By Jack Reinhard
The Phillipsburg Ice Hockey Club has the distinction of being the only team from Warren County, and all of New Jersey for that matter, that participates in the Lehigh Valley Scholastic Hockey League. The club, which is in its 15th season, gives players of all ages the opportunity to play the coolest game on earth.
Players come from not only Phillipsburg, but also other parts of Warren County. Most of the games are played at two different rinks in the Lehigh Valley—one in Bethlehem, the other in Allentown—but the team also gets to play at the state-of-the-art PPL Center in Allentown, which is home of the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The team competes against the likes of Easton, Freedom, Liberty, Northampton, Parkland and others.
Working hard to overcome a slow start to the season, the Phillipsburg varsity team is showing signs of improvement. This year’s team, which is comprised of a number of first-year varsity skaters, was forced to start its season against several of the top teams in the League. They continue to work hard, and as they enter the middle portion of their season ninth-year coach John Potts likes what he sees from the team.
“We have a wide range of skill levels this season,” said Coach Potts. The team is a mix of travel team players—who benefit from the extra time they receive playing for their club teams—as well players who skate only for Phillipsburg. “I appreciate the skills that the travel players bring to each game and also the enthusiasm and work ethic of our other players. It makes for a fun team to coach.”
This year’s varsity, with a total of 20 players on the current roster, has grown in size dramatically despite the loss of numerous seniors from last year’s team. A number of this year’s players skated with the club’s junior varsity team last year, while several others split time between both JV and varsity. Several players—including Tony Diehl, Tyler Moore, Patrick Ramsdale and Brian Vianden—have skated for the club for over seven years.
Diehl, a senior at Warren County Technical School, has been playing for the club since he was in fifth grade. “I enjoy the opportunity to get out on the ice,” said Diehl. “Playing here is different than a lot of other sports. We all get to play in each and every game, and the emphasis isn’t just on winning, but just as importantly on developing our skills and having fun.”
Moore, a junior at Phillipsburg High School and alternate captain on this year’s varsity team, agrees. “Coming to practice and the games and seeing all of the boys, it’s really fun. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” he said.
The players continue to skate hard and have fun. Spirited practices, combined with a desire to improve with each game, have the players and Coach Potts all looking forward to a strong finish to the season.