Josh Neville has been going fast all his life.
The was his speed has been generated, however, has changed over the years.
Neville is currently cranking it up on ice, as he is one of numerous scoring threats on the Notre Dame High School ice hockey team. He got his first taste of varsity action last season and chipped in with three goals and three assists.
Unlike so many club/high school players who laced up skates before they did anything else, Neville had to evolve into a hockey player. In fact, his feet were hitting a gas pedal well before they hit the ice, and, in fact, long before he had his driver’s license.
“I used to be big into race car driving,” he said. “I used to drive the little quarter midgets at a dirt track in Atco (in South Jersey). It’s basically a drag strip but they have a little dirt track behind it. My whole family is big into racing. It started with my grandparents on down. I was 5 years old, and you’re allowed to do it at that age. It was good times. I loved it.”
But he began cheating on his first love a few years later. In 2010, the last year the Flyers were in the Stanley Cup finals, Neville attended a game at the Wells Fargo Center in second grade. Suddenly, racing had competition for his attention.
“I went to that Flyers game and it started off that year,” he said. “I fell in love with the game and just knew that’s what I wanted to do from there on. We were traveling all over the East Coast (for midget racing) but hockey came first in the end.”
Neville began his career playing for Chris Barcless at Iceland in Hamilton, and participated in the Mercer Chiefs in-house league. At age 10 he joined the Lawrence Flames and “It all took off from there.”
‘Josh has matured a great deal on and off the ice since I coached him as a freshman… He works hard and expects a lot of himself.’
He quit racing the next year and has become a full-fledged rink rat. While he misses zipping around a track in a car, the thrill of gliding on blades more than makes up for it.
“There’s nothing like skating in the cold,” he said. “The wind, the sound of the puck, the ice chopping up. There’s just nothing like it.”
Upon arriving at Notre Dame, Neville played junior varsity as a freshman and played under then-JV coach Mike McVey. This year McVey took over as varsity coach and feels his center has come a long way from ninth grade.
“Josh has matured a great deal on and off the ice since I coached him as a freshman,” McVey said. “He is a very emotional player. He has shown the ability to better control that part of him, and turn it into success on the ice. He works hard and expects a lot of himself. He is a great team guy on and off the ice.”
Irish teammate Jack Govan, who also plays for the Lawrence Flames, echoes his coach’s sentiments about Neville’s emotional restraint.
“When things are getting heated or high intensity, he knows when to cool down and not lash out,” Govan said. “I feel like Josh is a really dynamic player. He’s good in the sense that he can pass very well and he’s a good skater. He has a really good mindset of the game. He knows where to be on the ice and when to make a pass or take a shot or hold the puck.”
When Neville was promoted to varsity last year, he only scored in three games; but had multi-point efforts in each one as he got a goal and an assist apiece against Steinert, West Windsor-Plainsboro South and Paul VI.
Neville has always played forward, but noted “my (club) coach had me playing a little D this year but it wasn’t working out.”
Most likely because his skills are better suited to playing up front. One of his best attributes is having an awareness of where his linemates are at all times. He also has leadership abilities, which is what McVey is counting on from him. The coach also feels Neville is better in the defensive end than he gives himself credit for.
“I want him to lead and play both ends of the ice,” McVey said. “He is a great two-way player. He’s definitely good on the defensive end. He has the ability to play forward or defense, which will be very valuable as we get deeper into the season. And he is on one of our top two lines and surrounded by players we are looking to have a big impact offensively.
Which works out just fine for Neville, who enjoys helping his teammates make an impact.
“I’m a little bit of both,” he said when asked if he is a scorer or playmaker. “I’m less selfish though. I like to pass more. I like to have the other guys score more than me.”
That seemed to be the mantra of Notre Dame in the early going, as everyone was getting in on the act. In the Irish’s first two games, 11 different players scored ND’s first 17 goals and 16 different players had points.
“I think we’re a good team,” said Neville, who hopes to play club hockey at maybe Liberty or Drexel. “Hopefully we can make a good run in the Mercer County Tournament. With coach Mike this year, it’s more that we’re here to win. It’s not just skill development. We’re trying to win games.”