In just the third year of varsity hockey, the Kearny/North Arlington/Secaucus co-operative team incredibly captured a championship.
The team won the McMullen Cup title of the Northern New Jersey Interscholastic Hockey League by recently defeating Bayonne, 5-4, in thrilling fashion, winning by scoring a short-handed goal with 1:28 remaining in regulation by team leading scorer Matt Golon. It was the fourth time this season that the Kardinals faced Bayonne.
“It’s amazing to think we did this in only our third year of a varsity program,” said head coach Tim Firth. “We’ve come a long way since we were just a club team. It really is amazing.”
The Kardinals started the McMullen Cup (named after the late owner of the New Jersey Devils John McMullen) tournament with a 4-1 victory over West Orange. Golon had two goals in that game, just two of his team-high 36 goals. Golon, a former Observer Athlete of the Week earlier this season, also had 20 assists in an absolutely great season.
The Kardinals also received two goals from Chris Crawford of North Arlington in the win over West Orange. Goalkeeper Jack Logue of Kearny was outstanding in goal.
In the championship game, Crawford was also big with four assists, as did freshman Aiden Stamm of Secaucus, who also had a goal. Kevin Zidiak had two goals and an assist.
Winning the championship on the big stage ice of the Codey Arena in South Orange meant the world to the Kardinals.
“These kids worked real hard,” Firth said. “These kids have raised awareness that we’re here and we mean business. It’s fantastic. The championship game was very intense and it could have gone either way. I think it was a very emotional moment for our seniors, who have been around to see the progress we’ve made. I’m very grateful to them.”
Logue is one of those seniors. He came up big in the title game with 31 saves.
Defenseman Sam Francisco of Kearny also graduates, as do forward Pat Waters of Kearny and Steven Paolazzi of North Arlington, as well as female Jackie Narucki, who overcame the gender gap to be a contributing member of the team.
Winning the McMullen Cup puts a lot of pressure on the Kardinals come next season.
“It definitely means we have our work cut out for us,” Firth said. “We have to be a little bit stronger, faster and tougher because we have a title to defend.”
The Kardinals qualified for the Division C state playoffs, but fell to Woodbridge/Colonia in the first round.
“Our division is very competitive with some really good schools,” Firth said. “Our goal was to qualify for the states and we did that.”
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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.”