Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Impressive Turnaround for Co-Op Hockey Team

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Impressive Turnaround for Co-Op Hockey Team

Article excerpt

Denis Jelcic's back was turned.

His three-school ice hockey co-op program - a seldom-seen setup featuring Paramus, Lyndhurst and Hackensack - wasn't executing up to the standards it has come to expect during one particular drill Wednesday at the Ice House in Hackensack.

Then someone spoke up. But it wasn't the mild-mannered fourth- year coach.

"I'm still not totally sure who said it," Jelcic said. "But the message was clear: 'We've got to be better than this if we want to make states.'

"They all know they're close."

Jelcic called qualifying for the Public B state tournament the "quiet goal" all season, especially after last year ended with a disappointing 4-17-3 mark.

But Paramus/Lyndhurst/Hackensack (9-5-1 entering Friday night's game vs. Newton) has turned things around in its second season after adding Hackensack to the mix, which brings forth a variety of unique challenges that most programs don't experience.

Arranging ice time that fits into all three districts' schedules is one issue. Finding more time, and a location, to gather for off- ice practices and video sessions is another. Strong communication from all parties is vital.

And convincing student-athletes from three schools to buy into the concept of "one team" was another dilemma in the early stages of last season.

But Jelcic, with the help of school administrators, parents and his coaching staff, has fostered the necessary camaraderie through an assortment of preseason and in-season bonding exercises.

The team is reaping the benefits on the ice.

"All the work done in the background by a lot of different people doesn't get enough credit," said Jelcic, who coaches one of just two three-school ice hockey programs in New Jersey - the other being NV/ Old Tappan, NV/Demarest, and Hasbrouck Heights.

"We've got three schools and three athletic directors who have all made sure we always have what we need. They've made it easy for us."

With an automatic state berth within striking distance, Jelcic still doesn't speak about the potential postseason. …

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