By: Justin Kuczborski
The Caldwell Chiefs-West Essex Knights hockey team has faced constant adversity and hardship in the 2016-17 season. This hardship for the Chiefs-Knights duo dates back to the beginning of the season, where the team dropped two straight losses. The first loss came at the hands of Summit by a score of 2-1, and then another loss Johnson, 4-2.
The Chiefs-Knights winning ways commenced on December 16th against Nutley, away from home. Caldwell-West Essex knocked off Nutley for their first win of the season with two goals from Patrick Coyle and one goal from Matt McCarthy. The Chiefs-Knights allowed two goals from Andrew Spitalnik and Dan Caputo of Nutley following the hot offense Caldwell-West Essex dished out, but it was not enough as the final score was 3-2 in favor of the Chiefs-Knights.
Unfortunately, Caldwell-West Essex would not get another positive result until January 14th, five league games later, against West Orange, in which the Chiefs-Knights routed the Mountaineers 10-1. The Chiefs-Knights four game streak of not securing a win began against Millburn, where the duo lost 6-1 in Millburn. Though six goals is not a pleasant sight, starting goaltender for Caldwell-West Essex, Caldwell’s own Hannah Podvey, proved that she can handle herself in between the sticks when she faced 42 total shots in this game, saving 36 of them. Millburn’s Matt Cohen and Charles Palmer accumulated for four goals, two assists, and six total points in that game. This means, Cohen and Palmer were always, in some way, shape, or form, involved in every one of Millburn’s scoring plays. The lone goal of the Chiefs-Knights came from proven goal scorer, Patrick Coyle, in the first period.
The next game against Scotch Plains-Fanwood resulted in a 1-1 draw. Three days later on January 6th, Caldwell-West Essex dropped a game to the Gov. Livingston Highlanders 3-1, in which leading goal scorer for the Chiefs-Knights, Patrick Coyle, did not get on the score sheet once. Yet another draw took place, but this time against Cranford by a score of 2-2. Then, the rout of the Mountaineers transpired.
In the 10-1 destruction of West Orange, one of the stats that stuck out the most in this matchup is not the double-digit score. It’s the shot-on-goal Caldwell-West Essex had on the Mountaineers, which was 61. West Orange had only nine shots on goal on West Essex. To put that in perspective, Caldwell-West Essex had around seven times more shots on goal than West Orange. Caldwell-West Essex truly do have the high powered offense to win consistently.
Following Caldwell-West Essex decisive victory over West Orange, another streak began. Sadly, it was not a winning streak, but a losing streak. A three game losing streak to be exact. These three games were a rough three games for the Chiefs-Knights. The losing streak began against Nutley, where the Chiefs-Knights lost 4-1. Patrick Coyle was the sole goal scorer for Caldwell-West Essex. Two of Nutley’s four goals came from Andrew Spitalnik. Caldwell-West Essex failed to defeat the Gov. Livingston Highlanders again by a deflating score of 7-1. Carson Wahlers of the Highlanders put two goals past Hannah Podvey of the Chiefs-Knights, along with two assists of his own, while his brother Kyle Wahlers, doubled that and got himself four assists. You don’t have to score goals to make an impact. One day later on January 28th, Caldwell-West Essex lost by one goal to Cranford, who they previously drew with. The leading goal scorers for their respective teams, Patrick Coyle of Caldwell-West Essex and Ryan Malko of Cranford, were out in full force. Coyle was Caldwell-West Essex only goal scorer in this game, with two goals. However, Ryan Malko of Cranford snagged a hat trick plus one more for his team, with two of those assisted by Ryan Faraone.
Peter Andolino of the Chiefs-Knights believes the reason for the multiple streak the team endured this season was because “players were not motivated to play” and “players backed off and didn’t work as hard which really took a toll on” his team. On the topic of motivation, Andolino also mentioned two players in particular who motivated the team to play well, Captain Frankie Ferrante and junior Patrick Coyle. Andolino said these two players “lead by example and are always working as hard as possible when on the ice.”
Caldwell-West Essex ended their losing streak on February 4th, away from home against the Johnson Crusaders 5-2. In the Chiefs-Knights final league game of the season, they faced a huge challenge in the Millburn Millers, who are first place in the NJIIHL-Kelly Conference with an overall record of 15-4-2. However, Caldwell-West Essex ended up shutting out Millburn, defeating the Millers 1-0 with a goal from Connor Doyle, assisted by Justin Ajmo.
At the end of the 2016-17 season, leading goal scorer title of the Chiefs-Knights belongs to Patrick Coyle, who tallied up 12 goals throughout the season, along with three assists. When it comes to assists, look no further than Captain Frankie Ferrante and Connor McCarthy, who both had seven assists in the 2016-17 season, leading the team. On the defensive side for the Chiefs-Knights, goaltender Kavan Johnson led the team between the stick. Johnson accumulated a save percentage of .948 with 251 shots put on him and saving 238 of them.
Though the season for the Chiefs-Knights did not conclude in convincing fashion, the future of the Caldwell-West Essex hockey duo is most certainly bright.