The New Jersey 87’s youth program will have a new look for the 2023-2024 season, introducing a new coaching staff and a 16u team to go along with the 18u squad.
Darius Radziszewski will be the head coach of the 18u team and assistant coach for the 16u team while Jack Lane will serve as the head coach for the 16u team and assistant coach for the 18u team. 87’s co-owner Matt Kiernan, who coached the 18u team for its first two seasons, will now serve as the youth hockey program director.
Radziszewski stepping into a new role
During the 2022-23 season, Radziszewski served as an assistant coach and director of player development. Prior to joining the 87’s, he was an assistant coach and interim head coach of the Corpus Christi Ice Rays in the North American Hockey League, and also coached the Jersey Hitmen of the USPHL.
Radziszewski, a New Jersey native, explained how his ties with the 87’s goes well before his coaching days. “I played for Adam Houli when I was 16 years old with the New Jersey Jr. Titans, so I’ve known him for about eight or nine years now. My sister also played for Matt Kiernan when she was 13, and my dad also coached mites for the Tom’s River Blackhawks, and his program would go up to Howell and play against the Titans when Jason DeRoschers was coaching there, so I’ve known these guys for a very long time.”
After wrapping up the 2021-22 season with the Ice Rays, Radziszewski joined the 87’s program in August of 2022. From there, he worked with Houli on the bench with the EHL team as well as the front office, working with the entire organization on the player development side.
He spoke about what he has picked up from the organization while working closely with Houli and Kiernan, and what it means to pick up a new role with the 87’s.
"The organization is exactly what you’d expect out of Adam and Matt and how good they are at what they do. How organized they are, how well-run the program is. If you’re from the outside, you can take a guess at what they’re like or how they run the organization, but once you’re inside the doors you really see how much they care about the players. It’s not about the business side of it or the money, or the egos of the whole thing, it’s about moving players on to the next level, doing what’s best for the players, and you can see that. It’s why they get such good players at every level, because they want to be there,” Radziszewski said.
Between his experience coaching at the junior level and working in player development, Radziszewski said it will translate to the youth level by getting the players to elevate their game while preparing them for juniors.
“Coaching in the North American League two years ago, and prior to that coaching with the Jersey Hitmen in the USPHL, I’ve always been in that junior level. But now going into youth, it’s exciting because I’ve been at the junior level already. It’s like I’ve gotten a behind-the-scenes look before I went back to youth and now I can prepare those kids on what that level looks like, so I’m excited for it,” Radziszewski said.
Lane makes the transition from player to coach
Jack Lane was one of the original 87’s, playing in the organization’s inaugural season in the EHLP during the 2017-18 campaign. He led the team in scoring with 60 points (21g, 39a) in 42 games before going on to the EHL level and recording 79 points (22g, 57a) in 66 games over the next two seasons. He eventually committed to Wilkes University, an NCAA Division III program.
Lane talked about his tenure with the 87’s as a player, and how it helped him grow both on and off the ice while getting him ready for college.
“With the 87’s I basically learned the actual game of hockey. When you’re young, you just want to toe drag around everyone and be a finesse guy, and there are so many other roles you can fill out as a hockey player. It was a little rough for me because I was that type of kid who would toe drag around everyone and think that’s it,” he said. “It was new to me too because the organization is run so professionally, I know Houli and Matt were pounding that into my head before I decided to go there. It was definitely one of the best decisions of my life going there because they taught me how to play hockey, they essentially formed me into a young adult and taught me things on and off the ice that will live with me forever.”
After wrapping up his college career and a brief stint in professional hockey with the Delaware Thunder of the FPHL, Lane became an assistant coach with the Jersey Shore Whalers, earning valuable experience at the youth hockey level. He spoke about the transition to coaching and what it means to now work for the organization he once played for.
“I would not have played college hockey if it wasn’t for them. After my two years at school, I wanted to return the favor. I was fortunate enough to coach with my buddy for the Jersey Shore Whalers as an assistant, and for me it was nerve-wracking at first because I’ve never had to address kids. But I learned a lot of things throughout the season and how to go about certain situations. Being a younger coach, I have a lot to learn, but you learn things when you try them. I’m very excited with this opportunity to coach for the 87’s, I know they have a great support staff, and each year it gets better and better,” Lane said.
He also noted his experience with the team’s systems and the 87 way, and how important it can be to any hockey team’s success.
“You don’t have to be the best team or have the best players, as long as you buy in to the systems and respect the culture they preach, you’re going to have a lot of success there, and you can see that now with the EHLP team winning their second championship,” Lane said. “It’s unreal as an organization and what they’ve done over the last five or six seasons, so I’m definitely happy to be a part of it.”
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