The Port Washington Vikings junior varsity ice hockey team finished third in the Nassau County JV League, making it to the county and state championships for the first time since 2015. Led by three all-star defenseman, 11th grader Chris Byrne and 10th graders Finn Tatti and Joe Contino, the Vikings, a mix of eighth to 11th grade students who play for the privately-run team at the Port Washington Skating Center, went head-to-head against many teams funded by their school districts including the county’s top team run by five coaches, Oceanside.
“I think the expectations going into the season were high because we knew we had some 11th graders on the team who were more skilled, and I felt like we would end up towards the top of the league,” said first-year 23-year-old head coach Nick Catrone. “To start the season we came out of the gates firing, winning a lot of games then we had a small rough patch due to some injuries to our goaltenders, but for the most part we steadied the ship and were fortunate enough to go to the county playoffs and the JV state championship in Niagara Falls.”
The team’s overall record in the league was 12-6, having played 18 games throughout the season. Having lost to second seeded team Bellmore-Merrick (13-5) three times throughout the season, Port Washington put together an effective team game to complete a late comeback win by a score of 4-1. The emotional victory propelled the Vikings into the championship game against the undefeated state champions Oceanside (17-0-1). Goalie Dany Pekach stood on his head as Port battled the best team in the state, from top to bottom, only to fall by a score of 2-1 in a game that was much closer than anyone would have imagined.
“It was a tremendously honoring and fun experience altogether,” said Catrone regarding his first-time coaching experience. “I truly unlocked my own passion. I knew what it was like to be in their shoes because I was just there a couple of years ago. The team played very hard for their coach and I think I had a very positive effect on them. I plan on returning and want to transform this Port Washington hockey team into a successful program at the varsity level for years to come.”
The Vikings junior varsity team plays in the Nassau County High School Hockey League with a mix of students from both Weber Middle and Schreiber High School along with drafted students from other towns. Each year, the coach determines whether the team will play in the junior varsity or varsity league based on players competitiveness and ages.
Catrone was chosen to coach the team for the 2017-18 season by the Port family who had coached the team for the last few years due to his own experience with the team, having played for the Vikings at the varsity level for four years when he was in high school.