From left, team captains Dan Shallcross, Jack Allen and Robert Calice look to lead the Lancers to another successful ice hockey season for St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel. Photo courtesy of Mick Messemer
From left, team captains Dan Shallcross, Jack Allen and Robert Calice look to lead the Lancers to another successful ice hockey season for St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel. Photo courtesy of Mick Messemer

Mick Messemer loves his St. John Vianney ice hockey team. Not just because the Holmdel high school has the potential to win a lot of games, but because it’s a team worth embracing.

“We really have a great group of kids, with high GPAs as well,” the coach said, noting that the comradery continues after games, with team members gathering to eat together. “It’s really an enjoyable season.”

The Lancers also have a penchant for helping others.  

“We had a food drive for families in need in Monmouth County, and we just wrapped some Christmas gifts for families in need in Monmouth County with the Adopt-A-Family program,” Messemer continued. “We try to be the best not just on the ice but off the ice as well and give back to the community.”

On the ice, after a rebuilding season in 2019, when SJV went 11-8-2 – a “down” year by its standards – the team went 8-1-2 during last year’s COVID-19-shortened season. Although it was a nice record, Messemer felt it was somewhat misleading.

“Last year was kind of a weird one,” the veteran coach said. “We had to scramble to find games … we didn’t play our usual strength of schedule.”

St. John Vianney graduated some offensive firepower from that team, but a young defensive corps got valuable experience. Couple that with a veteran first line offensively, and the nucleus is in place for success.

SJV opened the campaign with 2-0 and 5-2 victories over Manalapan High School and Paul VI High School, Haddonfield. The first line of Rob Calice, Jack Allen and Mike Reed collected four goals, six assists and 10 points in the victories.

Calice and Allen are senior captains along with goalie Dan Shallcross, who is the last line of a talented defense. Shallcross has saved 30 of 32 shots in his second season as starting goalie. A transfer from Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, Shallcross is a classroom standout who is aiming to attend academic powers such as Notre Dame University, Ind., and Boston College, Mass., next year.  

“He’s an excellent student, and an even better kid than he is a hockey player,” Messemer said. As far as Shallcross’s game skills go, “Dan’s a smart goaltender. He’s very quick up and down on the ice from his knees to his feet. He’s very good with the puck for outlet passes if he were to be the first one to stop a dump in. So that plays to our strength, and he’s just gotten tremendously better in the three years since I’ve met him.”  

Allen and Calice are forwards who both have older brothers that played for SJV. Allen, who also plays soccer, is centering the first line after missing half the season with a lower body injury last year.

“He’s done a great job of making up for it in the locker room and on the ice this year,” Messemer said. “He’s kind of like our quiet assassin … he leads by example.”  

Calice has been a playmaker to start the season with three assists after collecting seven goals and eight assists last year.

“He’s improved tremendously both on and off the ice, maturity-wise,” Messemer said. “He’s come a long way the past few seasons. I couldn’t be prouder of the strides he made.”

Rounding at the line is Reed, a junior with three goals this year.

“He’s a great player,” the coach said. “He’s made a huge jump skill-wise and with taking care of his body.”

Messemer feels that when his team is at full strength, it can run out three lines each game and possibly four if needed.

The second line is seniors Luc Barnett and Giuliano Fazio and sophomore Blaise Lucosky. Barnett, who centers the line, is out with an injury, but the Lancers are hoping he can return soon. The third line features juniors Dom Mazzella and Nick Viola, and sophomore Danny Greenhall, a transfer from Middletown North High School.  

“Our top line is our scoring line,” Messemer said. “But we feel the other guys can put the puck in the net when given the opportunities.”

The coach added that, “Our strength this season will be on the back end on defense and in the net. We’ll have to rely on some timely goals up front. … We’re hoping some younger and some inexperienced guys can rise to the occasion.”

Anchoring the defense along with Shallcross is sophomore Dakota Vastola, who stands an imposing 6-foot-4, 190 pounds.

“He’s one of the best defensemen, not just in our conference but in the state,” Messemer said. “He has a great shot; he’s extremely talented and smart off the ice as well – a great player and a great kid.”

The prized player has a goal in each of SJV’s first two games.

“He has a great shot from the point and he’s not afraid to rush the puck,” Messemer said. “He’s just a beast out there. He’s the quarterback on the power play.”

Two other staunch defenders are senior Alec Osher and junior Patt Haines, who “we feel could be three of the top five defensemen in our area,” Messemer continued. Also on the blue line are seniors Nick Fabrizzi and 6-foot-6 Sean Petrovich.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever had some height back there,” Messemer said. “We could field a basketball team.”  

The coach noted that the Lancers’ goals are the same as every other year: to win the Shore Conference, win the Egan Cup (a tournament for private schools) and win a state title.

“We try to go three-for-three, and every year I feel like we have a chance to win two of the three,” he said. “We throw our name in the hat against the privates for the state of New Jersey, which is always tough against the northern Jersey teams. But I think this team has the ability both on the ice and in the locker room to get it done.”