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TOMS RIVER – It had been nearly a full calendar year since Cole Schneider and his Toms River North teammates last played a game, but you couldn’t tell given how Schneider looked in the Mariners’ season debut. The reigning New Jersey scoring champion picked up right where he left off.

Schneider was an offensive force on Tuesday afternoon, scoring five goals, including two short-handed tallies, and adding one assist to power Toms River North to a 7-3 Shore Conference Central Division victory over visiting Freehold Township at Winding River Ice Rink. After leading the state with 41 goals and 73 points last season, the Mariners’ sniper opened his senior season by tying his career-high for goals in a game.

Senior winger Anthony DeFalco added a goal and two assists and senior winger Joe Frattaroli had a goal and assist as the Mariners’ top line accounted for all seven goals and 11 points. Senior defenseman Justin Ervelli, freshman Ty Schneider and sophomore Jake Bennert chipped in with two assists each and freshman goalie Louis Mancuso made 22 saves to earn the win in his high school debut.

Schneider entered the season with 191 points, nine shy of becoming the first player in program history to reach 200 career points. He nearly got there in the first game. From not knowing if there would even be a season to being on the ice with his little brother and lifelong friends, Tuesday night was a welcome relief.

“It was definitely scary at first not knowing if we were going to be able to play, especially my senior year,” Schneider said. “We’re trying to make a big difference in this organization, this high school and we’re trying to do it the right way.”

“The start of the season got pushed back and pushed back against and the anticipation took over,” said Toms River North head coach Christian Cranston. “It had to be a good feeling for them, I know it was for me. The only unfortunate thing is that their parents and friends couldn’t see it, but these kids are excited.”

The first period began with good pace and Toms River North dominating the puck. The Mariners struck first when Ty Schneider took the puck in his own end, stickhandled into the offensive zone and sent a pass from the right face-off dot across the crease to his older brother Cole, who tapped in the pinpoint feed for a 1-0 lead at 10:45 of the opening period.

“That was a special moment,” Schneider said.

The Mariners’ lead became 2-0 late in the second period when Schneider flashed his dangerousness on the penalty kill. Schneider applied pressure at the opposing blue line and found a loose puck that sent him on a breakaway where he deked and slid a shot past Freehold Township goalie Karina Vang with four seconds left in the opening 15.

Even though he scored five times, Schneider’s most dazzling play came when he set up DeFalco for a goal at 3:21 of the second period. Schneider had the puck below the goal line to Vang’s left when he sent a backhanded saucer pass that landed right on the tape of a streaking DeFalco, who buried the feed for a 3-0 Toms River North lead.

“I don’t even know how that one got through,” Schneider said.

Freehold Township got on the board at the 7:40 mark of the second period when freshman Lucas Palm deflected a shot by Payton Fobes past Mancuso for his first varsity goal. Toms River North regained its three-goal advantage, however, when Schneider struck again on the penalty kill to complete the hat trick. Schneider stole the puck from a Freehold Township defenseman at the blue line and broke in all alone. Vang came out to cut down the angle but Schneider deked to his backhand and tucked it in for a 4-1 lead.

“He’s just dangerous every time he steps on the ice,” Cranston said. “I don't like taking penalties but when he’s on the ice it actually gives us a chance to score, believe it or not.”

Despite being down by three goals, Freehold Township really improved its play and puck possession in the second period. The Patriots shook off the shorthanded goal by Schneider and cut the deficit to 4-2 on a power-play goal by Dylan Jacobi off assists from freshman James Caldwell and Jackson Lehman.

Toms River North almost extended its lead in the final seconds of the period but Vang made a great save with her left leg to keep it a two-goal game before the Zamboni came out for the ice cut.

The Mariners pulled away for good in the third period when Schneider intercepted a pass at the red line right in front of the team benches, dangled past a defender and went backhand-forehand-backhand to beat Vang for his fourth goal and a 5-2 Toms River North lead.

The lead became 6-2 when Frattaroli found a loose puck, spun and put a shot on goal that trickled through Vang and across the goal line to cap a furious scramble at the goalmouth.

Freehold Township cut its deficit to 6-3 on a power-play goal by sophomore Michael Craft at 8:33 of the third. The puck caromed his way and he quickly snapped it over the glove hand of Mancuso.

Schneider capped the scoring at 10:20, netting his fifth of the game to tie his career-high set last season in a win over Freehold/Raritan/Colts Neck.

The season is merely one game old for Toms River North, but this year more than ever, there is urgency and appreciation. And the nature of what appears to be a wide-open Central Division only accentuates that.

“It’s a division where anyone can beat anyone,” Cranston said. “We have to go in with the mindset that we don’t know how long this (season) is going to last. You say every year that you have to play every game like it’s your last but this year it’s reality. You have to leave it all on the ice and stay hungry.”

 

Box Score

Central Division

Toms River North 7, Freehold Township 3

 123F
Freehold Township (1-2, 0-2)0213
Toms River North (1-0, 1-0)2237

 

Scoring

First Period

TRN – C. Schneider (T. Schneider, DeFalco), 10:45

TRN – C. Schneider (Ervelli), 14:56 (SH)

 

Second Period

TRN – DeFalco (C. Schneider, Frattaroli), 3:21

FT – L. Palm (Fobes, Lumbardo), 7:40

TRN – C. Schneider, 11:10 (SH)

FT – Jacobi (Caldwell, Lehman), 11:45 (PP)

 

Third Period

TRN – C. Schneider (Ervelli, DeFalco), 4:19

TRN – Frattaroli (Bennert), 6:09

FT – Craft (Lumbardo, Fobes), 8:33 (PP)

TRN – C. Schneider (T. Schneider, Bennert), 10:20

 

SAVES – FT: Vang, 27; TRN: Mancuso 22

SHOTS: Toms River North, 34-25

POWER PLAY: Freehold Township, 2-5; Toms River North, 0-0

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights. 

 

 

 

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