The St. Joseph’s Prep hockey team will be spending much of the remainder of their holiday break on the ice. The Hawks will be in Washington, D.C. this weekend to compete in the 21st annual National Capital Hockey Tournament, popularly known as the Purple Puck Tournament.
The Hawks will compete in the Prep Division of the event, which features an outstanding collection of high school and prep school teams, many from the Baltimore-Washington area and the East Coast but from elsewhere as well.
The Hawks will open play on Saturday with a 12:30 game against the Hun School from Princeton, New Jersey before seeing action twice on Sunday against Archbishop Spalding from Suburban Baltimore (9 a.m.) and St. John’s from Washington, D.C. (2:15). The tournament semifinals and finals are scheduled for Monday.
The Hawks have been competing in the Purple Puck event for roughly a decade now. The tournament is hosted by Gonzaga Prep and the two schools have a close relationship.
St. Joseph’s Prep coach David Giacomin says the weekend-long trip allows his players to spend time together off the ice and to get to know one another as people as well as hockey players.
“We try to do something in D.C. every year that is historical,” he said. “And then after that, this year I think we’re going to go to one of those escape rooms, try to have some fun with them and everything. We go out and do team dinners and lunches.
So, it’s all about the kids being together full time for three days.
Giacomin and his coaching staff see to it that the veterans on the roster mix with the underclassmen. “It really helps the younger kids get to know the older guys a lot better,” he said.
“When we do our rooming assignments, we mix up the kids so it’s not just staying with your friends; we keep everybody separated so by the end of the year, I do believe it really helps us quite a bit. Because the kids feel more and more comfortable with their teammates. They feel like they can at least speak out, especially the younger kids.”
Senior forward Austin Amato is one of the Hawks’ assistant captains. He says the experience of the trip and playing in the Purple Puck event helps build team unity.
“It gets everyone closer,” he said, “gets everyone to play with each other more which builds the team chemistry up.”
Amato stresses the importance of the veterans interacting with their younger teammates. “You’ve got to include them in everything, on and off the ice,” he said. You’ve got to ask them to eat, talk to them, make sure they feel welcome.”
Giacomin believes those sorts of interactions offer long-term rewards.
“I think it’s really important,” he said, “because the leadership group we have, they’re class individuals. They love to engage everybody. The incoming freshmen the first few weeks it’s always a thing with them, do I stand up and say something or do I sit down and be quiet?’ With these guys here, they make sure that everybody is included.
“There is no senior group sitting together in the locker room. There is no sophomore group. Everybody is intermixed and they’re all sitting there talking and everything. So everybody has a right to speak up. Everybody has their own opinion and it’s because of those kids, that they make everybody feel included. I hope going forward those kids are going to step up into a bigger role as we move down the stretch run.”
By Rick Woelfel
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