Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Glen Rock, Ramsey in All-Bergen Battle

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Glen Rock, Ramsey in All-Bergen Battle

Article excerpt

Glen Rock's Tom LaMacchia and the rest of the Panthers are tired of losing to Ramsey in big games.

Ramsey's Kyle DeBel and the rest of the Rams are sick of losing state championship games.

One will give tonight -- despite both teams entering red-hot -- in the Public B state hockey final under the bright lights of Prudential Center.

And it will represent arguably the biggest, highest-stakes and most pressure-packed Ramsey-Glen Rock matchup -- in any sport -- of all time in the first All-Bergen County state championship game in New Jersey hockey history.

"Oh, without a doubt this one's the biggest," said Glen Rock athletic director Frank Violante, who is in his 11th year. "When you get this far and get to play in a state championship, no matter who you're playing, the stakes are already high. That gets turned up even higher when you're up against someone who you consider a rival."

For two perennial contending programs separated by a mere 10.4 miles -- two schools that have become well acquainted with each other over the years -- ultimate bragging rights and a state crown will be on the line at The Rock.

"It seems to come down to us and Glen Rock in a bunch of different sports," said Ramsey athletic director Jim Grasso, whose hockey team has dropped the past two state finals to Morristown and Middletown North, respectively.

"So if you're playing Glen Rock late in the year in any sport, it usually means you're having a pretty good season. As far as hockey is concerned, I'd say this will definitely be the biggest [game] ever between the two schools."

The hype has been building since late last week. Ramsey will send eight fan buses to The Rock -- 317 students as of Sunday afternoon, according to Grasso -- as the fourth-seeded Rams continue their chase for their first state title since 2009 after two painful defeats in Newark.

Violante was unsure Sunday if second-seeded Glen Rock would be transporting fans to and from The Rock by way of bus, but had no concerns about tonight's expected turnout after witnessing the Panthers' faithful pack the stands at MetLife Stadium in December when the school's football team reached the sectional final.

"It seemed like the whole town was there that night," Violante said. "Everybody was excited then and I'm sure it will be a very similar scene again [tonight]. It's all exciting, and the community is always behind our sports teams. The support we get from the town and from our students is phenomenal.

"And to be on this stage and for it to be against Ramsey ... it's going to be outstanding."

The Panthers are seeking their first state championship in program history, after years of close calls, with a team coach Sergio Fernandez called "the best" Glen Rock has ever had following last week's semifinal win over Mahwah.

Ramsey has been exceeding expectations all season under first- year-coach Dean Portas to secure a return trip to the state final, and now is one win away from the ring that has eluded them in the two years prior. …

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