After serving as a youth hockey coach in the area for decades, Dave Macri has decided to take his talents to the next level and tackle the challenge of becoming the new head hockey coach for the Nutley/Columbia High School co-operative.
“A couple of parents told me that the position was open,” Macri said. “I hadn’t done an interview in 25 years, so I didn’t know what to expect. I had to learn how to do Zoom. My wife is a teacher, so she prepared me for it and helped me get through it.”
Macri started the interview process back in July and was finally given the job. He met the returning players at that time.
“I knew a bunch of them through youth hockey,” Macri said. “I’ve known some of them since they were 10 years old. I know that they have fierce loyalty to their school. It was great to see them again. It’s been fun to watch their development as players and as people. It’s exciting to see the development.”
Macri’s first impression was a positive one.
“They’re a great group of kids,” Macri said. “They’re fun to be with.”
Macri has indeed joined the players on the ice.
“I love being out there with the kids,” Macri said. “They are so with it. It’s been a fun time with them.”
Most of the Maroon Raiders’ work has been in off-ice training and workouts.
“I’m really pleased with their work ethic,” Macri said. “This is not the program to have 12 little (Wayne) Gretzkys on the ice. We have to work hard and it shows. I don’t go easy on them.”
But Macri has been pleased with what he’s seen so far.
“They’ve more than been up to the task,” Macri said. “We don’t have a lot of seniors. We only have four seniors. But we’re trying to find a good balance.”
Macri said that he’s not a tactical coach.
“I’m not an X’s and O’s guy,” Macri said. “What I promote is decision making, movement with and without the puck. If we can change the mindset, then we’re going to be fine. They want to learn it and they want to get better.”
The goalkeeper is senior Oliver Tauscher, who used to play for Oratory Prep.
“His family moved back to Nutley, so he wanted to play for us,” Macri said. “He’s a solid stay at-home goalie. I have the utmost confidence in him. He’s a technically sound goalkeeper.”
Another goalie on the roster is sophomore Victoria Rutnik, yes, a girl playing with and against the boys.
“She’s always done very well playing with the boys,” Macri said. “She also plays for a high-level girls’ team. She’s also a good goalie.”
And the other goalie on the team is freshman George Dietrick.
Senior Cooper Fojas is one of the team’s top defensemen. He’s also a captain.
“He’s a solid stay at-home defenseman,” Macri said. “He’s a very strong stick handler and sees the ice very well.”
Senior James Gonon, a student at Columbia, is another defenseman who pairs with Fojas. Gonon is also a captain.
Juniors Julian Poole and Paul Poplawski are also excellent defensemen.
“They have pretty good size,” Macri said. “We have a good mix of size and maturity along the blue line.”
Sophomore Andrew Nicolette and Tommy Devlin are also defensemen on the roster, along with junior Sofia Carrillo and freshman Gavin Waldron, who attends Bloomfield High.
Carrillo is another female who doesn’t mind playing with boys.
“She can absolutely handle herself,” Macri said of Carrillo. “She’s no stranger to going into the corners.”
The forward line is led by senior Zach Fagin, who is one of the best players in Essex County.
“He’s a talented hockey player,” Macri said of Fagin. “He played defense for years, but he can handle the puck with much ability.”
Juniors Rocco Albanese and Frank Martrona are also on the first line with Fagin.
“They’re both such talented hockey players,” Macri said. “They have great skill set and great vision of the ice.”
The team’s second line consists of juniors C.J. Hannon and T.J. Wassman, along with Trey Gigante, a sophomore from Columbia.
“C.J. is a fantastic player,” Macri said. “I’ve known him since he was a 10-year-old. He’s made the switch to center. I think the switch was a good one.”
The team’s third line consists of sophomore Caleb Diegnan of Colmbia and freshman Vijay Vinton of Columbia, along with Carmine Argenziano of Nutley.
Others getting playing time include junior Mike Silva and three freshman girls in Haley Campner and Lilah Sigalos of Columbia and Mallory Albanese, younger sister of Rocco, of Nutley.
“Mallory has a tremendous among of potential,” Macri said. “She just needs to get a little faster, but she’s going to turn heads.”
The Maroon Raiders face West Essex on Jan. 18 to start the season and then face Oratory Prep, a game that will mean a ton to goalkeeper Tauscher.
Needless to say, Macri is very excited about the prospects of his new team.
“I think if you peel back the layers of the onion very quickly, it’s not a bad thing,” Macri said. “I think it’s important to play the tougher teams. I think it’s important to know where we can get to. The only way to show them is to play the tough teams. I’m eternally encouraged by this team. I think the difference between now and the end of the season will be tremendous.”
The Nutley/Columbia co-operative hockey team will count a lot on their senior leaders, namely from left are Cooper Fojas and Oliver Tauscher of Nutley, Zach Fagin and James Gonon of Columbia. Photo courtesy of Dave Macri
Learn more about the writer ...
Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.
It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.
In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.
In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.
He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.
During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.
Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”