Defenseman Jack Cella brings the puck up ice. Photo courtesy of Mike Cassella/@jerseymike
Defenseman Jack Cella brings the puck up ice. Photo courtesy of Mike Cassella/@jerseymike

Christian Brothers Academy coach Andy Gojdycz lists three reasons why someone would want to play for the Lincroft school’s ice hockey team.

“One, the schooling, two the faith; and three to play hockey,” said Gojdycz, who played for three state championship teams with the Colts in the mid-1990s. “Those are your reasons to go. They understand the product that’s on the ice.  

“A lot of coaches ask me ‘How do you get these kids back from their travel programs? Why do they come back to play?’  They play because they want to be part of the program. Since I’ve been there in the 90s, it’s the program. You can’t describe it; you can only feel it and that’s what the players want to play for.”

They are playing for it at a high level this year as CBA carried a 15-0-3 record into its Jan. 27 game with Bergen Catholic. The Colts are ranked No. 1 in the state by nj.com, but they remain grounded by faith.

“We pray before and after each game in the locker room and on the ice,” Gojdycz said. “They take it seriously.”

Each player takes something different from CBA’s No. 1 ranking.  

“I’m sure for some of the players it motivates them; for others it’s just a number,” Gojdycz said. “Our end goals are the same three goals every year. As long as those boxes are checked, that’s all that matters. I remember in the preseason some people asked me where I think we should be. I said, ‘Put me at 10.’ They said ‘Why?’ I said, ‘It just doesn’t matter at the start.’”

What matters are winning the Gordon Cup, being ranked No. 1 entering the state tournament, and then winning the NJSIAA Non-Public state championships. The Colts accomplished all three in 2019-20, which was Gojdycz’s first year at his alma mater after successful stints at Hightstown, Hunterdon Central and Montgomery high schools; and Rutgers University.

Last year was an incomplete season shortened to 12 games with no tournaments due to COVID-19. This season, Gojdycz feels he has the talent to make another run at the team goals.

“This is definitely a talented bunch,” he said. “And the hockey sense on this team is something that’s very special.

“That’s what makes us who we are – hockey sense,” he continued. “That’s what coaches dream of. It’s not the skills or talent, it’s the intangibles of hockey sense and understanding what your teammates are; showing in open lanes; understanding there’s two sides of your stick.”

The Colts feature talent throughout the lineup. Gojdycz uses his number one line consistently, which features seniors Zachary Wagnon and Evan Brown and sophomore Christian Chouha. The trio has 42 goals and 68 assists. Chouha leads the team with 18 goals while Wagnon leads with 32 assists and 46 points.

After that the lines fluctuate with guys like the Guinnessey brothers – senior Aidan and sophomore Sean – and juniors Antonio Donohue and William Thygeson, who are only a few of the numerous players that have chipped in with goals.

“These guys are stepping up where last year they were kind of in the shadows,” Gojdycz said. “That’s one thing about the program, is guys stepping up and defining roles. I think for a team, no matter what, if you can define a role for a player who didn’t necessarily have a role before, you’ve got a winning product … I could basically roll the dice and move things around with different guys playing different positions and be on different lines, and the result should be about the same.”

As for defenseman, junior Patrick Reilly, who’s already committed to Princeton University, is the rock on the blue line. Aside from his defensive abilities, Reilly has six goals and 31 assists playing the point on power plays.

“He’s really brought the defense to where we think it needs to be right now,” Gojdycz said. “The past few years he’s been tutored very well by previous leaders of this team and now he stands on our blue line as our leader. He’s a great kid, he knows the game well, he always wants to compete. To him, losing is not an option.”

Other key defensemen include sophomores R.J. Sun and Derek Fiore, juniors Mike Gravina and Jack Cella, and senior Jay Andreyev.  

“We have eight or nine defensemen on our roster, and we dress six, but we don’t have the same six for every game,” Gojdycz explained. “We inject all eight or nine into the product. When people ask why I do that with my defensemen and forwards I just say, ‘At the end of the season if they haven’t gotten any touches to know what the competition’s like and understand the system, how do you expect to play them in the playoffs?’”

The coach’s plan has worked well so far. CBA carried a 14-game winning streak into its Bergen Catholic rematch after playing Bergen Catholic, Delbarton and Seton Hall Prep to three straight ties. All three are state ranked teams, and the Colts had leads in each contest.

While it is no disgrace tying them, CBA expects to win such games. So, what was the problem?

“In one word,” Gojdycz said with a laugh, “complacency.”

The coach then added that “It was a quick fix. It was understanding what we did. This team is very mature in understanding their play … We knew the answers, we corrected it, and from that point we never really looked back.”