By Brian Good
SHSHL NATIONAL – CR NORTH:
When a team moves up in classification, they need all hands on deck if they want to stay relevant in the standings. When CR North made the move to “AA” from “A” this season, they knew it would be a tall task, but due to injuries, a short roster, and players leaving the team, it’s been an even tougher transition than they assumed before the season, as they sit at 1-14-0 with just two games left.
Early in the year, the Indians lost first-line center John Vanni to a concussion, and while they’d hoped he would be able to return, he hasn’t seen the ice since.
“He’s been out basically all year and been dealing with concussion syndrome. That’s an enormous loss for us and a huge hole to fill,” said CR North head coach Chris Gallagher. “He’s had concussions in the past and hasn’t been able to get back from this one. That’s an injury where we’d never put him out unless he’s 100 percent, and he isn’t there.”
As if missing your first-line center wasn’t enough, the Indians havee had trouble finding a goaltender as well.
Coming into the year, they didn’t even have a true goalie on their roster. Then, freshman Madison Ambler joined the team and played better than they could have really imagined. While her stats may not have reflected her strong play, she kept the team in games when they were heavily outshot and gave the Indians a chance to win.
Then, this past week, Ambler left the team due to personal reasons, and they found themselves in the same situation they began the season - without a goalie.
Trevor Zemzik, a position player, has stepped in for Ambler and done what he can in net, but the Indians have continued to struggle.
Mark Tosti, the team’s leading scorer, has added on to his strong play from earlier in the season. He’s registered 25 points (12 goals and 13 assists) in just 12 games played and has been the clear offensive leader.
While North expected this type of production from Tosti, they also have a somewhat unexpected player filling up the stat sheet as of late in Zac Herman.
Herman, a junior and alternate captain, managed just four points in the first nine games of the season but has an unbelievable 14 points in the Indians last six contests.
“He has just kept improving every week and it’s showing now as the season winds down,” Said Gallagher of Herman. “He actually could have more, the kid has to lead the league in crossbars hit, but that is a player that has just continued to get better each time we’re out on the ice.”
The reclassification has been tough on the Indians, and has been made even tougher with the loss of a few players, but they continue to have a good attitude about the season and have felt the improvement each week.
“There has been some growing pains in the adjustment, but there has also been good improvement,” said Gallagher. “We just need to be a little more consistent and it’ll start to show up down the line.”
SHSHL CONTINENTAL – PENNRIDGE:
Pennridge is another team that has felt the effects of playing shorthanded this season. The Rams came into the year with their sights set high as they prepared for a grueling SHSHL Continental schedule, but like CR North, they struggled to get their full team on the ice.
“We came in to the season with really high hopes,” said Pennridge head coach Ken Doak. “We’ve struggled keeping the puck out of our own net and playing in our zone, but our biggest issue has been injuries and players missing, for sure. I don’t think we’ve had a full bench but maybe once or twice.”
The biggest injury for the Rams came early in the year when they lost forward Michael Padgeon.
Padgeon came into the season nursing a broken foot. After rehabbing the injury for three months, he was ready to play, and in his third game of the season, he broke his ankle on the opposite leg after assisting on the game’s first goal against CB West.
Guys like Luke Slater and Josh Finlayson have certainly stepped up in his absence and led the team to a 6-7-2 record but they had much loftier goals for the regular season.
“It’s a real shame because that kid (Padgeon) is a 25-30 goal scorer in this league,” said Doak. “To have a player like that go out so early in the season, it changes the way we play.”
Injuries are not unique to the Rams, all teams experience them, but to miss a player of Padgeon’s caliber for basically the entire season is a huge loss.
Between the injuries to top players and other members of the team missing multi-week stretches due to their club team schedule, Pennridge never really got any momentum going.
When the Rams would begin to string a few wins together, they would drop a game they should have won, which is a frustrating cycle for a team that expected to be at the top of the league.
“It just never seemed to click,” said Doak. “We did have a couple games in a row where it did click and we would play great, but it just wasn’t consistent. It’s there for us, we just have to have a full bench and play up to our potential.”
With the season winding down, there isn’t much they can do about their current place in the standings. However, they did recently get news that Padgeon would be ready to return for the playoffs. Something they hope will boost the team’s scoring and give them an extra edge in the postseason.
They may not have had the showing they expected during the 2016-2017 season, but with the postseason right around the corner and their team finally at full strength, Pennridge is a team that few will be looking forward to playing down the stretch.
SHSHL AMERICAN – UPPER DUBLIN:
Last season, there was no Upper Dublin varsity ice hockey team. The program had a blended varsity team and a few players in the program, but the real focus for the board was building up the middle school team so they could eventually work towards fielding a competitive varsity team down the road.
However, about a week into practice for the middle school, some new board members discovered that there was indeed enough interest within the district to field a team, and after some scrambling to find a coach and organize the team, the Cardinals found themselves entering the 2016-2017 season with a pure varsity squad.
“I received a phone call from a board member asking if I’d like to coach this team on short notice,” said Upper Dublin head coach Anthony Richichi. “I obviously told them ‘yes, of course’ and that’s kind of how we ended up going from having trouble fielding a team to where we are now.”
The season has been a learning experience for a lot of the players. Most of the early season practices were spent teaching skaters the fundamentals rather than installing a system.
However, even though they’ve managed just three wins on the year, the future looks bright for the Cardinals.
For starters, they have a legitimate offensive weapon in leading scorer Ari Nordlinger.
Nordlinger is first in the league in goals with 31 and is just a sophomore who should be back next season. While the Cardinals struggled at times as a team to score goals, Nordinger has been putting the puck in the back of the net with consistency.
“Ari has been so dynamic on offense for us, he’s just a very skilled player and does it all at a high rate of speed,” said Richichi. “His ability to do what he does at the pace that he does it makes him that much more of a weapon for us.”
Another important piece of the future for the Cardinals sits between the pipes in Stephen Sanders.
Sanders has faced an alarming amount of shots this season - over 60 per game - and still has a save percentage close to 90 percent. If it wasn’t for Sanders, there’s no telling if Upper Dublin would have competed in any games at all.
“I can’t say enough about Stephen (Sanders),” said Richichi. “You look at some of the box scores and you see he’s facing close to 90 shots sometimes. He comes out of games sometimes just absolutely exhausted because he’s working all night. At the same time, you can hear the other fans and other players and coaches just kind of marveling at what he was doing out there.”
Goaltending is often the hardest position to fill in high school hockey, and since Sanders is just a junior, he will be back with Nordlinger next season to try and improve on this year’s up and down performance.
This season hasn’t been a resounding success for the Cardinals in terms of wins and losses, but they have positioned themselves to be a much-improved team in the future. With players coming up from the middle school next season and Nordlinger and Sanders returning, they should be able to find some success in 2017-2018.
SHSHL 3 STARS OF THE WEEK
1. Patrick Sheehan, F, Archbishop Wood– 4 Goals 2 Assists
No one has been able to stop Archbishop Wood from scoring all season long, something that was once again apparent in their 14-3 win over Lower Moreland. Sheehan netted four goals and two assists in the game that lifted his team into a first place tie with PW. Sheehan, Timothy Cordero and Brendan Cullura give the Vikings a scoring trio that few teams can match, and that was once again apparent this week.
2. Anthony Sabatini, F, Neshaminy – 4 Goals 0 Assist
Sabatini came into last week’s matchup against CR North with just one multi-goal game on the year. He left having scored a season high four goals to lead his team to an 8-3 win over the Indians. Goalie Steven Gilk also had a great game stopping 40 of 43 shots, giving Neshaminy their third win on the year.
3. Jack McKeever, F, Tennent– 2 Goals 4 Assists
Tennent has won nine of their last 10 games, and a lot of that can be attributed to the play of McKeever. He has 31 points in that stretch and a team high 43 on the season including six points in each of his last two games. No one wants to play Tennent right now, and McKeever is a big reason why.
SHSHL LEAGUE WEEK 11 LEADERS
T-1.Michael Roarty (TRU) – 43
1.Michael Roarty (TRU) – 27
1.Jack McKeever (WT) – 23
T-1.Jack McKeever (WT) – 43
T-2.Bryan McIntosh (CBE) – 23
2.Matt Stoll (CBS) – 22
3.Matt Stoll (CBS) – 42
T-2.Gabe Evans (SOU) – 23
3.Joe Anton (CBW) – 19
4.Gabe Evans (SOU) – 35
T-4.Bobby Markus (WT) – 20
4. Dalton Karl (CBW) – 17
5. Sean Ovington (WT) – 34
T-4.Jack McKeever (WT) – 20
T-5. Nicholas Meli (CRS) – 16
T-4.Matt Stoll (CBS) – 20
T-5. John Dern (WT) – 16
T-5. Sean Ovington (WT) – 16
T-5.Andrew Galetta (NP) – 16
T-5.Josh Finlayson (PR) – 16
1.Timothy Cordero (AW) – 48
1.Ari Nordlinger (UD) – 31
1.Brandon Cullura (AW) – 27
2.Patrick Sheehan (AW) – 46
2. Dean Keller (PW) – 28
2.Timothy Cordero (AW) – 25
3.Brandon Cullura (AW) – 40
3.Patrick Sheehan (AW) – 27
3.Patrick Sheehan (AW) – 19
4. Dean Keller (PW) – 39
T-4.Timothy Cordero (AW) – 23
T-4. Spencer Heuges (A) – 18
5.Ari Nordlinger (UD) – 38
T-4.Coleman Peppelman (LM) – 23
T-4. Declan Cole (AW) – 18