It was a night of honor for the Hopewell Valley Varsity Ice Hockey team. The Salute to Service game finally came together on Saturday night February 13th. The Bulldogs played against Howell High School Rebels to a packed house of patriotic ice hockey fans. There was no shortage of patriotism at Loucks ice rink on the Lawrenceville Campus, as red, white and blue covered the arena and our Veterans and Active Duty Servicemen and Women drove the spirit of this event.
Hopewell Valley Veteran Association’s President Ken Baker, along with local HV residents Weed Tucker and former hockey player Bob Koch, were all honored. It was a proud moment for senior and Alt. Capt. #23 Johnny Vagott and his freshman brother #22 Nick as their Veteran Grandfathers took to the bench to be recognized. David Vagott – US Navy Veteran served on the USS Olsen as a Helmsman during the years 1957-1959 and George Dorsett – US Army Veteran served with the U.S. Army Motor Pool ranked as SP4E4 as an Auto Mechanic, Sharp Shooter (Carbine), & Marksman during the years of 1960-1967. Senior and Alt. Capt. #5 Chris Nathan couldn’t have been more proud to see his Grandfather, Lt. Malcolm Lovell who served in WWII, on the hockey bench that has been home to Chris and his teammates through so many of their own battles over the years. Lovell was a Navel Supply Officer in China behind Japanese lines with the Sino-American Cooperative Organization. His role was to spy on Japanese shipping activity and report to US Naval Fleet for attack preparations. The Bulldogs Varsity Ice Hockey Coach, Bob Gialanella, was in the Navy from 1999-2005 and served on The Sullivans, his last rank was Lieutenant. Gialanella knows all too well what hard work and discipline mean to a team. Tonight, the boys showed it, they had each others’ backs, and they played as a team.
The patriotic spirit of the night was supported by Boy Scout Troop 1776, from Titusville, who led the color guard flag salute and the extraordinary voices of the HV Central High School Choral Program lead by Mr. Randy White, who sang the National Anthem. HV Senior and Captain #19 Gilford Daley, the Rebels Captain, HV Veterans Association Ken Baker, HV School District Superintendent Dr. Thomas Smith and HV Athletic Director Tripp Becker, led the ceremonial puck drop and it was game time!
The Bulldogs battled it out to the end. The Vagott brothers, who are winding down their ice time together, as Johnny will be graduating this year, both contributed to the score board. James McCall scored with an assist by Jack Boyer and Johnny Vagott scored with an assist by Jack Boyer bringing the game to 2-2 in the third. These boys may have put points on the board, but they know that they couldn’t do it without their team behind them. It was an exciting finish as freshman Nick Vagott netted the third goal with an assist by James McCall, to put the Bulldogs back on top. The Bulldogs played against the very tough Public A, Howell Rebels in the beginning of the season and came up short. Not tonight, this was their night. The Bulldogs held on down to the last seconds as the Rebels scrambled to come back. Goaltender Curtis Hart and the fierce defense kept that from happening. Bulldogs closed out the game with a hard fought and well deserved 3-2 win.
Thanks to the Cowhey family and Senior Alt. Capt. #2 Michael Cowhey who was inspired by his brother Jeffrey Cowhey Jr. a United State Marine Recruit, at MCRD Parris Island, 1st Battalion, Platoon 1017, Delta Company, to come up with the Salute to Service game as an opportunity to give back to the community. All proceeds from this event were donated to the Hopewell Valley Veterans Association. Michael was honored by Governor Christie for his compassionate and charitable efforts in support of NJ’s brave men and women of the United Sates Armed Forces. 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 came out to support this event.
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.