“The Rock” takes on new meaning for varsity hockey team
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Tonight the varsity hockey team will play in its second state championship, but it will not necessarily take place where they had always dreamed.
After conflicting events at the Prudential Center in Newark caused this year’s state championship game to be moved to Mennen Arena in Morristown, the team is expecting a very different experience — tonight at 7:30 against Wall — from their first state championship game in history, which was just last season.
“At first we were upset because our goal was always to ‘Get to The Rock,'” said Colin Morrow, a senior and assistant captain on the team.
For the duration of Morrow’s high school hockey experience, “For The Rock” was the team’s mantra, meaning they played to ultimately get to play at The Prudential Center in Newark, or “The Rock.” Getting to play at the home of the New Jersey Devils was anticipated by the team.
“It felt cool sitting in the locker room that the Pittsburg Penguins were in just a couple nights before and having our faces on the big screen in front of all those people,” said Morrow, speaking of the playoff run last season.
The team was not the only group of students impressed by the glamour of “The Rock.” All throughout the school day leading up to the game, many students were rowdy with anticipation for the game that would take place that night. All of the hype that surrounded the state championship game filled the player’s heads as they anxiously counted down the minutes until the bus would arrive.
“Last year, being able to enjoy the features of the arena was awesome, but we let it get to our heads. It really showed when we started playing,” Morrow said.
After a crushing loss to Ramsey in the 2016 State Championship, this year’s team was determined that “The Rock” hadn’t seen the last of Glen Rock Hockey. They have had a strong season, with a record of 21-3-4, and are seeded No. 7 in the NJ.com Top 20. Some of those games were won at the very Mennen Arena they will be playing at for the final.
“After talking about it, we agreed that Mennen has a lot more advantages. We won’t be so distracted by where we are playing,” Morrow said.
The team had not been acquainted with the conditions of a professional arena prior to playing at The Prudential Center last season. Under blindingly bright lights, they were taken by surprise when they found that the arena was much hotter, causing the ice to be in less than ideal conditions for skating on.
While the fan section that night was considerably large by the standards of a small town like Glen Rock, the arena was built to fit over 16,000 people for hockey games, and the cheers of encouragement barely carried down to the ice for the team to hear.
“In my opinion it’s going to be better. It’s louder, the ice will be better and we won’t let the atmosphere affect us,” Morrow said.
The change of location has let some of the pressure off the team, who feel that they can now focus more on winning, not where they’re playing.
“We’re not entirely sure why it was changed we just know there was a scheduling crunch,” Morrow said.
The Prudential Center hosted a gymnastics competitions this past weekend and the Devils had a game on Sunday at 5 pm.
“I don’t think [the switch] changed our outlook. From the beginning of the season we’ve wanted to win a state championship and that goal has never changed,” said Morrow.
Tonight the athletes will be skating for another “Rock” — Glen Rock — and they’ll be looking to rewrite the story from last year.