CR North, North Penn & Wissahickon are featured in this week’s SOL SHSHL Notebook which also includes Brian Good’s 3 Stars from last week as well as the point leaders from each conference. Photo provided courtesy of Dara N King Photography.
By Brian Good
SHSHL NATIONAL - CR NORTH: Growing Pains
Last season was a successful one for Council Rock North as they finished second in the SHSHL American Conference with a 13-4-1 record and clinched a Flyers Cup berth. However, this season has brought a new challenge for the Indians, as they moved from the A division up to AA.
The Indians have experienced some hardships with the reclassification. They’re off to a tough 0-5 start, but there are other factors leading to the drop in play besides the new opponents.
“We didn’t have any goalies to start the season,” said Council Rock North head coach Chris Gallagher. “We started with a position player volunteering to play even though that wasn’t their position. Then after the first game a ninth grade freshman girl that played goaltender for her travel hockey team contacted us and offered to play for us, and she’s been in net since.”
That girl, Madison Ambler, has added stability to a team that was in desperate need of a goaltender, and while her stats may not jump off the page just yet, she has done everything within her power to strengthen the team.
“She’s been phenomenal, and it would be a lot worse for us if she wasn’t back there,” said Gallagher of Ambler. “Our last game versus a very tough team in Souderton - she kept us in it the entire game. It was 3-3 after two periods, and unfortunately, the wheels kind of came off in the third, but she’s played extremely well for us, we couldn’t be happier.”
To add to the Indians’ growing pains, this season is Gallagher’s first with the team. While he’s a well-qualified coach that has spent his life in hockey and held coaching jobs elsewhere prior to taking over the helm, it’s a lot to ask anyone to come onto a team that’s being moved up in classification and doesn’t have a goaltender on the roster.
Even with a new coach and a young inexperienced net minder, the team is trending in the right direction. Their last game against Souderton was one that the Indians easily could have won if they had played a stronger third period, and the coach likes what he sees from his players when he’s had them all available.
The team’s second leading scorer, John Vanni, has missed several games recovering from an early season concussion and just made his return to the ice in the last game.
The team’s leading scorer, Mark Tosti, has also missed a few games early on, but as the year progresses and the team plays together more and more, they will start to adapt to the style of play in AA.
“The biggest difference (between A and AA) is talent obviously, but it’s really the depth. These teams go three or four lines deep and have junior varsity programs and we don’t,” said Gallagher. “I just want to see continued improvement from the team and continue to develop good chemistry. Both will come as the season progresses and they play together more.”
SHSHL CONTINENTAL - NORTH PENN: A Night with the Knights
The SHSHL Continental is going to be a difficult division to win this year. With Central Bucks West out to a 5-0 start, defending state champ Central Bucks South looming and Souderton bursting out of the gates with a 3-1-1 record, it really is anyone’s to win.
Also in contention for the crown is a North Penn team that’s started 3-1-0 and is constructed a little differently than it has been in years prior.
“In the past, we’ve relied on a certain player for most of our scoring. Last season we relied heavily on Alex (Peterson) for a lot of our offense,” said North Penn head coach Kevin Vaitis. “What’s been great about this year so far is that every game it’s a different player that steps up. Against William Tennent, it was Nathan Oh that had a big game, the other night it was Andrew Galetta that did it for us and then George Boyle contributes from defense with three assists one game, so it’s been nice to have a little bit more balanced scoring.”
Three players – Oh, Galetta and Jared Albano - are currently tied for the team lead with eight points, and all but four players have registered a point. Everyone is getting involved in the scoring for this team since they lost last year’s leading scorer in Peterson, and it’s paid off so far.
The team’s only loss came at the hands of currently undefeated Council Rock South in a hard fought 4-2 defeat. Other than that one blemish, they’ve been playing great hockey.
Another driving force behind this team is the way they’re keeping teams off the scoreboard. They’ve given up just 1.67 goals per game in their victories so far, which is a product of great defensive play as well as a menacing forecheck.
“I would say defensively we’re doing a lot of things well right now,” said Vaitis. “What may actually be working for us the most right now is we’re staying disciplined and out of the box, but mainly our forecheck has been able to keep possession of the puck in the offensive zone and prevent the other team from being able to get pressure in our defensive zone.”
Part of what has led to this balanced attack for the Knights is the deep program they’ve developed, and it starts with young players becoming involved with the game early.
An important aspect in building that deep program for North Penn has been the annual Night with the Knights game when they invite young children and their families to come out and watch the team play.
Recently, the game has evolved and they’ve partnered with Souderton to make it a joint event, giving kids an opportunity to come out and watch two rival teams face off and experience the great atmosphere of high school hockey.
“We look to reach out to our elementary schools and invite those students and their parents to come out and watch the team play a varsity game,” said Vaitis. “It’s a great opportunity to have kids come out and experience the varsity game and hopefully promote interest in ice hockey around the area.
“We’ve piggybacked on it with a ‘Learn to Play’ program where we teach the kids to play and build the program over the next several years. There are a number of kids in our middle school program right now that their first experience with North Penn ice hockey was coming to one of the Night with the Knights and getting involved there.”
This season’s game will take place this Thursday, Dec. 8, and will be an opportunity for kids to not only see a game of high school hockey, but to also watch two teams that have a chance to win the division battle it out.
SHSHL AMERICAN - WISSAHICKON: A Balanced Attack Paying Off
Two seasons ago Wissahickon was at the top of the SHSHL American Conference. The Trojans finished first in the standings with a 19-2-1 record and earned a Flyers Cup berth on top of that. Then, last season the team took a step back, finishing with a respectable 8-8 record but falling short of some of the marks the 2014-2015 team had set.
This season, the team looks poised to return to the top of the division as they’re off to a 4-1-0 start thanks in large part to improvement in both the offensive and defensive zones.
For starters, the team is led on the offensive end by sophomore Sean Garry. Garry is second in the league in points (17) and tied for third in goals (11) in just five games this season.
Garry was enrolled at Wissahickon last year but didn’t play for the team and has brought a huge offensive presence to the Trojans.
“He has been big for us,” said first-year Wissahickon head coach Ken Harrington. “He’s just a sophomore and just joined the team this year and has been fabulous. He’s got all the tools, is a good kid and has filled in some gaps because we don’t have a lot of depth on the team.”
Matt Wilson (11 points) and Nolan Piatkowski (10 points) are second and third respectively on the team in points, but what’s most interesting about their strong offensive play is that they are both defensemen.
Those two combined with Kevin Schaeffer and Calle Kuffner comprise a defensive unit that has seen the Trojans’ goal- against average drop by almost two goals a game from last year’s team, something the coach is extremely excited about.
“We have a pretty talented squad especially where you need it on the back line on defense,” said Harrington. “They’re the rock of this team. Those are our four defensemen, they protect us, and they’ve done a great job of just that this year.”
Wissahickon will need that defensive unit to continue to come up big this season as Archbishop Wood and Plymouth Whitemarsh look to be strong contenders and have been scoring at a rapid rate, but if the early season results are any indication, they’ll be up to the task.
For now, the Trojans plan to take it one game at a time. This week they have a matchup with Lower Moreland, a squad they beat 12-4 in their first game of the season. However, if they can get by that matchup, they have a potential big game in the works next week as they are set to face Plymouth Whitemarsh (4-1-0) in an SHSHL American battle.
SHSHL 3 STARS OF THE WEEK (Week ending Dec. 4)
1. Mason Procz, G, Council Rock South – 1 Win 38 Saves on 39 SOG .974 SV%
Procz was simply outstanding in his team’s lone game last week as he stopped 38 of 39 shots he faced against a previously undefeated CB South team. The Hawks’ net minder is having himself a dream start to the season with a 4-0 record, a 1.10 GAA and a remarkable .950 SV%.
2. Michael Roarty, F, Truman – 6 Goals 7 Assists
Through his first four games, Roarty had managed a respectable seven points, but that was nothing compared to what he did in his two games last week. He started it off with a two-goal, three-assist performance against Pennsbury and followed up with a four-goal, four-assist night against Pennridge. Last week he wasn’t even in the top five for league leaders in points, this week he finds himself in first place, with 20 on the year.
3. Luke Slater, F, Pennridge – 8 Goals 2 Assists
The third star could have gone to a myriad of different players that had great weeks but Slater’s performance in his two games was just too strong to be ignored. His eight goals last week were the most in the league and puts him in second place in “AA” with 10 on the season, trailing only Roarty.
SHSHL LEAGUE WEEK 2 LEADERS
1.Michael Roarty (TRU) – 20
1.Michael Roarty (TRU) – 12
1.Joe Anton (CBW) – 9
2.Steven Avellino (TRU) – 14
2.Luke Slater (PR) – 10
2.Michael Roarty (TRU) – 8
T-3.Dylan Feoli (CRS) – 13
T-3.Gabe Evans (SOU) – 9
3.Dylan Feoli (CRS) – 7
T-3.Matt Stoll (CBS) – 13
T-3.Steven Avellino (TRU) – 9
T-4.Joe DeLaurentis (CBS) – 6
T-3.Gabe Evans (SOU) – 13
5.Matt Stoll (CBS) – 8
T-4.Andrew Galetta (NP) – 6
T-3.Luke Slater (PR) – 13
T-4.Jared Albano (NP) – 6
T-4.Dylan Lowry (PR) – 6
T-4.Jack McKeever (WT) – 6
1. Dean Keller (PW) – 18
1.Luke Brzozowski (PW) – 14
1.Timothy Cordero (AW) – 9
T-2.Sean Garry (WIS) – 17
2.Coleman Peppelman (LM) – 12
2.Matt Wilson (WIS) – 8
T-2.Luke Brzozowski (PW) – 17
T-3.Sean Garry (WIS) – 11
T-3.Chris Zawislak (PW) – 7
T-4.Coleman Peppelman (LM) – 16
T-3.Dean Keller (PW) – 11
T-3.Dean Keller (PW) – 5
T-4.Timothy Cordero (AW) – 16
T-3.Ari Nordlinger (UD) – 11
T-5.Noah Harrington (WIS) – 6
T-5.Sean Garry (WIS) – 6
T-5.John Sciarrone (PW) – 6
T-5.Brennan Bostock (LM) – 6