Vernon Township High School ice hockey player Dylan Shea achieved the prestigious 100th goal mark last week.
“This accomplishment means a lot not only to me by my family as well,” he said. “All the long nights full of practices and long drives to bring me to games all became more than worth it when I achieved this goal.”
Dylan practices three times a week for high school and twice a week for his travel team: New Jersey Devils Youth 18u AAA.
At Vernon, his coach is Christian Conway. It is his first year as head coach after having been the assistant coach for 16 years.
“Coach Conway has been one of the most important parts of me reaching my milestone,” Dylan said. “No matter what goes on in a game, he knows how to give me advice I can use and help keep me where I need to be throughout the game. Another big contributor to that would also be my former high school coach Ray Zimmerman. The systems that we ran and philosophies we had as a team with him were great and helped me a ton when I was on the ice.”
Vernon High has had a program since the 2003-04 season.
“We’ve had some success over the years with four league titles, one league cup, and six Sussex Cups, our annual holiday tournament for Sussex County public schools,” Conway said. “We’ve had numerous players go on to play at the prep school and junior level, college club and even a Division 1 player with Army (Danny Colvin).”
He said the team includes students attending Vernon Township High School or Vernon residents who attend Sussex Tech. They’ve had some lean years in the middle, Conway said — “We were 0-22-1 one season, but have been relatively competitive for the past six,.”
This year, the team played in the Morris County Secondary Schools Ice Hockey League (MCSSIHL) and are in the Hass Division. They play Mt. Olive, Park Regional, Montville, West Morris Central, and Gill St. Bernard’s. Additionally, they play Newton/Lenape Valley and High Point/Walkill Kittatinny as part of the Sussex Cup and cross over with their division. The team practices and plays home games at Skylands Ice World.
“Dylan has worked tirelessly to develop his offensive abilities, playing both at the high school level and AAA travel,” Conway said. “He’s an impressively strong skater with great agility and a tremendous shot (both accurate and powerful). He can beat a defender with speed, or his ridiculous stick handling ability or just by out muscling the other teams player.”
‘Always ready to jump back out’
He goes hard in practice in each drill and as a captain tries to push his teammates to do the same, said Conway.
“He started as a defense-man as a freshman and was switched to wing halfway through sophomore year,” Conway said. “Though he puts up a lot of points, he is often responsible about coming back and helping in our zone. He plays an incredible amount of minutes and is always ready to jump back out on the ice to try and give the team whatever we need to be successful.”
Since many aren’t familiar with the sport of ice hockey, Conway said that scoring 100 goals is the equivalent of scoring the elusive 1000 points in basketball.
Conway said the biggest challenge he has faced as head coach is trying to balance practice time between molding the experienced players into cohesive units while developing the team’s newer players who need more of the basics.
“Dylan and fellow captains Lucas Brennan and Evan Steinbach have been a tremendous help by working with the younger players when they know the drills are more for their development and then going hard when the drills are for them,” he said. “They’ve also been great about bringing the team together off the ice with group activities. Since we can’t get ice time every day, it makes it feel more like a traditional high school team. We are proud to be a team that hasn’t had to rely on co-oping to have a program and we want to keep that going. We’re pushing our middle school program as a way to get the more casual pond hockey type players into organized hockey and then bringing them into the high school team.”
Dylan has been playing hockey since he was four.
“My dad, cousin and uncles all played hockey which made me want to do the same,” he said. “I plan on playing junior hockey next year before attending college and playing there as well. I am looking to play somewhere in the USPHL next season. I would like to thank all my teammates and coaches who have helped me reach this milestone.”
“My dad, cousin and uncles all played hockey which made me want to do the same.” Dylan Shea