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It was a night of honor, on Saturday February 4th, for the Hopewell Valley varsity ice hockey team and the Hopewell Valley Veterans Association, at the 2nd Annual Salute to Service ice hockey game to benefit local veterans. The Hopewell Valley Central High School (HVCHS) Bulldogs played against Bernards / Somerville High School Mountaineers to a packed red, white and blue covered Loucks Ice Rink, on the Lawrenceville Campus, with veterans and active duty servicemen and servicewomen driving the spirit of this event.

2016-2017 HV Varsity Ice Hockey team (Photo credit: Mike Schwartz www.mikeschwartz.photo)

Hopewell Valley Veteran Association president, Ken Baker, and local Hopewell Valley veterans and residents, Weed Tucker and former hockey player Bob Hoch, were all honored.

It was a proud moment for high school seniors Jack Boyer (#6) and Isaac Lieboff (#3), with his sophomore brother Aaron Lieboff, as they all had the opportunity to honor their grandfathers, who were on the bench. Sophomore Nick Vagott (#22) could not have been more proud of his veteran grandfathers David Vagott, a US Navy Veteran who served on the USS Olsen as a Helmsman between 1957-1959, and George Dorsett, a US Army Veteran who served with the U.S. Army Motor Pool ranked as SP4E4 as an auto mechanic, sharp shooter (carbine), and marksman between 1960-1967, both of whom were on the hockey bench.

Veterans on the bench for opening ceremony (Photo credit: Mike Schwartz www.mikeschwartz.photo)

The patriotic spirit of the night was supported by the US Naval Sea Cadet Corp John T. Dempster Junior Division, who led the color guard flag salute and the extraordinary performance of the National Anthem, sung by about 20 talented members of HV Central High School Choral Program led by Mr. Randy White. HV senior and captain Jack Boyer (#6 ) and the Mountaineer captain Michael Bliss, who is a former teammate of Jack’s, HV Veterans Association Ken Baker, HV School District Superintendent Dr. Thomas Smith, HV Athletic Director Tripp Becker, and Bob Gialanela former head coach of the HV hockey team, led the ceremonial puck drop and it was game time! The Bulldogs battled it out to the end.

Puck drop with Dr. Tom Smith, Athletic Director Tripp Becker, Assemblywoman Liz Muoio, Col. Ken Baker President of Hopewell Veterans Assoc., Bob Gialanella former head coach, Captain from HV Jack Boyer, Captain from Bernards / Somerville Michael Bliss
(Photo credit: Mike Schwartz www.mikeschwartz.photo)

“The Hopewell Valley hockey program is proud to host this event to honor the men and woman who have selflessly served this country. We would love to keep this annual tradition going for many years to come. The kids came out flying on Saturday and got a much needed win in a big game for us!” said HV Head Coach, Jeff Radice.

Sophomore Steven Doldy started off the game in the first period with a goal assisted by freshman Ethan Block, who has been a tremendous contributor to the team. Jack Boyer drove in the second and third goals with two spot-on passes from alternate captain, junior Colin Hayward, the future leader of the team.  Jack Boyer was able to find the back of the net in the third to put a hat trick on the score sheet and one more security goal rang the pipes in the third to give him 4 goals for the game, both unassisted.  Colin Hayward showed that he has what it takes and netted the sixth goal for the night. Michael Bliss put Bernards / Somerville on the board in the third. These boys may have put points on the board, but they know just like in the military that they could not do it without their team behind them. Goaltender and senior Brian McKenna could not have been happier to record a win for the 2nd Annual Salute to Service game.

Team captain Jack Boyer was proud of his team. “This is a game we look forward to all season. It is becoming a great tradition for our team and the community. It is an opportunity to thank the veterans for their service. We are all honored and thankful to the men and women who have served and are serving our country. This win was for them,” said Jack Boyer.

The HV Bulldogs came out on top with a 6-1 victory. Win or lose, this game is an opportunity for the HV ice hockey team to give back to the community and for the community to come out and show their appreciation for our servicemen and women. Proceeds from this event will be donated to the Hopewell Valley Veterans Association. The Salute to Service game was a success on many levels and the Varsity ice hockey team extends a heartfelt thank you to the community who showed their support and to the service men and women who fight for our country.

Contributor: Kathie Rigante Boyer, a Pennington resident, works part-time in the field of land planning to stay connected to technology and keep her sanity while raising two precocious boys — a teen and a tween. As hockey parents, Kathie and her husband can be found trying to keep warm in any number of hockey rinks.

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