Article courtesy of Darren Cooper,

WAYNE – Early this season, Don Bosco coach Greg Toskos looked at practice and swore that senior centerman Mickey Burns had gotten faster.

“His commitment off the ice has turned him into an exceptional hockey player,” said Toskos. “Last year he was great, he got offered a scholarship, this year he’s taken it to a different level.”

Thanks to Burns, who had a goal and assist, and his speedy running mates, the Ironmen (16-0-1) claimed their seventh straight Bergen County Tournament title Wednesday night at the Ice Vault, taking down a physical but overmatched Indian Hills squad, 6-1.

It’s not quite time to discuss whether or not the Ironmen may be better served not playing in the county tournament, honestly, where else are they going to go? They have won the seven county finals by an average of margin of three goals in the finals. But it may be time to look at whether this Don Bosco ice hockey team is the best it’s ever had.

The Ironmen have had an ice hockey program dating back to 1966, and it has yet to win a state championship, losing in the finals three times. Delbarton has always been the biggest road block, but earlier this season the Ironmen topped the Green Wave, 3-0. They two teams meet Sunday back at the Ice Vault at 6 p.m. and could see each other two more times down the road.

“Honestly, it’s a big game because it’s a possible two more points in the Gordon Conference for us,” said Toskos when asked about Sunday.

While Burns, who has committed to Vermont, has become the Don Bosco headliner, he is not alone. Senior defenseman John Campomenosi, “Campo” to everyone, is a third generation ice hockey player at Don Bosco and was named Tournament MVP (Burns won it in 2017). Toskos still remembers the defense he played in the state semifinals last year against Pope John, and the way he changed the game against Princeton Day this year in one shift.

“There were Division 1 players all over the ice, and Campo didn’t like the way we were playing so in one shift, he put up two clean, massive checks,” said Toskos. “He didn’t say anything, but it changed the way we played. Two minutes later, Burns scored and we win the game. I have seen that over and over, his ability to change the game at any moment.”

Burns has speed to, well, burn. He entered Wednesday night’s game with a team-high 15 goals and 29 assists. At one point in the third period, he maintained the puck long enough to circle the offensive zone twice by himself with the Braves in pursuit.

“A coach sent me a text the other night and paid Mickey the highest compliment I have ever seen a Don Bosco player get,” said Toskos. “He said Mickey is the best high school hockey player he’s seen since [CBA graduate] James van Riemsdyk, and the coach is right.”

But Burns is not just an offensive catalyst, he’s become a two-way player, establishing himself defensively with back checks.

Off the ice, the three captains, Burns, Campo and George Weiner, who had a third period goal, come across respectful and kind. Toskos tells another story about how when the captains were chosen, it was a difficult decision. You can only have so many certified leaders on the team, but without hesitation, the troika decided that even though he didn’t wear a C, senior Graham Garlasco would get the sacred hockey honor of having the “captain’s cubicle” in the locker room.

Then when the Ironmen wanted to honor Kai Woods, the 5-year old son of a Navy Seal who died in Benghazi, it was the captain’s idea to make a short hype video for Kai to watch, inviting him to come up to the Ramsey school. When Kai came, he was given the full “Ironmen for a Day” treatment.

“All my senior kids are like this, polite and respectful,” said Toskos. “They think a lot about what the right thing to do is off the ice.”

Toskos and his staff meet with the captains before every season and have dinner together. They discuss team goals and aspirations, and also silly things like, pasta parties, laser tags, who sits where on the bus.

No doubt the Ironmen voiced that they want to get a state championship. They looked like winners Wednesday night. And Toskos is right, what they do off the ice may end up being the difference in what happens on the ice.