A decade after leaving Atlantic City, former Boardwalk Bullies love to coach youth hockey

From March 16, 2014 edition of The Press of Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY – Stefan Rivard arrived at the Flyers Skate Zone in Atlantic City on Thursday unannounced.

On the ice were members of the Art Dorrington Ice Hockey Foundation, an after-school program with which Rivard has no direct affiliation.

Some of the kids, ranging from third to eighth grade, immediately gravitated toward the former professional ice hockey player when he and his 9-year-old son, Brent, took the ice for 20 minutes.

“I love coaching,” Rivard said at the Skate Zone while the children practiced in the background.

“It’s rewarding for me to give back what somebody gave me as far as helping me along in the hockey world, and I just love coming to the rink and teaching these kids this great game of hockey.”

It’s been almost nine years since a professional ice hockey team resided in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. It’s been 11 years since the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies won the ECHL’s Kelly Cup title.

Although it spent just four years in town, the team left a notable presence in South Jersey that’s still evident, especially with youth hockey.

The Bullies left Atlantic City after the 2004-05 season and moved to Stockton, Calif., where the team has played since as the Stockton Thunder.

Two of the Bullies’ most-remembered players, Ian Walterson and Rivard, are still in South Jersey. When their professional playing careers concluded, they turned to coaching.

Walterson coaches a club team at Richard Stockton College, and Rivard is the coach of the Atlantic City Sharks youth team, which Brent plays on.

“I’m watching kids go on to junior careers and college careers that I’ve coached,” said Walterson, who has been at Stockton for eight years.

“Hockey is a game you grew up with and now you’re able to pass it on to kids. And you didn’t realize while you’re playing what kind of impact you’re having on all those young kids.”

Rivard, 40, stayed in South Jersey after he retired following the 2003-04 season. He met his wife, Shannon, and together they raised, Brent, and their 11-year-old daughter, Celena, in Northfield.

In three seasons and 181 games for the Bullies, Rivard scored 72 goals and 113 assists. He had his No. 21 retired, making him the only Boardwalk Bully to receive that honor, and the second Atlantic City hockey player along with Atlantic City Seagulls great Art Dorrington, who was the first black professional hockey player.

Now Rivard is a firefighter for the Atlantic City International Airport. Not a day goes by where Rivard misses playing professional hockey and hanging out on Absecon Island with his former teammates.

“There was no place like going to the rink and spending time with the guys you were going to battle with every night,” Rivard said. “That’s probably the one thing I miss the most.”

Walterson, 35, stayed in South Jersey after his playing career concluded with the Bullies in 2004-05. He is in between jobs as a sports performance trainer, as well as coaching Stockton.

Walterson scored 21 goals and added 58 assists, and was the alternate captain for three seasons as well as captain his last season. He played in the most games as a Bullie with 257, and was one of two players, along with fan-favorite Luke Curtin, to play in Atlantic City for all four seasons.

Walterson enjoyed an eventful 2003 season in which he won the Kelly Cup and celebrated the birth of his first daughter, Laine. Laine, 11, was also born just 10 days before Rivard’s daughter, Celena.

But that almost never happened for Walterson, who lives in Egg Harbor Township with his wife, Karen, and daughters, Laine and Sienna, 8.

A week before signing with the Bullies, Walterson nearly signed an American Hockey League contract. Instead he stuck with the Birmingham Bulls, who moved to Atlantic City after the 2000-01 season.

“I just wanted to sign a contract and play somewhere,” Walterson said. “I was looking to make that jump to the NHL as a young guy, but I ended up meeting my wife and having kids. My life could have been dramatically different.”

In 2012-13, Walterson was named the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference Coach of the Year. It was a long way from when Walterson, along with Greg Ball, the former assistant general manager of the Atlantic City Skate Zone brought the idea of ice hockey to Stockton.

“We pretty much built that program from street hockey players and roller hockey players,” Walterson said. “Now we’re a pretty competitive team.”

Thousands of fans flocked to Boardwalk Hall on Feb. 14 during an AHL game between the Albany Devils and Hershey Bears. Rivard and Walterson were there to commemorate the 2003 Kelly Cup Championship Bullies team.

Also in attendance were Bears coach Mike Haviland, and assistant coach Ryan Mougenel. Haviland coached the Bullies for three years, including the 2003 championship season, and Mougenel was a player on that team.

Over the years, Walterson said it’s been tough keeping in touch with all of his former teammates. Many of them are coaching, or scattered throughout North America with families of their own.

“Whenever we get a chance through social media and those types of things it’s always easier than it was back in the day,” Walterson said in February. “So every once in a while on Facebook we’ll chat or get together for a beer here or there when a team like this gets into town.”

During warmups, Rivard stood on the visitor’s bench with Haviland and took in the feel of a professional hockey game. It prompted Rivard to look back on his time in Atlantic City and remember the first time he ever stepped foot in the Hall.

“The first time that I walked in actually was with Coach Havy, and I’ll never forget it,” Rivard said. “It was just one of those pictures in my mind.

“I had a good three years here, and I just love coming back as a fan. I just wish there was a team here, a more permanent team, but it’s better than having nothing at all.”

Contact John Russo:

609-272-7210

JRusso@pressofac.com

Former CAL stars Austin Johnson, Brandon Bell look forward to more playing time at Penn State in 2014

From January 1, 2014 edition of Press of Atlantic City

Penn State freshmen Austin Johnson and Brandon Bell were both surprised when they found out their freshman campaigns earned them all-conference football honors.

Both South Jersey natives were among eight Nittany Lions named to the Freshman All-Big Ten team. Johnson was selected by bothBTN.com and ESPN.com while Bell was just selected by BTN.com.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Johnson, who graduated from St. Augustine Prep in 2012, said in a phone interview. “I definitely didn’t see it coming. I was working hard the entire season. I was playing fast and doing everything I could to make an impact on every game I played in.”

Interviews with Johnson and Bell for this story were held before Penn State coach Bill O’Brien’s decision to leave the program to coach the NFL’s Houston Texans was made public Tuesday night. Continue reading

Press of AC: Current, former Cape-Atlantic League athletes among those affected as Temple cuts 7 sports programs

From Dec. 7, 2013 edition

Temple University officials announced Friday that it will eliminate seven varsity sports next year to save $3 million and address gender gaps in its distribution of scholarship money.

The programs that will be eliminated: men’s crew, women’s rowing, baseball, softball, men’s gymnastics, men’s indoor track and field and men’s outdoor track and field. Nine coaches will lose their jobs and more than 150 student-athletes, including eight Cape-Atlantic League alumni, will be affected as well.

“Temple does not have the resources to equip, staff and provide a positive competitive experience for 24 varsity sports,” Temple Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin Clark said in a statement. “Continuing this model does a disservice to our student-athletes.

“We need to have the right-sized program to create a sustainable model for Temple University athletics moving forward.”

Continue reading

Press of AC: Flyers get young boost from McGinn, Raffl

From Oct. 23, 2013

The Philadelphia Flyers end a week-long break today in which they assessed where they’re at through the first three weeks of the season.

At 1-7-0, they’re not where they want to be.

With injured center Vincent Lecavalier expected to make his return to the lineup tonight against the struggling New York Rangers, a regular may become a healthy scratch.

Two young Flyers – Tye McGinn and Michael Raffl – are making good early impressions on head coach Craig Berube with the absence of Lecavalier and injured left winger Scott Hartnell.

Continue reading

AC Press: Stockton rolls past Rowan to close regular season

For the Press of Atlantic City

By JOHN RUSSO, For The Press

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – The Richard Stockton College men’s basketball team had a lot at stake Wednesday.

Playoff seeding, Senior Night and a home game against their biggest rival hung up in the air for the Ospreys when they faced Rowan University.

Stockton took care of its own business, beating Rowan 79-64 in its regular-season finale and earning the third seed in the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament.

The Ospreys (18-6 overall, 13-5 NJAC) could have gotten the second seed and a first-round bye if Rutgers-Newark had lost to Kean, but the Scarlet Raiders won 79-62. Stockton will host sixth-seeded New Jersey City at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“We had that in the back of our mind, but we also knew we had to come out here and play and prepare for the playoffs even if we were to lose,” said Stockton sophomore guard Josh Blamon, who finished with a team-high 19 points. “We still had to prepare for Saturday. We were going to use this game for preparation heading into the playoffs and hopefully make it further.”

The Ospreys were more physical and faster than Rowan (10-8, 17-8). In the second half, junior center Nnamdi Usuwa took over with his physical play.

Usuwa scored 11 of his 17 points in the second half. He also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds while battling Rowan big man Dee Benson all game.

“Really what I was focused on was not scoring points but trying to play the best basketball I could play,” Usuwa said. “A good part of my game is I like being physical (and) I like to rebound, so I was pretty much just doing that. I started off playing good defense and rebounding and then everything else just comes together.”

At one point in the second half, Usuwa and Benson drew coincidental technical fouls.

“We got into a little thing, but that’s all just a part of the game,” Usuwa said. “He plays physical and I play physical, you know? It’s all about competition and I like competing.”

Stockton was all over Rowan from the opening tipoff. Jumping out a 14-4 lead seven minutes into the game, Stockton never let the Profs settle down, instead forcing them to take poor shots and make bad passes.

“It was exactly what we wanted to do,” Blamon said. “(Assistant) Coach (Scott) Bittner said even in practice that they don’t want to handle the ball if you put pressure on them. If you put pressure on them, they will turn the ball over and that’s exactly what happened.”

Stockton also drained its 3-pointers, knocking down 6-of-10 in the first half – three each from Blamon and Rich Suhr.

Rowan battled back early in the second half, led by senior Kendall White and his game-high 25 points. His three-pointer with 17 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the game cut the Stockton lead to 47-41.

Stockton then went on an 11-3 run to keep its distance.

“They got it down to six or seven and then we got it right back up and kept it there,” Stockton coach Gerry Matthews said. “We kept making some pretty good plays.”

Rowan 32 32-64

Richard Stockton 41 38-79

R-Jackson 2 3-4 8, Rosenberg 4 0-0 9, Battee 1 0-0 2, Benson 2 1-2 5, White 9 3-3 25, Whitworth 1 0-0 2, Hills 1 0-0 2, Waynick 2 1-2 5, McNamara 3 0-1 6. Totals-25 8-12 64.

RS-K. Johnson 3 2-3 9, Hunt 1 2-2 4, Blamon 7 1-1 19, McCargo 0 4-4 4, Pistone 1 0-0 2, R. Johnson 2 3-5 7, Suhr 4 2-2 14, Greer 1 0-0 3, Usuwa 8 1-2 17. Totals-27 15-19 79.

3-pointers-White (4), Jackson, Rosenberg R. Blamon (4), Suhr (4), K. Johnson, Greer RS.

Records-Rowan 17-8 (10-8); Stockton 18-6 (13-5).

VDJ: Bridgeton football suffers setback against Middle Township

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Posted October 26, 2012
By John Russo
Special to the Daily Journal
Link.

BRIDGETON — The Bridgeton High School football team needed a win on Friday to enhance its playoff hopes.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, a strong Middle Township running game stood in their way. The Panthers rushed for 367 yards in a 25-12 win over Bridgeton, leaving the Bulldogs waiting to hear their playoff destiny.

“We just have to hope for a miracle, really,” sophomore running back Cappadonna Miller said.

Bridgeton struggled to keep Middle Township’s tandem of Terrence Toney and Nigel Case from breaking big runs, which set up all three of the Panthers’ first-half scores. The two backs each eclipsed the century mark, combining for 305 yards.

“We weren’t wrapping up,” Miller said. “They were power backs. You couldn’t hit them up high. Even when we tried to hit them low they were still moving their feet and pushing us around.”

In the first quarter, a 54-yard run by Toney set up Zack Vogelei’s 1-yard score, giving the Panthers a 6-0 lead. Case broke three tackles on a 44-yard run on the next possession to make it 12-0.

“Case, we knew, runs hard,” Bridgeton head coach Dave Ellen said. “He keeps his legs pumping and we didn’t get enough hats on him and he had some long runs.”

After a nice Bridgeton drive, capped by a 1-yard run by Stefon Bowman, made it 12-6, Case again set up a Panther score with a 54-yard run. Quarterback Joe Durso found Jalen Toney for a 10-yard score, making it 19-6 at the half.

Bridgeton was able to hold Middle Township to just a pair of field goals in the second half, but the Bulldogs’ lackluster play in the first half set them back and they couldn’t overcome it.

“The kids had a decent week of practice and they seemed like they knew what was going on with (Middle Township’s) game plan — they didn’t do anything we weren’t prepared for — but we didn’t make plays and Middle Township did,” Ellen said. “Before we knew it, it was 12-0 and you’re digging yourself out of a hole the whole game.”

Miller felt the team took Middle Township lightly.

“We thought because we had home field advantage that we were going to beat them, but we thought wrong,” he said.

Bridgeton, who was already a thin team at the beginning of the year, suffered another big injury. Junior running back and linebacker Quasheem Taylor was lost for the entire second half after injuring his hand.

In the second half, Bridgeton managed to move the ball a little better, but a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions thrown by Ronald Williams to Terrence and Jalen Toney, respectively, halted those drives.

Williams did connect on one deep pass in the fourth, finding Miller for a 53-yard touchdown pass. Williams floated the ball over Miller’s shoulder, who caught the ball in stride down the right sideline for the score, cutting Middle Township’s lead to 22-12.

“We moved the ball in spurts, but it was not enough,” Ellen said. “We’ve got to come out with more fight than that. It didn’t happen. We were flat and it’s kind of the mark of a young team. Nobody really stepped up to take the bull by the horns.”

VDJ: Bridgeton gets back on track with win over Pleasantville

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Posted October 19, 2012
By John Russo
Special to the Daily Journal
Link.

PLEASANTVILLE — Stefon Bowman wasn’t going to be stopped.

After the Bridgeton High School tailback was stymied last week by St. Augustine’s stout defense, Bowman was able to find plenty of room to run on Pleasantville’s turf. The sophomore finished with 116 yards and three touchdowns in a 46-6 win over Pleasantville Friday night.

“He was a little frustrated the past two weeks,” head coach Dave Ellen said. “It was nice to see him get off a little bit this week.”

Because Bowman was held under the century mark in consecutive weeks against Buena and St. Augustine, it was big for him and the offensive line to get him over the 100-yard mark again.

Bowman was quick to acknowledge the five guys blocking for him after the game.

“First, I just want to thank my linemen,” Bowman said. “They did good tonight and helped me get free and do what I had to do and get back to what I did before. I haven’t had a 100-yard game in two games.”

Everyone noticed, even Ellen, that Bowman seemed to be running faster this week. But the sophomore insisted “it was still the same speed.”

The entire Bulldog running game was let loose, combining for 296 yards. Sophomore Cappadonna Miller rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown and junior Quasheem Taylor added 91 yards and two touchdowns of his own.

Ellen praised Taylor’s speed after the game.

“I think if you watch him he plays at one speed,” Ellen said. “He’s one of those kids that plays with a real high motor. And he’s very quick. He’s exciting to watch.”

After Bridgeton forced a punt, Taylor burst through the middle from 45 yards out to give his team a 26-0 lead.

Taylor said after the game that he tried to show more patience on his other touchdown run, which came in the third quarter. He received a pitch from quarterback Ronald Williams, and after finding a hole to run through, dashed up the right side for 46 yards for the score.

“I’m just trying to stay patient,” Taylor said. “Like with that first (touchdown run) I had, I was just trying to get out there and go. But (on the second run) I tried to just calm myself down and get going.”

The defense for Bridgeton put points up on the board as well. Sophomore Nazir Williams scooped a bad snap that went over the head of Pleasantville quarterback Che’quan Hargose and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs had three interceptions by Taylor, Ronald Williams and Miller. They also held the Greyhounds to only 161 yards of total offense from scrimmage.

“I thought we did a good job defensively, had a couple nice turnovers,” Ellen said. “When they started rolling a little bit we stopped them each time with a pick or a fumble.”

VDJ: Cass makes history as St. Augustine football bests Bridgeton

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Published October 12, 2012
By John Russo
Special to the Daily Journal
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BUENA VISTA TWP. — It was a historic night for St. Augustine Prep running back Calvin Cass.

The senior became only the third Hermit in school history to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a season, doing so in a 40-6 win over Bridgeton. The Hermits improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2009.

In the third quarter, on a 1st-and-10 from the Bulldog 15-yard line, Cass ran up the middle for 14 yards, putting him over the millennium mark. On the next play, he scored from a yard out to give the Hermits a 21-6 lead with 3:37 left in the period.

“It’s more of a team accolade than an individual accolade,” Cass said.

He then went on to credit his offensive line with the milestone, a true act of humility.

“(Our offensive line) has been amazingly strong,” Cass said. “After my last touchdown I told each one of them I loved them. I love these guys. I might even take them out to dinner every once in a while.”

 

The special part about Cass’ feat is that he did it only five games into the season. He, nor head coach Mark Reardon, saw him doing it this fast.

“It’s awesome,” Reardon said. “And it’s not always pretty yards. He grinds it out. He gets hit a boatload.”

Cass finished the game with 192 yards on 28 carries, finding the end zone four times. But it wasn’t a cake walk for Cass, who was held to only 49 yards and a touchdown at the halfway point by a young Bridgeton defense.

“I thought our defense did a real good job. It’s been like two games in a row that they put together a nice game,” Bridgeton head coach Dave Ellen said. “I think we were set for their up-tempo type offense. We were getting the calls in earlier. Our kids were ready and we were making plays.”

The Hermits also forced five turnovers from Bridgeton, picking off Bulldogs quarterback Ronald Williams three times. Two of the turnovers came from Ryan Piscitelli, who picked off a Williams pass in the second quarter and recovered a fumble in the fourth.

Along with the turnovers, the Hermits’ goal was to wear down the Bulldogs’ defense. After Cass’ 1-yard scoring run, the flood gates opened.

On the ensuing kickoff, Bridgeton’s Stefon Bowman fumbled and the Hermits started on the Bulldogs’ 26. Three plays later, Robert Coursey scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to give St. Augustine a 28-6 lead.

In the fourth, Cass scored his third and fourth touchdowns, from 58 and 17 yards out, respectively, all within a three-minute span.

“That is our dynamic every week,” Reardon said. “We want to hurry up. We want to run as many plays as we can and we want to wear you down.”

VDJ: Bridgeton football blanked by Hammonton 41-0

By John Russo
Special to the Daily Journal
Link

HAMMONTON — The Bridgeton High School football team ran into a huge wall Friday night in Hammonton.

On their home turf, the Blue Devils earned head coach Pete Lancetta his 200th career win with a 41-0 rout of the Bulldogs.

“He’s a class guy, done a fantastic job. I’m sad it came against us, but I’m happy for him as a coach and he’s a guy I consider to be a friend,” Bridgeton head coach Dave Ellen said.

Ellen, who has 76 wins with Bridgeton, added, “I’m a long ways away, but that’s what you shoot for is a program like he’s built (in Hammonton).”

 

Before the game, Ellen recognized that Hammonton was a physical team up front and would try to control the line of scrimmage and grind the clock all game.

Hammonton did just that, never letting the Bulldogs out of the gate. After Dylan Mento picked off Bridgeton quarterback Ronald Williams’ pass on the Bulldogs’ first possession, running back David Williams scored on a 29-yard run to give the Blue Devils a 6-0 lead.

On the very next kickoff, Bridgeton’s Cappadonna Miller fumbled to set up Michael Carnesale’s 21-yard touchdown reception. It set the tone in a 34-0 first quarter in favor of Hammonton.

“(Hammonton) executes really well on offense, and defensively they run that (base 50 defense) and they’re good up front,” Ellen said. “We just couldn’t get anything going.”

After forcing a three-and-out on Bridgeton’s next possession, Hammonton blocked Quasheem Taylor’s punt, setting up a 1st-and-goal, on which David Williams scored on a 2-yard run to give Hammonton a 20-0 lead.

Hammonton piled on from there as Dylan Rosu scored on a 4-yard run and a Devon Porteons hauled in a 10-yard TD catch from quarterback Christian Mortellite to give the Blue Devils a 34-0 lead.

Ronald Williams couldn’t complete a pass for the Bulldogs until the second half. He was able to only complete two of his 11 attempts for 30 yards, both to Miller in the second half.

The Blue Devils stuffed Bridgeton’s running game as well, holding the Bulldogs to only 30 yards. Sophomore Stefon Bowman had only 19 yards on 15 carries.

Playing a part in Bridgeton’s inability to run the ball was losing junior center Tim Yates. Yates injured his knee early in the first quarter and never returned to the game.

The injury, along with the three huge defensive plays by Hammonton put Bridgeton into an early panic mode and it never recovered.

“I think Timmy going out, we’re so thin, and he’s one of our leaders on the field,” Ellen said. “I think that happened and the quick score. We have to react better. We talked about that before against Cedar Creek and we have to do a better job.”

Monday Morning Quarterback: Bridgeton Week 3

Game Notes vs Ocean City (W 28-14)

Bridgeton scored on their very first play from scrimmage at the new stadium on a 44-yard touchdown run by Stefon Bowman… Cappadonna Miller returned a fumble on the kickoff for 13 yards for Bridgeton’s first defensive touchdown of the season… The Bulldogs had two touchdowns before they even managed a first down… Despite boasting a small secondary Bridgeton has forced an interception in each of their first three games… Bowman is averaging 6.78 yards a carry, and the team is averaging 180 yards per game through the first three games despite having an offensive line that features two freshmen and one senior.

Player of the Week - Junior RB/LB Quasheem Taylor

Taylor rushed for touchdowns of 2 and 17 yards respectively. The two scores gave him a team high three touchdowns on the season. He also made a pair of 4th down stops in the second half against Ocean City.

Quotes of the Week

“It had us fired up a lot because we knew our fans were going to be here and everything and we were just hyped, real hyped.”

-Junior Quasheem Taylor on getting a win on the new field.

“The kids got together at film – it was nothing that I did – but really we were promising each other not to let that ever happen again. And no prompting from me which made me feel like this team has the right attitude to correct their mistakes.”

-Head coach Dave Ellen on how his team bounced back after a 35-6 loss to Cedar Creek.

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