SBHS hockey is better than its record

By: Ken Weingartner
   Records can be deceiving. Look no further than the South Brunswick High ice hockey team for proof.
   The Vikings improved to 8-8 Tuesday night with a 3-0 win over Middletown South, avenging an earlier 4-3 setback to the same school. While SB’s record might not seem overwhelming, it has come against some of the best competition in the state.
   This is a fact not lost on those who put together one of the state’s polls – the Vikings are No. 15 in New Jersey – or on SB coach Mark Kmiec. With three games remaining before the Feb. 13 cutoff for qualifying for the postseason, Kmiec believes South Brunswick is a force with which to be reckoned.
   "We’re really coming around, playing together as a team," Kmiec said. "This is a great time of year to be doing that. We’ve been trying to go one game at a time. We know we’re really working well together. The kids know that four of our losses have been to private or parochial schools. We won’t be seeing any of those schools in states. I think we can do pretty well against the public schools."
   Kmiec noted that there are only four public schools ranked ahead of South Brunswick in the most recent state poll.
   On Tuesday night, Dan Blaine had two goals and Mike Bowser added one as South Brunswick beat Middletown South. The Vikings’ next three games are at home against Southern Conference Red Division rival Toms River North and SC White Division team Toms River South and on the road against the White Division’s Old Bridge. Those three squads are a combined 20-28-2 overall.
   "You always feel more comfortable at home, and we’ve had great crowds at our games," Kmiec said. "But we’re ready to play game in and game out, no matter where. It’s great to see some of our other lines be productive and take pressure off our first line. Eric Dawe has been solid in net and defensively we’re learning what we need to do on the ice."
   After starting the season slowly, South Brunswick started its current surge with consecutive 7-3 wins over Steinert and Notre Dame, two of the better teams in Mercer County, in mid-January. The victories gave the Vikings a shot in the arm, and proved how well they could play outside the ultra-competitive SC Red Division, which features Bishop Eustace and St. Augustine, two squads ranked in the state’s Top 10.
   Half of the Vikings’ losses are to Bishop Eustace and St. Augustine, and the final meetings between the teams were extremely competitive. In fact, SB led St. Augustine, 2-1, going into the final period.
   "I think those (non-conference) games gave us a little confidence boost," Kmiec said. "The things we did well in those games carried over into our other games. I think we’re putting together minutes of good play, but we haven’t yet put together 45 minutes of real good hockey; we’ve had some letdowns and mental errors. But we’ve definitely been in games the whole way."