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03/16/2023 08:08 AM

Garea a 1st Team All-SCC Stopper for Yellowjackets Hockey

Senior goalkeeper JP Garea recently earned First Team All-SWC/SCC Division II honors for the East Haven boys’ ice hockey co-op team, which made the state tournament for the 36th consecutive campaign with a 9-8-2 regular season record. Photo courtesy of JP Garea

When he was younger, JP (Jon-Paul) Garea was told by his peers that he should be a stopper for anything and everything due to his stature. Years later, he combined his size with solid substance to be a superb stopper in net for the East Haven boys’ ice hockey co-op team.

The senior Yellowjackets’ goalkeeper began playing hockey at the age of 7. He then stepped between the pipes during Bantam hockey when that squad’s starter moved onto high school. From there, JP has never looked back, compiling numbers of an .872 save percentage and 2.8 goals allowed per game to earn First Team All-SWC/SCC for Division II in helping 9-8-2 East Haven extend its streak of state tournament seasons to 36 as the Yellowjackets also reached the Division II State Tournament quarterfinals.

“I was always a big guy and so tall. People told me I should be blocking everything, but it is about technique and positioning more than size as a goalie,” says Garea. “Being named First Team means a lot to me, because I set a goal to make Second Team, but I exceeded that goal. My jaw dropped when [Head Coach Lou Pane] told me the news. I work hard every day, and my teammates and coaches push me. I keep going to practice every day and putting in 110%. I’ve also gone to goalie camps in the offseason and get as much ice time as I can.”

While he has certainly carved out his own niche in the crease, JP details that another key part of his development over the years has been the always-crucial mental game with not letting a score undo his mind in front of the net.

“I have been working out and working hard on positioning, which has helped me,” JP says. “I also have been working on turning any negatives into positives. I was also horrible at making saves at my low blocker, but it is now a strong point for me. Every time I gave up a goal, I wanted to break my stick, but my goalie coaches taught me to just go for a quick skate after a goal allowed. When I give up a goal, I tell myself that it is time to get really dialed in and that I cannot let any more goals in, so we have a chance to win.”

While JP did not carry a captain’s designation for his senior season on the ice, he certainly made sure to carry himself like one both in and out of every rink the Yellowjackets traversed. He explains that when you have youngsters and the future brood of the program emulates you, you have to set up terrific templates.

“Being a senior leader on this team means a lot to me,” says JP. “I did not get chosen as a captain, but I still acted like one. I tried to set examples for the younger kids and be a role model to them. You really have to set those examples, because as a senior, those younger guys really look up to you.”

Hockey is still very much on the horizon for JP’s future plans. He notes he may need to take some extra steps, though the game he has loved since his childhood is not going anywhere any time soon.

“I am looking to go play junior hockey for an EHL team,” JP says. “Then, I will go to community college before transitioning to playing college hockey. From there, I will hopefully get the offers from schools that I want in order to succeed.”

Pane notes that JP was at the center of the Yellowjackets’ triumphs and ascension in the standings while also being a great glue guy away from the net.

“JP has been our strength all year long. He has taken the team in certain games and carried us,” says Pane. “It is such a pleasure to see how much he has grown as a goaltender, and his future has so much upside. He has a great personality in the locker room, and he leads by example.”

Yet before he takes those steps towards the junior ranks of the rink, JP is very grateful and mindful of his tenure with East Haven and the impact this burgeoning family of siblings has had on his personal and professional growth as a young man.

“I had so much fun playing for East Haven,” says JP. “I made a lot of friends, and it really became a family with some big bonds between the guys. We see ourselves more as brothers than teammates. We always have each other’s backs on the ice. We look after each other, and we will always be that family.”