Eustaceís Constantine showing young ice squad how itís done

POSTED: December 26, 2009

By Phil Anastasia

Inquirer Columnist

"That's really not me," Constantine said of the oratory requirements implicit in that "C" that's attached to his Bishop Eustace Prep ice hockey sweater.

Constantine is a captain of a young team that is struggling to find its footing through the early part of the season. The Crusaders are 1-5 exactly one year after they greeted the 2008 holiday season as the No. 1 team in the state.

Constantine, a senior center from Haddon Township, was a big part of that top-ranked team. He's an even bigger part of this year's team.

"Mark has played with some really good players on some really good teams," Bishop Eustace coach Mike Green said. "This year is different. We're really young, and our skill level and experience level isn't there yet.

"Mark is doing a great job of mentoring the young kids."

Constantine, who shares the captain's role with senior defenseman Mike Durelli, knows that part of his responsibility is to talk to the younger players. He would rather show them.

"I'm a captain, so I know that's my job," Constantine said. "I'd much rather lead by example and I think I do that. But I know I have to talk to the younger players, try to keep their spirits up and try to keep things positive.

"Mike (Durelli) and I both try to do that. It's not my nature. I'd rather just play and try to lead that way. But I have to do what I have to do."

Green said Constantine sets a great example for the team's younger players - one shift at a time.

"The thing that impresses me most about Mark is that his play never changes," Green said. "He plays the game the right way. He doesn't (over-extend himself) on the ice. He works as hard at the defensive end as he does at the offensive end.

"He works in the corners every shift. He does the little things that really don't produce a lot of glory. But when you have a player like Mark doing that every shift, that really impresses our younger players that this is the way we want to play hockey."

Constantine knew this season was going to be a struggle on the scoreboard for the Crusaders.

Bishop Eustace lost 13 seniors from last year's team, which spent much of the season as the No. 1 squad in the state, according njpoweranking.com. The Crusaders finished 22-6, with a No. 3 ranking.

Bishop Eustace also lost a couple of talented juniors from last season's team, including leading scorer Jamie Hill. The speedy forward from Glassboro skipped his senior year at Bishop Eustace to play junior hockey in the United States Hockey League to help prepare for his collegiate career at the University of New Hampshire.

Constantine also is planning to play junior hockey. He has drawn strong interest from colleges such as Holy Cross, Yale and Connecticut. But like most Division I recruits, Constantine is likely to play a season or two in a junior league such as the USHL, or perhaps in Canada's "Junior A" circuit in the Ontario Provincal Hockey League.

"I've been talking with a few teams," Constantine said. "I'm going to finish at Eustace and graduate, and then probably go play juniors for a year or two."

For now, Constantine is concentrating on making the most of his senior season. It hasn't been easy, but the Crusaders and their captain are seeing some progress.

Bishop Eustace opened the season Dec. 2 with a 9-1 loss at Christian Brothers Academy. Constantine had the team's only goal. Two days later, he scored two goals and generated three assists in the Crusaders' lone victory, a 6-5 triumph over Bergen Catholic.

In a rematch with CBA on Monday afternoon, the Crusaders were tied 1-1 after one period, behind by 2-1 after two periods and battled to the end of a 5-2 loss.

As usual, Constantine was the Crusaders' best player. He had a goal and an assist, and made play after play at the defensive end and near center ice to help slow down the Colts' high-powered attack.

"He's a top player," CBA coach Ryan Bogan said. "You can see how much he does for them."

Green thought Constantine's play was especially instructive for the team's younger players.

"He could have scored a couple goals and maybe got a couple of assists and we could have lost 10-4," Green said. "But Mark plays the game the right way. The little things that he does every shift are the reason we're able to play a competitive game against a team like that."

Constantine is a smart kid. He probably could explain all that to his teammates, if necessary.

He'd rather jump on the ice, shift after shift, and show them.

 


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223 or panastasia@phillynews.com