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Players step up, help New Jersey Rockets take off

04/25/2013, 1:45pm EDT
By Tom Robinson

The New Jersey Rockets moved two ’97 birth year standouts from their Metropolitan Junior Hockey League team up to their Atlantic Junior Hockey League team before the midway point in the season. When they did, two other players took over, leading the Rockets to the Met League title.
Troy Conzo landed Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year honors while Charlie McAvoy led all Met defenseman in scoring to secure the league’s Offensive Defenseman of the Year award.
Those efforts filled the void when Harvard recruit Jeremy Bracco and Yale recruit Nolan Aibel, who were each averaging more than two points per game, left the Met League for good before the new year.
With his linemates gone, Conzo handled the scoring burden, adjusting to the additional responsibilities to finish third in the league in scoring in the regular season and second in the playoffs.
“He came into his own and became ‘the guy,’ ” Rockets coach Bob Thornton said. “There was a lot of pressure on him to put points up.
“He did it. As a young player, he just got better as the year went on.”
The rewards followed. Conzo received postseason honors from the league, then in April committed to a scholarship from UMass-Amherst.
“I never had a player get MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season,” Thornton said, “but he deserved it.”
Conzo, a 16-year-old from Long Island, understood his responsibility.
“I definitely needed to produce more points when they were gone because they provided a lot of offense for the team,” he said.
Conzo did just that. He went from a little below two points per game in the 2012 portion of the schedule to better than two per game after. The left wing finished with 33 points and 36 assists in 35 regular-season games and followed with five goals and 10 assists in 12 games.
Both Conzo and Thornton credited in-season acquisition and playoff scoring leader Michael Gillespie, a center, with helping to make that happen.
“Michael and Troy just had great chemistry on the power play and 5-on-5,” Thornton said. “They put some numbers up.
“Troy played all situations — power play, 5-on-5 and PK. He logged a ton of minutes this season.”
Conzo had help. McAvoy had 12 goals and 31 assists in 34 league games.
“Charlie had a helluva year as a 15-year-old,” Thornton said. “He made the National Team Development Program and got about 15 scholarship offers.”
While McAvoy weighs those college offers, he is making plans to head to the U.S. NTDP next season in Ann Arbor, Mich., along with Bracco, making them the third and fourth Rockets to advance to the national program in the last three years.
“We want to continue that,” Thornton said. “We really like to see our kids make that program.”
McAvoy, another Long Islander, was also part of a defensive unit that came through during the postseason.
“In the beginning of the year, defense was our weak spot, but by the playoffs, our defense was very good and our goaltending was very good,” Conzo said.
Goalie Joshua Creelman was so good in good that he was named Met League Postseason MVP. The ’96 birth year player from High Bridge, N.J. went 7-3 in the playoffs with a 1.80 goals-against average, .950 save percentage and a pair of shutouts in which he made a combined 73 saves.
Other Met League awards went to: Jared Dauphinais, Boston Junior Rangers, Goalie of the Year; Tyler Hines, Connecticut Junior Wolfpack, Defensive Forward of the Year; Michael Cartwright, Long Island Royals, Defensive Defenseman of the Year; Rich DeCaprio, Boston, Coach of the Year; Steve Valva, Richmond Generals, league scoring champion; and Cody Williams, New Jersey Renegades, goal scoring leader.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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