Five Lyndhurst natives leading Paramus Catholic ice hockey team

Photo courtesy Dan Sabato/ The Paramus Catholic hockey team is enjoying a sensational season, thanks to the exploits of fi ve natives of Lyndhurst, namely from left, Derek Sabato, Domenick Sellari, D.J. Sabato, Danny Sowinski and Keith Henning.


By Jim Hague

When you think of Lyndhurst and the vast amount of talented athletes that have come from the town over the years, you probably think football first. There has also been a fair share of excellent baseball players to come from Lyndhurst. Wrestling has also produced a solid amount of standouts from Lyndhurst.

But the sport of hockey would be placed far down the list. Hockey players from Lyndhurst? The idea is unfathomable. After all, there is no ice hockey rink in the town and for anyone who plays hockey in Lyndhurst, it’s either the roller hockey variety or perhaps an impromptu street hockey game.

However, there are five young men who are changing that image in a very big way, helping to put Lyndhurst on the ice hockey map with their exploits for the Paramus Catholic High School hockey team.

Paramus Catholic is currently enjoying its best season in recent memory, posting a 13-2-2 record thus far. And the Paladins are doing well because of the five Lyndhurst players, namely senior captain D.J. Sabato, junior Danny Sowinski, sophomore Domenick Sellari and freshmen Derek Sabato (D.J.’s younger brother) and Keith Henning.

“It’s not something you see very often,” Paramus Catholic head coach Keith Bland said of the contributions of five players from the same town. “Lyndhurst isn’t exactly a hockey hotbed, but these kids all grew up together and have played hockey together for a long time. You don’t see something like this anywhere. They apparently got started with roller hockey, then joined travel hockey leagues to get a little more ice time to work on their skating and skills.”

Sabato, a senior forward, is one of the top scorers in all of northern New Jersey. He has scored 28 goals and has 15 assists for 43 points. The 28 goals ranks him third in goals and the 43 points places him fourth among all local scorers.

“I really expected him to do his thing this year,” Bland said of the elder Sabato. “He’s a very talented kid and he’s having a big season. He’s really put it all together and we rely heavily on him.”

Sabato said that the five Lyndhurst players decided to dedicate their season to the memory of another Lyndhurst native, Anthony Leonardo, who died tragically last summer, soon after graduating from Paramus Catholic. Leonardo played on the same line with Sabato last season.

“It was pretty bad losing Anthony and it came so unexpectedly,” Sabato said. “I think his loss hit everyone pretty hard. As a team, we all thought it would be a good idea to honor him and his memory.”

Sabato said that he’s not surprised with the team’s ascent to the elite in northern New Jersey.

“I knew we had the talent,” Sabato said. “We just had to put it all together. We were just a .500 team last year, but we knew we were better than that. We just wanted to make it to the state tournament last year. Now, we’re looking for a high seed. Everyone is more focused and we’re all working hard together. Once we started winning, it brought everyone together more.”

Sowinski is also a top scorer, collecting 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points.

“He’s done everything I could possibly ask of him,” Bland said of Sowinski. “He competes and plays hard every single night. He’s been our most consistent forward and does all the little things.”

Sowinski is also not surprised with the Paladins’ success.

“No, I think this is where we expected to be this year,” Sowinski said. “But I still think we’re exceeding expectations just a little. But we’re right on track to do some great things. We’ve put in a lot of hard work from the first day.”

Sellari is one of the Paladins’ top defensemen.

“He’s been excellent for us and been in our top pair of defensemen all year,” Bland said. “He’s having a terrific year. His hard work has paid off.”

The younger Sabato, a freshman, has played a role right away.

“He’s getting regular ice time,” Bland said. “He’s on our third line as a forward and doing well as a freshman, even though he’s still learning the game.”

“I’m definitely enjoying the fact that I’m playing with my brother,” the elder Sabato said. “It’s the only chance I’ll get to play with him and we’re doing real well.”
Henning is a big defenseman, standing 6-foot-6.

“At times he uses that big body and others, he’s hesitant,” Bland said. “He’s also still learning the game.”

But all five are playing and contributing.

“It’s awesome,” the elder Sabato said. “Lyndhurst is not a hockey town, but to have five guys from the same town all contributing is unbelievable. We have kids in school who hear the name of Lyndhurst and wonder where it is. And hockey? There’s no way. It’s been fun, with people always asking us about Lyndhurst. Maybe we’re helping to put Lyndhurst on the hockey map a little.”

Sowinski agrees.

“It’s very remarkable,” Sowinski said. “We’ve all known each other for such a long time. Whether it’s roller hockey or ice hockey, we’ve all played together before. D.J. was the one who convinced me to come to Paramus Catholic and I’m glad he did. I think it gives us an advantage, because we all know how to play together. There’s good chemistry between us. And now, we all have something to play for.”

As well as honoring a late friend.

“He would be thrilled that we’re doing so well,” the elder Sabato said. “He wanted us to win more than anyone. It’s definitely a great feeling.”

“It’s tremendous,” Bland said. “We only lost two games, both by one goal. We’ve been competing all year and we want to keep it going into the state playoffs.”

Thanks to the exploits of the five talented hockey players from Lyndhurst. Yes, hockey and Lyndhurst can now be synonymous.

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