When the Glen Rock hockey team dropped three straight games over the Christmas break, it was easy enough to explain it away as saying the Panthers just happened to be playing some of the toughest teams in New Jersey and everything would be OK. But when they lost to Indian Hills 2-0 last Friday in the first round of the Bergen County tournament, that was different.
Glen Rock, the defending New Jersey Public B state champion, was the runner up in last year’s county tournament, and was seeded No. 2 in this year’s competition. Losing in the first round was something that was completely unexpected.
“After the Indian Hills game there were a lot of tears,’’ Glen Rock coach Anthony Yelovich told Glen Rock News Today. “They obviously expected to win that game.’’
The loss was the fifth in a row for the Panthers, who started the season 7-1-1 and now are 7-6-1. After beating Wayne (the new, combined Wayne Hills-Wayne Valley team) Dec. 23, they lost to Chatham, Seton Hall Prep (No. 8 in the current nj.com Top 20), Randolph (No. 10) and Morristown-Beard (No. 3) before falling to Indian Hills. Their next game is Friday at 8:30 p.m. against Mahwah, which is 10-5-1, at the Ice Vault in Wayne. They then play Saturday at the Ice House in Hackensack against Livingston, faceoff at 7 p.m.
Yelovich isn’t panicking about the losing streak. He insisted the team has been playing well and he is still confident in the group and expects that they’ll find their way out of the funk they’ve been in.
“We’re the same team that was 7-1-1,’’ he said. “We’re going through a tough stretch right now.’’
He said that during the losing streak, Glen Rock played well and even, in some cases, outplayed their opponent, only to be done in by not getting a break here or there – bad “puck luck,’’ he called it. He pointed out that the team went through a similar stretch at around the same time last season, playing some games where they somehow managed to win games despite not playing so well – benefiting, oftentimes, from getting timely goals and taking advantage of puck luck that worked in their favor.
Still, Yelovich said he has changed things up at practice in an effort to turn things around. The team went to a bowling outing one day last week, and they’ve done things to make practice more fun, just to lighten things up.
“We never had this long a losing streak in the two years I’ve been here,’’ he said. “The guys care so much, and they want to win so badly that they’re focusing on the end game, and not the process… I just wanted them to get their minds off it and remind them of why they play hockey – because it’s fun.’’
Yelovich insisted he is not worried about the long term prospects of the team. The squad is healthy, and after missing some key players at various parts of the season due to injuries or players’ club team commitments, the roster is whole now and should be for most of the rest of the season. The losing streak, he said, may be what the team needs “to make us hungry again.’’
Ultimately, he said, he believes the team will find itself and turn things around by playoff time.
“With a couple of tweaks, I feel like we’re going to be fine,’’ he said.