Shore Sports Network Ice Hockey Top 10, 2/2/21
I held off for a bit hoping the picture would clear up – it hasn’t – but two weeks into the season it’s time for the inaugural Shore Sports Network Ice Hockey Top 10.
It’s been a while since I’ve been on the hockey beat so I wanted to get the lay of the land outside of the obvious top teams. That has largely been a futile plan because of the constant yet totally expected interruptions due to COVID-19. Nearly half of the Shore’s 23 ice hockey programs have been shut down for two weeks due to exposure to the virus and every team has been impacted at least once in terms of a canceled or postponed game.
Three programs, Wall, Jackson Liberty/Memorial/Point Boro and St. Rose/Donovan Catholic/Red Bank Catholic, have yet to play a game. Rumson-Fair Haven has only one game under its belt and has been shut down twice thus far. Cancelations by its opponents have also limited Howell to only one game this season. Middletown North and Ocean are also in the one-game played group. You get the picture.
On to the rankings.
The one certainty is that Christian Brothers Academy is the No. 1 team in the Shore. They are the defending No. 1 team in New Jersey and still hold that distinction as per the rankings from our friends at NJ Advance Media. The Colts are thought of as a Gordon Conference team way more than they are regarded as a Shore team, but they are officially in the Shore Conference and aligned in the North Division, as well, so our rankings will reflect that.
After that is where it gets interesting. Forgetting CBA for a moment, the North Division is beastly on paper with St. John Vianney, Rumson-Fair Haven, Manasquan, Middletown North and Middletown South, St. Rose and Marlboro. There have been just three division games played so far, however, so plenty of big games (hopefully) remain.
Toms River North is the current leader in the Central Division with a 3-0 overall mark, but that division figures to also be very competitive. Central Regional (5-0) and Red Bank Regional (2-0) are both unbeaten and appear on a collision course in the South Division.
Shore Sports Network Ice Hockey Top 10
1. CBA (4-0-1)
As mentioned above, the Colts are the reigning No. 1 team in the state and have not relinquished that status through five games this season. It looked like there could be a change at the top on Sunday when CBA trailed Don Bosco Prep 3-1 entering the third period, but goals by Zach Wagnon and Colin Grable along with stout goaltending by Joseph Cartigiano helped the Colts rally for a 3-3 tie. CBA also has wins over St. Peter’s Prep (8-1), Manasquan (4-0), St. Augustine (4-1) and Gloucester Catholic (3-1). It’s been a balanced scoring attack with sophomore Leighton Biesiadecki (2g, 5a), freshman Christian Chouha (4g, 3a) and sophomore defenseman Patrick Reilly (7a) tied for the team lead with seven points. Wagnon (2g, 4a) and Grable (2g, 4a) are right behind them. Up next: Wednesday 2/3 vs. Pope John; Thursday 2/4 at No. 6 Middletown North; Monday 2/8 vs. Delbarton.
2. St. John Vianney (3-0-1)
The Lancers are unbeaten with victories over Old Bridge (8-0), St. Joseph (Metuchen) (5-2) and Monroe (7-1) and could be 4-0 if not for the 45-save effort by Marlboro goalie Dmitrii Kapranov in a 3-3 tie against the Mustangs. It’s been a strong start for head coach Mick Messemer’s group, which has absorbed the graduation of several standout players over the past couple of years. Junior forward Rob Calice is the team leader in points with eight (4g, 4a) while seniors Ryan Kulaszewski (3g, 3a) and SJ LeComte (3g, 3a) and junior Luc Barnett (4g, 2a) have also led a balanced scoring effort. Junior netminder Dan Shallcross has been excellent with a .928 save percentage. Up next: Thursday 2/4 at Don Bosco Prep; Friday 2/5 at No. 3 Middletown South.
3. Middletown South (2-0)
The Eagles were shut down for two weeks because of COVID-19 exposure and have yet to play a game since a 3-0 win over Marlboro on Jan. 20. They also have a 6-1 victory over Southern. The sample size is small, but Middletown South is clearly in contention to be the top Shore Conference team not named CBA. Junior forward Michael Ferlanti has four assists in two games, junior forward Luke Finn has a pair of goals and junior goalie Jack Collings has been nearly perfect with a .979 save percentage and one shutout. The Eagles’ much-anticipated return comes this week with a pair of marquee games. Up next: Thursday 2/4 at Hunterdon Central; Friday 2/5 vs. No. 2 St. John Vianney
4. Rumson-Fair Haven (0-0-1)
This was essentially a coin flip since Rumson and Manasquan skated to a 2-2 tie in the Bulldogs’ only game this season, so I went with RFH since I would have had them ranked ahead of Manasquan in any form of preseason rankings. It’s been an extremely tough season so far for Rumson, which has been shut down twice and has been able to play only one game. The Bulldogs had a breakout season in 2020 and returned most of its top players this season, but havn’t had the chance to showcase any of that yet. They are scheduled to return to play on Feb. 8. Up next: Monday 2/8 vs. Westfield.
5. Manasquan (0-1-1)
The Warriors lost a lot of firepower to graduation and also saw standout defenseman Anthony Dowd leave for the USHL, so the question is how quickly they can reload and remain an elite team in the Shore Conference. A 4-0 season-opening loss to CBA is what it is, but a 2-2 tie with No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven is very encouraging considering Manasquan rallied with two goals in the final five minutes to earn the draw. Mike Farinacci’s goal with 28 seconds left was the equalizer. Like most teams in the North Division, the heavy lifting is still to come for Manasquan. Up next: The Warriors don’t have any games scheduled until Feb. 10 vs. St. John Vianney.
6. Middletown North (1-0)
The Lions are another team that entered the 2021 season with fairly good expectations but haven’t been able to attack any of their goals quite yet. Middletown North’s only game of the season came back on Jan. 19, a 6-2 victory over Manalapan. The Lions were then shut down by COVID-19 exposure and had to postponed or cancel games against Jackson Liberty, Rumson-Fair Haven, St. Rose and Manasquan. They are set to return on Thursday but will be welcomed by top-ranked CBA. Up next: Thursday 2/4 vs. No. 1 CBA; Monday 2/8 vs. No. 7 St. Rose.
7. Central Regional (5-0)
The Golden Eagles play a straightforward, north-south brand of hockey and that has suited them well so far in 2021. Central is undefeated with wins over Howell (3-0), Brick (6-3), Brick Memorial (10-2), Toms River East (3-0) and Lacey (12-1) and currently leads the way in the South Division. Senior forward Trevor Coltenback leads the Shore in scoring with seven goals and 10 assists while Domenick Competello (4g, 9a), Mark Anthony Competello (7g, 2a), Joey Klutoski (4g, 8a), Corey van den Berg (5g, 5a), Dom Wiatrowski (4g, 3a) and Brady Steller (6a) have contributed to an offense that has received even scoring from both lines. Between the pipes, Nick Bilinski has been excellent with a .957 save percentage and two shutouts. Up next: Friday 2/5 at Freehold Township.
8. Toms River North (3-0)
Three games, three wins for the Mariners, who own victories over Freehold Township (7-3), Freehold (4-2) and Brick (4-2) through the first two weeks. Senior forward Cole Schneider is among the Shore’s leading scorers with nine goals and three assists and became the first player in program history to reach the 200-point milestone. Toms River North’s top line of Schneider, Anthony DeFalco (4g, 6a) and Joe Frattaroli (2g, 3a) has been lethal, but the Catch 22 is that it has been the only line to light the lamp so far. Toms River North will need to find some secondary scoring, whether that means breaking up the top line or the second line getting going. In goal, freshman Louis Mancuso has a .904 save percentage through three games. Up next: Wednesday 2/3 vs. No. 9 Jackson Liberty; Friday 2/5 at Southern; Monday 2/8 at Lacey.
9. Jackson Liberty (0-0)
The Lions were very good last season with a 16-6-1 record and add Jackson Memorial to the co-op with Point Boro to form the Shore’s newest tri-op. Liberty has yet to play a game this season, however, so this is just a projection until the team hits the ice. The team could certainly make a big jump in the rankings but for now, we’re putting teams that have played games higher on the list. Up next: Wednesday 2/3 at No. 8 Toms River North; Friday 2/5 vs. Manalapan.
10. St. Rose (0-0)
The Purple Roses have yet to play a game so this is also more of a projection than anything else. The St. Rose/Donovan Catholic/Red Bank Catholic tri-op was 9-6-6 last season. The team is set to return to action this week: Up next: Friday 2/5 at Marlboro; Monday 2/8 at No. 6 Middletown North.
On the bubble:
Red Bank (2-0)
Toms River East (3-2)
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.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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