chance, rescuing dogs and cats in danger of euthanasia and training them to be therapeutic companions for servicemen and women returning to civilian life.
“This was a great hockey game and I’m so proud of our guys, but not to be forgotten is the bigger picture here,” Lancers coach Mick Messemer said. “Both schools did a great job raising money for two different charities for veterans. And it was even more special for us, because were able to honor our assistant coach and veteran Dan Tacopino, and all of our friends and family in the stands who have served our country. It was special for everyone involved, and we can’t thank the veterans enough for their incredible service to our country, as well as for being on hand with us tonight.”
Gio Crepaldi opened the scoring for CBA just 13 seconds into the game, before Gelatt knotted the contest at 1-1 midway through the first. The Colts carried a one-goal lead into the second period when Liam Noonan notched a power play tally in the waning minutes of the opening frame, but a short-handed marker by Gelatt at 6:21 of the second period tied the game at 2-2, before Brett Schneider poked home a power play goal of his own to send the Lancers into the second intermission with a 3-2 advantage. In the third period St. John Vianney poured it on as Gelatt finished off his three-goal night 55 seconds into the frame, before Kevyn Rigatti added the final Lancers tally to make it a 5-2 final.
“Being able to play for a cause like this, military appreciation night, was huge for both schools,” said Schneider, a senior, whose grandfather and uncle both served in the military. “Being able to do what we love and giving back to the community, especially the military community, it’s a special thing and something we’re proud to be a part of.”
Schneider’s younger brother Chad was on the opposite side of this rivalry meeting, as the defenseman has found a home on the CBA blue line. And, despite the final score, the sophomore was able to recognize the gravity of this game.
“We love our family to death, my grandpa and my uncle, and this is just a way for us to recognize them and show our appreciation for the sacrifices they’ve made, and the sacrifices that have been made by people like them,” Schneider said. “This is our way of showing them how much we love them and want to support them along the way…The final score isn’t what our guys wanted it to be, but we still understand how special a night this is.”
This article was first published in the Jan. 11-18, 2018 print edition of the Two River Times.
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