By Len Bardsley
Feb. 17, 2006
While some people may have their preconceived notions about New Jersey, for Johnstown Chiefs coach Frank Anzalone the Garden State offered a perfect change of scenery and a breath of fresh air many years ago.
Anzalone enjoys coming to Sovereign Bank Arena to face the Titans because of his New Jersey memories and with Mike Acosta in the Titans’ lineup on Feb. 17-18 the visit will be especially satisfying for the Chiefs coach.
They may be adversaries now, but the last time Anzalone and Acosta were part of the same game in New Jersey they were winning a state title together for Toms River North in 1992.
Anzalone figures his year in Toms River was a hockey version of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Not for the Toms River North team, but for Frank Anzalone.
Anzalone came to Toms River North in desperate need of a kick-start to his career and his hockey motivation. He was one of the most successful college coaches at Lake Superior State, winning the NCAA title in 1988 and putting together a seven-year mark of 191-108-22 mark before taking a job at Newmarket in the American Hockey League.
A tough season at Newmarket was followed by an abbreviated stint with the Nashville Knights in the ECHL and soon Anzalone found himself out of professional hockey. He brought his family to his father-in-law’s two-bedroom apartment in Whiting, New Jersey, looking for direction.
Julio Acosta, who had played against Anzalone in the New York Metropolitan League growing up and had followed his career, heard Anzalone had moved into town. Acosta, who had two sons, Mike and J.P., playing on the Toms River North team figured he might be able to help out Anzalone, while helping out the Mariners.
“I told Frank this could be an opportunity to get his life together and move forward,” said Julio Acosta. It didn’t take much convincing from Acosta to get Anzalone behind the bench, one look at the Toms River North jersey was all it took.