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The Hopewell Valley/Montgomery Varsity Ice Hockey team hosted the fifth annual Salute to Service game Saturday against cross-town rival the Pennington School.  Many volunteers, including members of the National Honor Society, participated to make this game, which provides a portion of the proceeds to the Hopewell Valley Veterans Association and the Montgomery Veterans Memorial Committee, a great success. The HV/M team wore special camouflage jerseys with “Honor” on the back and American flag hockey socks, to celebrate the special game.

The first Salute to Service game was played in 2016, the idea of Michael Cowhey, who was inspired by his brother Jefrey, a US Marine recruit stationed at Parris Island.  The proceeds from the initial event were donated to the Hopewell Valley Veterans Association and Michael Cowhey was recognized by then-Governor Chris Christie for his extraordinary efforts to honor New Jerseys brave members of the Armed Forces.

Saturday’s was the first Salute to Service team for the combined Hopewell Valley/Montgomery squad, but the game almost didn’t happen this year. With only a couple of hours before puck drop, the organizers learned that the original location had experienced a mechanical failure and could not host the game. They were able to work with Ice-Land in Hamilton Township, to move the event. Despite the weather and the change of venue, a large crowd came out for the festivities.

The Hopewell Valley/Montgomery team in their specials uniforms for the Salute to Service game (Photo by Mike Schwartz of Mike Schwartz Photography  www.mssphoto.com)

The game recognized twenty-two veterans of the communities, many of whom had close ties to the hockey team, and gave special recognition to Michael Toth, who returned from his most recent deployment to Afghanistan in November 2019. Toth attended Hopewell Elementary School, Timberlane Middle school, and graduated from Hopewell Valley Central High School (CHS). Toth has a long history of service to the community, beginning with volunteering with the Hopewell Fire Department as a firefighter and EMT before his graduation from CHS. After high school, he joined the Marine Corps, and served from 1988 until 1994. He was deployed overseas multiple time, including to Lebanon and Saudi Arabia and was part of the invasion of Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm/Shield. In 1995, he joined the Hopewell Township Police Department as a 911 operator. In 1997, he attended the Burlington County Police Academy, and was sworn in as a Hopewell Township Police Officer.

Toth’s service to the country continued when he enlisted in the New Jersey National Guard as a medic. He played an instrumental part in creating a new MEDEVAC for the state of New Jersey.  He is also the first fully certified Army Flight Medic in the New Jersey National Guard, and currently one of only three in the state. Toth was deployed to Afghanistan in 2019 with the “Jersey DUSTOFF” program, which successfully evacuated multiple combat wounded soldiers from the battlefield and transported them to higher level medical care.Toth will be retiring from the Hopewell Township Police Department this year after 25 years of service and plans to continue his service to the country with “Jersey DUSTOFF”

Michale Toth was honored for his service. (Photo by Mike Schwartz of Mike Schwartz Photography www.mssphoto.com)

At the game Saturday, the colors were presented by Aren Southall, Alex Wallace, and Nate Wallace of Boy Scout Troop 44 of Pennington, along with Scoutmaster Divid Shipley and Assistant Scoutmaster Shawn Wallace. The National Anthem was performed by members of the Hopewell Valley Central High School Choral Program. Toth participated in the ceremonial puck drop, along with team captains Ethan Block (HV/M) and Deon Kraft (Pennington).

Hopewell Valley/Montgomery started strong with their first goal by Dan Seamon, assisted by Joe Greenspoon and Michael Paster within the first few minutes of play. Cal Fleming, assisted by Ethan Block, followed with another goal. The much smaller Pennington team, despite valiant effort, was unable to score and the first period ended 2-0 in favor of Hopewell Valley/Montgomery. Pennington’s goalie, Bill Bernal, stopped an amazing 30 shots in that period alone. In the second period, Roman Vitolo, assisted by Harsh Grover and Lucas Gaissert, Lucas Gaissert assisted by Harsh Grover and Roman Vitolo and Michael Paster assisted by Trent Demers scored for the Bulldogs, ending the period with the score 5-1. Hopewell dominated the second period, increasing shots on goal to 47, with Pennington notching only one shot. In the third period, team captain Ethan Block scored, assisted by Michael Paster and Harsh Grover, bringing the final to 6-0.

Lawrence Flames Mites on Ice played between the second and third periods of the Salute to Service game. (Photo by Mike Schwartz of Mike Schwartz Photography  www.mssphoto.com)

On Monday, the HVM varsity ice hockey hosted St. Rose at the Mercer County Skating Center.  St. Rose started things off with two goals before Roman Vitolo scored, making it a 2-1 game. St. Rose made it 3-1 before Dan Seamon scored. St. Rose came back again, and the score was 4-2.  Michael Boyer scored two goals and Roman added another, while St. Rose scored a fifth time.  The final was a 5-5 tie in the hard-fought game.

On Wednesday, the HVM varsity hosted the Lawrence High school ice hockey team. Lucas Gaissert scored twice in the first period, assisted by Roman Vitolo and Michael Boyer on the first and Andrew Seamon and Trent Demors on the second. In the second period, Michael Boyer scored,  assisted by Lucas Gaissert and Lawrence’s Tucker Simpson scored, assisted by Will Kochsis, but that was the only goal for Lawrence. Henry McMahon scored unassisted in the third, making the final 4-1.

Friday night was the rematch with Robbinsville. Hopewell Valley/Montgomery was not able to revenge their earlier loss. Roman Vitolo, assisted by Sean Amon, Harsh Grover, and Dan Seamon, assisted by Joe Greenspoon and Olivia Bruno, scored, but they were the only points for the HVM team. Robbinsville’s Mitchell Ducalo had a hat trick and Robert Grimes scored twice, leaving the HVM team on the losing end of a 5-2 game. -Tracy Vogler

The CHS girls swim team won one of their two meets last week, defeating Steinert and falling to Princeton. On Tuesday, the Bulldogs lost to Princeton 115.5-54.5. Both teams ended up with half points because in the 50 freestyle, Lilly Wurtz tied with a swimmer from Princeton (their times were within one hundredth of a second). Ava D’Alessandro took second in the 50 freestyle (27.74), Regan Sherman came in second in 500 freestyle (5:38.30), and Emilie Sawicki took second in the 100 breaststroke (1:14.10). The Bulldogs also were second in the 200 medley relay (Lilly Wurtz, Emilie Sawicki, Ava D’Alessandro and Shriya Karthikvatsan, 2:02.81), the 200 freestyle relay (Jade Gamelin Kao, Alyssa Lui, Natalie Hayward and Sherman, 1:52.29) and the 400 freestyle relay (Shriya Karthikvatsan, AvaD’Alessandro, Emilie Sawicki and Regan Sherman, 4:11.85).

Shriya Karthikvatsan swimming freestyle against Princeton. (Photo by Christopher Sawicki)

On Thursday, the Bulldogs beat Steinert by a score of 99-71. Regan Sherman won the 500 freestyle (5:52.48) and took 2nd place in the 200 IM (2:21.75), Ava D’Alessandro took first in the 50 freestyle (27.65) and 2nd place in the 100 butterfly (1:16.79), Emilie Sawicki won the 100 breaststroke (1:14.12) and came in 2nd in the 200 freestyle (2:15.81), and Lilly Wurtz won the 100 backstroke (1:14.58) and took 2nd in the 100 freestyle (1:05.02). The Bulldogs also took 1st place in the 200 medley relay (Lilly Wurtz, Emilie Sawicki, Ava D’Alessandro and Regan Sherman, 2:04.99), 2nd place in the 200 freestyle relay (Lilly Wurtz, Ava D’Alessandro, Natalie Hayward and Sion Shambora, 2:00.60), and 1st in the 400 freestyle relay (Regan Sherman, Sion Shambora, Alyssa Liu and Emilie Sawicki, 4:17.64). The Hopewell Valley girl’s next meet is on January 21st at West Windsor South. -Christopher Sawicki

Last week, CHS boys swim team competed twice, losing to Princeton and winning against Steinert. On Tuesday, the boys suffered a tough loss to Princeton 113-56. Despite the loss, both Alessio Paoloni and Alex Helmrich placed first in two individual events, Alessio Paoloni in the 200 IM (2:04.03) and the 100 butterfly (56.75), and Helmrich in the 200 freestyle (2:00.90) and the 500 freestyle (5:39.89). Alex Helmrich, Christopher Sawicki, Hayden Geurds and Alessio Paoloni placed second in the 400 free relay (3:51.75).

Christopher Sawicki and John Raskin stand on the block before swimming the 50 free. (Photo by Emilie Sawicki)

In Thursday’s meet against Steinert, the boys were more successful, winning 110-59.  In the 200 free relay, Owen Seibold, Matt Immordino, John Raskin and Hayden Geurds placed first with a time of 1:42.48, as did Alex Helmrich, Hayden Geurds, Christopher Sawicki and Alessio Paoloni in the 400 free relay with a time of 4:00.11. Other first place finishes included Hayden Geurds (200 free, 2:12.56), Matt Immordino (100 breaststroke, 1:12.60), Christopher Sawicki (50 free (24.74) and 100 free (55.81)), and Alessio Paoloni (100 butterfly (56.37) and 100 backstroke (59.92)).  Additionally, the Bulldogs took first, second and third in the 100 backstroke thanks to Alessio Paoloni, Anthony Azara and AJ Wilson. Currently, the boys have a record of 6 wins and 4 losses, and hope to continue winning in their last two dual meets of the season this week against West Windsor-Plainsboro South and Notre Dame. -Emilie Sawicki

The CHS winter track team competed Friday night at the Toms River Bubble. The girls 4×800 team of Sofia Venezia, Paige Dumont, Elizabeth Chandler and Rebecca Pereyra finished 4th overall at the state relays. The boys 4×800 team of Sam Fowler, Cormac Dow, Elliot Bangarter and Ben Angwenyi finished 6th. Next up is the Mercer County meet next weekend.

For this week’s upcoming HVRSD games, see the schedule here: https://www.colonialvalleyconference.org/public/genie/348/school/7/

If you would like to contribute sports reporting or game photographs to MercerMe, please send an email to tracy@mercerme.com.

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