SHSHL Ice Hockey Notebook (2-1-23)

Photos courtesy of Keith Clemens, Sharon Shipe & Tracy Valko. To view SHSHL photo galleries, please click on the following link:


An alumnus of Council Rock before it split into two high schools, Shaun McGinty now lives within the boundaries of the North Penn School District but teaches special education in the Wissahickon School District.

But, as a hockey coach, his roots are firmly planted with CB South’s storied program.

He was an assistant under Tom Quinn when they won two Flyers Cups and two state titles.

“You can only deal with your zip code, right? But we have been blessed with talent,” said McGinty. “It’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been there 15 years, and we had a 10-year stint where we were No. 1 or No. 2 every year.”

As such, McGinty is a firm believer in building a culture.

And, although this year’s team is teetering on the brink of a playoff berth (only six teams will make the SHSHL tournament instead of eight), that overall goal has been achieved and a foundation has been built for upcoming seasons.

“It’s all about the team,” said McGinty, who played college hockey at Lebanon Valley College (2001 ECAC Division III champions). “This isn’t wrestling. This isn’t golf. These guys have to play as a unit. They have to play for each other, they all have to play for each other. They have done a really good job this year cultivating that culture on the team and with being a family.”

That has included weekly pasta parties and breakfast before school, with the captain and defensive anchor Matt Crouch and assistant captains Aydin Theirolf and Brad Cannon taking the lead.

“The captains are voted on by the kids,” he said. “We’re only there for a tiebreaker. In 15 years, no coach has ever had to put in a vote. In my opinion, it’s their team. We are just there to guide, teach, mentor, control the bench and control a bunch of teenagers. We try to give them that fortitude, that ability, to run their team. We lead when we have to, but we want the kids to be there for each other.”

More impressively, and a sign of that inherent culture, are the glaring lack of missed games that is seen with other teams around the SHSHL.

While illness and injury can’t be avoided, commitments to club teams seem to be less of an issue.

“I’ve been there a long time, and I try to instill that part of the culture,” said McGinty. “If you miss, you’re not hurting me. You’re the one that has to talk to your 20 teammates. That has been passed on here, from generation to generation and from captain to captain.

“If kids do miss, I don’t necessarily talk to the kid. I’ll talk to the captains and say, ‘You need to fix this. You’re here, he’s not.’ With game attendance, these kids - they buy in to each other.

“Even when we won state titles and Flyers Cups, we had kids playing junior hockey for Junior Flyers, and those kids were playing 90 games in a season and still not missing anything.”

With tough opponents looming, the Titans are 4-3 in league games and 7-6-0-1 overall.

“I don’t think our record shows the talent we have,” he said. “We definitely let a few games slip away. That’s hard. But, all in all, it’s been a good year.”

He believes that if a playoff berth can be secured, depth will make his team difficult to deal with.

“We’re a deep team,” he said. “We can run four lines when we have to. All in all, we have a solid high school team.

“When we come to the postseason and factoring in that we have four lines, we should do well. But, you know, we have to get there. We have to play our game. We have to play structured. We need to do that, and frustrate other teams. If we can do that, it’s to our advantage.”

Thierolf is in the midst of a phenomenal season, with 14 goals and 13 assists in 13 games while playing every position except goalie for McGinty.

“He has that capability,” said the coach, adding that Thierolf recently played a whole game on defense because they were shorthanded on the blue line. “He’s a great player. He’s a hard worker. He has played the game for a long time at a high level of hockey. He knows how to compete. On top of his skill set, he is going to find the back of the net. He has a great gas tank. I can play him a ton of minutes. He just doesn’t get tired. He is that kind of hockey player.”

The primary secondary scoring has come from the mercurial DJ Lindenmuth (8 goals, 10 assists).

“He’s a big left-handed power forward who has been playing for me since his junior year. He is having a really good year. He is a lot stronger, and he is a really big boy. He is playing his weight.”

Others getting into the act are Colin Mendham (8 goals, 9 assists) and Sean Cutter (5 goals, 6 assists).

While the team has a mix of upper and underclassmen, and while McGinty has zero qualms with giving a younger player more ice time, the leaders are going to need to lead the way for playoff push.

“Our upperclassmen are going to have to come out and lead by example,” said McGinty. “We have to play very structured defensively. You win from the net out. Your goaltender has to be a staple of the team, and your defense has to play tough. That goes for the forwards, too. You have to play tough in that zone.

“When you are playing good teams, and you give them any room, they are going to find a way to score. That is true for us, too. When we get any opportunity, we have to be able to capitalize.”

Jake Stepp (2 goals, 2 assists) and Aidan Linso (3 goals, 5 assists) are other key defenders

While junior Dominic Vacarello (3.93 goals against, .843 save percentage) has emerged as the starting goalie, Jason Magaruh (4.50, .815) is waiting in the wings as a quality backup.

Conversely, goals will need to be scored. If not in bunches, at least at key moments to shift momentum of close games.

“At times, we have had a difficult time putting the puck in the back of the net,” said McGinty. “That’s just something the team just has to fight through.

“The third-line guys, they are the ones who are going to help you win in the playoffs. The guys on the first two lines are going to do what they always do. When you have a team with a third and fourth line that is productive and a defense that is strong, those are the teams that are going to win.”

Riding the Wave

Proving the theory that what goes up must come down has been a Central Bucks West squad that, unlike their neighbors to the south, are looking at the rest of this season as a chance to play the spoiler role and build toward the future.

“I think that’s a good way to put it,” said coach Dave Baun, whose team sits at 3-5 in league play and 5-10 overall entering this week’s action. “We have pretty young and inexperienced team. They have their moments. Sometimes they come together and they play well. We can win a game here and there, but I think we are playing competitively, considering our overall experience and talent level.

“I don’t think we are in too much danger of making the postseason, but I don’t think we were ever really expecting that.”

The Bucks’ season can pretty much be encapsulated by a 24-hour stretch where they stunned Souderton, 10-4, on Jan. 25 and then fell by the same score to Pennsbury 24 hours later.

The rollercoaster ride is indicative of a young team.

“We have five seniors, but a couple of them never played hockey before,” said Baun. “One of the seniors came out for the team just this year, having never played hockey before. We have another who has been with us for four years but never had skates on before he started.

“We are kind of inexperienced on certain levels, but that’s the way high school rolls,” he said. “This year, for example, CB West was at its lowest number of players eligible. It goes in cycles, and this was our lowest number in recent memory. Next year, though, it spikes back up again. It’s going to change our fortunes in the next few years.”

Baun has a team with a lot of backstories within the story.

There is Sammy Poliak, who is putting up big-time numbers (13 goals, 5 assists) in just eight games played, largely due to conflicts with his travel team.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said Baun. “He’s a fabulous player. He missed a lot of games, but he has been playing a lot more for us lately. His success scoring speaks for itself. He is pretty dominant on the ice.”

The goaltenders -- Liam Rogers (5.00 goals against, .894 goals against) and Kyle Fosalak (6.76. .841) – are among his favorites.

Rogers, now a junior, came in as a heralded star while Fosalak, now a senior, was a virtual novice

Recalled Baun: “The amazing thing, at least in these times, is that the kid who was a freshman never showed any of that kind of attitude that you get with kids who are really good. He helped the other kid, he worked with him and helped him get better. I have these two goalies who are each other’s biggest fan. When one is playing, the other will be clapping for him on the bench.”

The result is that the Bucks can win, or keep games close, despite lopsided shot totals.

“At this point, we’re alternating them,” said Baun. “When one plays one game, the other plays the other game. I’m not saying that Kyle is as good as Liam, but they are close enough that we can alternate them, and they are good enough kids that they are both good with it.”

Other skaters of note are senior Luke Tremmel (5 goals, 10 assists), who has steadily improved into a solid player without the benefit of travel hockey, and Adam Ricci (7 goals, 5 assists).

“One of the things I’ve learned while coaching high school ice hockey is that there is a lot to seniority,” he said. “The average 12th-grade player is probably going to do more for you in the end than a really good freshman or sophomore. The maturity, the size – and those kinds of things – really come out.

“I think you find that the teams that really do well tend to have a lot of upperclassmen and a lot of seniors on the team.”

On the flip side are players with significant travel experience – Zane Sanders (5 goals, 13 assists), Anthony Dowd (9 goals, 2 assists), junior Nicholas Bruno, defenseman John Cherubini (1 assist).

“There is a difference between them and Tremmel and Ricci,” said Baun, “You can see that difference in the way they skate and in the way that they do certain things. But, in terms of playing the game, older kids can be pretty effective.”

And last but not least, the roster includes two young ladies – junior Abby Rogers (2 assists), who plays wing on the second or third line and junior Isabella Carter (1 assist), who plays defense.

“It’s been a difference for me,” said Baun, whose only other experience coaching girls playing against boys involved a girl, Danielle Orlando, who did not make it through the season and finished up as the team manager. “These two young ladies are really something.”

For Baun, who has been battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy this season, it has truly been a positive experience.

“The girls are super attentive and super coachable. They actually listen to what you are saying, and they do it both in practice and in games,” he said. “I have two teachers on the bench that coach with me and I keep looking at them like, ‘Is it just me, or are Abby and Carter doing everything we tell them while everyone else is not paying attention?’ And they say, ‘Nope, that’s the way it is in class, too.’ These two girls just kind of amaze me.

“For me, it’s been an eye-opener. They will sit in front of you (in practice) on one knee, with their eyes locked right on you, and I’m thinking, ‘Geez, I wish I had more of these girls.’ It is always, ‘Yes, coach’ and ‘No, coach’ with them, and that’s a big difference than with some of these boys.”

He added that Carter – who is simply known to the coaches and players as “Carter” and is in her second year with the team – does not always have it easy on the blue line.

She once took a tough check against the boards, and had to be helped off the ice, but made sure to have some unprintable choice words for the opponent who checked her.

“Carter always is a defenseman, which is a harder position to play,” he said. “It’s difficult, particularly as the season goes on, because the players keep getting better during the season. It’s harder for Carter to play out there against boys. You can hide a player on the wing, and I don’t mean Abby, but anyone. You can’t hide them out there on defense.

“Once in a while, Carter will have to play against kids who are just bigger and strong and faster. It’s not easy, but we understand this and we explain that to her. But, she plays well. She plays a regular shift, and she’s good. They’re both good players.

“If you come watch a game, it’s not going to stand out that there is a girl out there. Without ponytails in the back of their helmets, I bet most people wouldn’t even recognize it.”