Putting a Rivalry on Ice

Franklin Markel, staff writer

Matt Darata and Shane Cook both had similar childhoods. Growing up in New Providence, attending Salt Brook Elementary School, and hockey. Going into High School, and seeing all their friends sign up for New Providence sports, seeing no hockey team must have been demoralizing. Luckily, there was a solution. The recent addition of a co-op program between Governor Livingston and New Providence is giving kids like Darata and Cook a chance to play High School hockey. For four months in the winter, all rivalries between schools go aside, at least on the hockey rink. 

Cook is the varsity starting goalie. He benefited from having time to learn the High School level last season, and now as a sophomore he’s putting up close to state leading numbers when it comes to saves. Being a freshman backup has really helped Cook: “I have learned to be confident in the net and be a leader on the team. Communicating with my defenseman which I learned from last year is a huge part of playing goalie. Also, that my team believes in me which is a big part of a successful team.” 

Cook doesn’t feel awkward about the co-op: “It’s a little weird at first, but now I’m used to it. It’s fun to play for two different teams and seeing two different student sections.” 

Another benefit of the co-op is on the coaching side. New Providence teacher Mike Criscitello is also the head coach of the hockey program. Cook had very high praise for his teacher and coach. “Coach has given me the opportunity as a freshman and now as a sophomore to play varsity level hockey. This has allowed me to improve my game substantially. Also, he has gotten a goalie coach, Coach Travis, who has taught me a lot about being a goaltender.”

For varsity forward Darata, his sophomore season has been pretty similar to his freshman one, lots of goals. In High School Darata has scored more than he ever has before, and that’s almost certainly because until last year he was a defenseman:  “Coming in as a freshman I had never played the forward position. He taught me all I needed to know about the game to be successful. Also just giving me the opportunity to play at this level of hockey.”

Darata isn’t the biggest player, but he uses his hard work to make up for his size. He, like Cook, thanks coach Criscitello for that. Darata also has strict team first goals, “To play my hardest everyday and do all in my power to help the team. No point totals I want to reach because if I i give my best effort the stats will come with it.” 

Neither of these kids attend GL, but they’ll both go through anything to help the Highlanders be successful. Both have been electric this season, and unfortunately for the rest of the state of New Jersey, they’re just getting started.