St. Augustine’s ice hockey team beat all heavyweights to emerge as state champion

by Marc Narducci | Mar 13, 2023
St. Augustine’s ice hockey team beat all heavyweights to emerge as state champion
Of course, there had to be a chip on the shoulder, one so big that it led to an improbable championship run for St. Augustine’s ice hockey team.
Not so improbable to the Hermits, but to the prognosticators who didn’t give the Hermits much chance in the NJSIAA Non-Public state tournament. 
The Hermits were just the seventh seed in an admittedly loaded field.
“We were seeded seventh and the guys had a chip on their shoulder, feeling we had something to prove,” said St. Augustine coach Roman Ammirato, a 2011 graduate of the school and former left wing. 
Prove is what they did, culminating a memorable tournament by beating top-seeded Delbarton, 3-2 in overtime during the championship played at the Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils.
All through the tournament, the Hermits were giant slayers.
Following a first-round bye, they beat No. 10 seed Seton Hall Prep, 4-0. After that, it was an underdog city for the Hermits.
There was a 2-0 quarterfinal win over No. 2 seed Christian Brothers Academy.
Then a 2-1 overtime semifinal win over No. 3 seed Don Bosco Prep.

Article continues below


And finally, the win over No. 1 Delbarton, which had eliminated Gloucester Catholic, 7-3, in the semifinals.
In the championship game, senior Enzo Fanelli didn’t take long to end matters by scoring just 11 seconds into overtime. It was the second goal of the game for Fanelli. 
That secured the second state title in school history, with the first coming in 2007. 
Ammirato gave his underdog team some poignant advice prior to the championship. 
“I told them don’t leave anything out there,” he said. “Give it all you’ve got, and good things will happen.”
More impressively, it came against a Delbarton team that outscored teams 22-4 in its three previous playoff victories.
“We limited Delbarton’s chances even though they had so many skilled players,” Ammirato said. 
This was a tournament full of nail-biters for the Hermits.
In the quarterfinal 2-0 win over two-time defending champion Christian Brothers Academy, the Hermits broke a scoreless tie on a goal with nine seconds left and then added an empty netter for the final margin. 
Dale Curtis scored the first goal on assists from Cameron DeLeo and Ryan Vaites and then Tommy Browne added the empty netter on a Vaites assist.
During the 2-1 overtime semifinal win over Don Bosco Prep, Kai Ackerman ended matters with a goal 56 seconds into the extra period.
Fanelli had assists on both St. Augustine goals, the first coming from Vaites, who also earned an assist on the game-winner.
Then came the final where Vaites scored the other goal besides the two from Fanelli.
The one constant in the tournament was the play of junior goalie Bobby Kennedy.
In the four playoff games, he allowed just three goals while making 102 saves. His save percentage in the four playoff games was an incredible .971. 
“I really didn’t have a starter, I used three goalies who I rotated all year,” Ammirato said. “With Bobby, I felt we gave him a shot in the Gordon Cup quarters before the states, and he stepped up and played well and I decided to keep it rolling.”
Even though Kennedy and St. Augustine lost 2-0 to CBA in the Gordon Cup quarterfinal, the junior was spectacular, making 31 saves, many of the difficult variety. 
And Kennedy was just getting warmed up.
“He carried us and showed what a hot goalie can do,” Ammirato said.  
The Hermits ended 14-6-3 while playing their usual ambitious schedule. Maybe to those outside the program, the state title was a surprise, but this was a team that believed it could be a champion and then went out and emphatically proved it on the ice. 


Photo Courtesy: St Augustine ice hockey team

Author: Marc Narducci


Who’s Who in Health Care

Ahead of the Curve

Money Matters

Going Greener and Cleaner

Self-Made Man

Building Toward the Future

On The Move

Firing Up

Drinking it All In

Caring for One Another

What’s the Big Idea?

Making Connections

Up to the Challenge

Today’s Pupils, Tomorrow’s Professionals

Best of Home & Garden 2024