Members of the St. Joe’s student section, The Rowdies, flaunted their fat heads of Marauders coach Rich Crozier with pride Saturday afternoon at Northtown Center in Amherst.
They also spelled out R-I-C-H and chanted “Rich! Rich! Rich!” as a token of respect and appreciation following the team’s 5-0 victory over Orchard Park.
That’s because Crozier achieved something no other hockey coach in St. Joe’s esteemed Federation history has ever done. The 44-year-old earned his 250th career win with his alma mater.
Crozier is in his 12th season with the Marauders and is 250-50-25 all-time, having guided the program to six state Catholic titles over the past eight seasons.
Folks in the Feature Rink held up little signs that read “250” as the final seconds ticked off. There was a photo op with Crozier and the team posing while holding a congratulations banner with team logo and victory total with The Rowdies in the background.
The milestone is special but there’s more to 250 than the number to Crozier, the son of former Buffalo Sabres coach and American Hockey League Hall of Famer Joe Crozier.
It’s a symbol of commitment and the commitment to excellence for everyone involved in the program.
“This isn’t my 250, this is the program’s,” said Rich Crozier, who after a postgame-meal celebration with players and parents went to visit his father to give him the game puck.
“We have a great team behind us,” he said. “So a big thank you to all of those people that have been a big part of it: student-athletes, parents, administration and wonderful assistant coaches. … Today’s a special day for all of us.”
His assistants include Michael Murphy, Sean Elliott, Don Held and Chris Bradley. Murphy, Elliott and Held have been with Crozier since Day One. So too has his wife Becky, who he also thanked for her support.
Since St. Joe’s has the deepest hockey program top to bottom in the area, the path to 250 wins may seem anticlimactic to some people. There are kids who attend the school just for the opportunity to play the sport.
Winning and doing so consistently at a championship level is hard. It takes lots of work not to mention patience, faith, trust and selflessness.
There’s no doubt Crozier has his players’ backs.
He showed that three weeks ago with senior goalie Joseph Fronczak. The Marauders rallied to defeat rival Canisius 5-3, scoring four third-period goals. With Canisius scoring three times on its first nine shots (including one goofy goal), it could have been easy for Crozier to switch goalies and hope that provided a spark for his team. Instead, he stuck with the kid – who otherwise has been having a phenomenal season serving as the final line of defense. Fronczyk made a big save late in that game to preserve that win.
On Saturday Fronczyk stopped all 21 shots he faced as he combined on the shutout with Corey Westfall, who came on midway through the third period.
“It’s a blessing having a guy like that,” Fronczyk said. “You’re able to talk to him if you have any problem. Even today we came out really slow in the second period. He called a timeout and we were able to score right away. He’s a great guy and a coach.”
That’s not the first instance of Crozier doing that, and it won’t be last.
“These are high school kids who make mistakes,” Crozier said. “I learned that a long time ago. … But we don’t have this like dictatorship, or you make a mistake you’re never playing again. That doesn’t work with high school kids. You lose a kid. Today I put my arm around a player who was struggling. I just told him ‘I love you. I believe in you. You’re a great hockey player. You’re a better person.’ Knowing your coach loves you … even when you make a mistake it goes a long way.
“It is about the relationships,” Crozier said. “If you don’t treat people well, you’re in deep trouble. … Forget about the 250 wins. Over the years I made 250 friends because of this job.”