By Brian Good
SHSHL NATIONAL - TRUMAN: The Ups and Downs of the Tigers
When you ask someone the biggest difference between “A” hockey and “AA” hockey in the SHSHL, you get one answer more than any other -- depth.
“AA” teams have deeper programs with more involvement, and while the skill level of the top few players on teams may be similar, the “A” teams don’t have the numbers to compete with “AA”.
No team knows more about the difference between the two levels than Truman. The Tigers have switched classifications three times over the past five seasons, and after an SHSHL American division championship at the “A” level last season, they were once again moved back up to the higher level, something that has hindered their success.
“When you’re playing at this level against Central Bucks West and Central Bucks South from a school like Truman, it’s really hard and I’m not sure we will ever truly be contenders with them,” said Truman head coach Bill Keyser “Those teams’ third lines can compete with our first line, and we don’t have the depth of players to compete with that. The Neshaminys, the Pennsburys - those teams we can compete with, so it’s really just that top of the divisions that pull away.”
Truman has a total of just 13 skaters on the roster, meaning the Tigers struggle to even put together more than two lines at a time due to the lack of bodies.
However, the talent at the top of the roster for the Tigers is just as good as any team’s and keeps them around in a lot of games against the much bigger programs.
Michael Roarty leads the league in points with 21, and his line mate, Steve Avellino, has added 15 points of his own, 10 of which have been goals, as the Tigers boast a powerful one-two punch on their top line.
“Micahel Roarty is a senior and just a great player and sees the ice so well,” said Keyser. “He’s so shifty and a real finesse player that wins with skill. Steve Avellino is just a sophomore, a tall lanky kid, and pretty much the future of this hockey team. He’s not as shifty as Roarty, but he’s skilled, and when I keep them together, they feed off each other and score for us when we need it.”
The challenge of moving up and down between divisions has taken its toll on the Tigers, but they won’t let the up and down seasons discourage them. They’re a team that even with the lack of numbers, currently sits in second place in the SHSHL National at 3-5-0.
SHSHL CONTINENTAL – PENNRIDGE: Rams are on the Rise
Ken Doak brings plenty of experience to his position as head coach of Pennridge. A veteran coach in the club circuit, the first-year coach has the Rams playing at a high level and getting better each and every week.
“This is a close group that has been together for a while,” said Doak. “They’re fast and very skilled and can score well, I’ve really seen a lot from them so far.”
The Rams are right in the thick of things in the most competitive division in the league, the SHSHL Continental.
With undefeated CB West, Doak’s old team, CB South, North Penn and Souderton, it’s a deep group of teams, and each can win on any given night. The Rams find themselves in the middle of the pack with a 4-3-2 record.
This past week was perhaps their most promising of the year. They started it off with an 8-1 thumping of North Penn and added a 6-3 victory over CB East to close it out.
“We knew what we wanted to do against North Penn, which was run a real hard forecheck,” said Doak. “We have the speed and skill set to keep that up because if you’re going to run a heavy forecheck, you better be good back checkers and we are. We came out, didn’t turn the puck over and that turned into a lot of chances for us and we capitalized.”
A big reason the Rams are able to keep up that pressure and pace with skill has been the emergence of leading scorer Luke Slater.
Slater leads the team in points (18) and is tied for second in the league in goals (12), and while he’s always been a solid player, his coach has seen some remarkable improvement in his game from last year to this year.
“He had an okay year last year, but he has just been on fire this year,” said Doak of Slater. “He just wants it more this year and this is such a tight group, that closeness has not only improved Luke but it’s improved all of them, and that’s what you need in order to be a great team.”
Luke Slater’s younger brother Eric Slater (8 points), Josh Finlayson (13 points) and Patrick McGinley (11 points) have each been a crucial part of the Rams’ explosive scoring attack this year as well and look to be getting stronger as the year goes on.
“Pat McGinley just doesn’t stop. I wish I had a team full of him because he’s like the Energizer Bunny,” said Doak. “Finlayson is off to a real nice start too and then you have Eric Slater who has been playing so well for us the past couple weeks, so I like how we look right now for the most part.”
As well as the team’s offense has played, the defense and goaltending is young and inconsistent, which has held the squad back at times. When opponents are able to push past the forecheck and get opportunities, it often ends up hurting the Rams.
Luckily for them, as the team continues to play together and develop a chemistry, the inexperience will fade, and they’ll begin to see improvement from their defensive zone.
Coach Doak may have left one of the powerhouses in the area when he departed from CB South, but it looks as though he’s on his way to building something special for Pennridge as well.
SHSHL AMERICAN – ABINGTON: Hard Work & Teamwork Trademarks of the Ghosts
Right now, The SHSHL American division seems to be a three-team race between Archbishop Wood, Wissahickon and Plymouth Whitemarsh. However, behind those three teams is Abington, which has battled hard all season long and has shown that it can compete with the stronger teams in the division by working harder and playing smart hockey.
“The identity of this team is definitely hard work and teamwork,” said assistant coach Rob Gerlach. “And we’ve been using that all season long to compete with the top teams when we’re maybe not as skilled throughout the roster.”
At 2-4-1 and sitting in fifth place in the division, it may be hard for some to see the hard work paying off, but the Ghosts have simply not gotten some of the close games to go their way.
A pair of two-goal losses in close games to Hatboro Horsham and Wissahickon early in the season set them back a bit. Then this past week, they just caught a hot goaltender in Hatboro Horsham’s Ryan Bell as they earned a tie with the Hatters.
Perry Carpenter, Ryan Gossellin, and Andrew Profit lead the group of hard workers and won’t let a few bad results stop the team from improving and moving forward.
“In that Hatboro Horsham game and all those close games, I’ve seen a lot of passion from everyone on the ice,” said Gerlach. “Against Hatboro Horsham this past week, I felt like we controlled the game. Their goalie was just great and we made two defensive mistakes that cost us a game we think we could have had.”
Carpenter isn’t just leading with his hard work and determination, but he’s putting together a great season on the scoresheet too.
He currently leads the team with 18 points in just seven games and by averaging over two points per game is allowing others to learn from his consistency.
“He (Carpenter) has been rock solid,” said Gerlach. “Every game I know I can count on him to give us that production on offense and he’s always just a leader out there.”
It’s been a somewhat unlucky start to the season for the Ghosts as they’ve fallen in a few games that they could’ve won. However, the hard work from their leaders and the scoring they’re getting from Carpenter could turn the season around down the stretch.
SHSHL 3 STARS OF THE WEEK
1. John Sciarrone, F, Plymouth Whitemarsh– 2 Goals 1 Assists
Sciarrone is at the top of the list this week not for the number of times he scored, but rather for when he did it. He netted both of his team’s goal in the third period in their pivotal 6-5 win over fellow SHSHL American foe Wissahickon. The Colonials are already a dangerous team with Luke Brzozowski, Dean Keller and Chris Zawislak starting the season on fire. If they can continue to get clutch performances from guys like Sciarrone it could lift them even higher.
2. CB West Goaltenders (Jonah Brous and Jeremy Kennard) – 29 SV on 30 SOG, .967 SV%
CB West has had some big wins in the past couple of weeks, and last week brought on another challenge in Souderton. Both goalies (Brous and Kennard) were up to the task, stopping all but one shot and guiding their team to a 6-1 win. Brous has been fantastic all season long, and with Kennard and fellow goaltender Patrick Ventresca, the Bucks have an embarrassment of riches between the pipes.
3. Ryan Bell, G, Hatboro Horsham – 46 SV on 50 SOG, .920 SV%
There won’t be many weeks where a goalie gives up four goals, doesn’t win his start and makes this list but this week is the exception. Bell made 46 saves against division rival Abington to ensure his team got out of the game with a tie and basically kept them in it the entire night as his offense managed just 29 shots of their own. This was a big rebound game for Bell after an off performance against Archbishop Wood, and he answered the call.
SHSHL LEAGUE WEEK 4 LEADERS
1.Michael Roarty (TRU) – 21
1.Gabe Evans (SOU) – 14
1.Andrew Galetta (NP) – 8
T-2.Matt Stoll (CBS) – 20
T-2.Bryan McIntosh (CBE) – 12
T-2.Jack McKeever (WT) – 7
T-2.Andrew Galetta (NP) – 20
T-2.Michael Roarty (TRU) – 12
T-2. Sean Ovington (WT) – 10
T-4.Luke Slater (PR) – 18
T-2.Luke Slater (PR) – 12
T-2.Joe Anton (CBW) – 10
T-4.Gabe Evans (SOU) – 18
5.Matt Stoll(CRS) – 11
T-2.Josh Finlayson (PR) – 10
1.Timothy Cordero (AW) – 28
1.Ari Nordlinger (UD) – 19
1.Timothy Cordero (AW) – 16
2.Ari Nordlinger (UD) – 25
2.Luke Brzozowski (PW) – 16
2.Brandon Cullura (AW) – 11
3.Patrick Sheehan (AW) – 24
3.Dean Keller (PW) – 15
T-3.Patrick Sheehan (AW) – 10
T-4. Dean Keller (PW) – 22
T-4.Sean Garry (WIS) – 14
T-3. Nolan Piatkowski (WIS) – 10
T-4.Luke Brzozowski (PW) – 22
T-4.Patrick Sheehan (AW) – 14
T-5.Matt Wilson (WIS) – 9
T-5.Chris Zawislak (PW) – 9