This week’s ice hockey notebook highlights several teams as well as some of the week’s big games.
By Mike Prince, Sportswriter
When teams from the Suburban High School Hockey League went on holiday break, Abington was in the middle of trying to gain ground on the Council Rock teams, which were in first and second place in the National Conference at the end of December.
And after going into the break on a three-game winning streak, the Ghosts had already gained plenty of ground. Since coming back two weeks ago, Abington has done even more to reach that all-important first-place position in the conference.
Last Thursday, in a non-conference game against Pennridge, the Ghosts won their fifth game in a row following a 6-1 victory over the Rams at Wintersports Ice Arena.
Despite giving up an early goal, the Ghosts (7-4-0) managed to fight back with six unanswered goals, thanks to an impressive game from Erik Walther, who scored three times and added an assist.
“If you look at the statistics, you can certainly credit Erik, but our team is playing with more of a five-man approach,” Abington coach Pat Croce said. “Looking at the standings, we’re up there because of discipline. Discipline and playing our system and the guys controlling their emotions and focusing on every shift one shift at a time is to credit for our winning streak.
“There has to be someone feeding Eric and someone doing well on the forecheck and making the plays and ultimately opening things up. Erik is a great player to his credit, but he’s not able to do what he does without the rest of his unit.”
The big game gave Walther 13 goals and six assists on the season in nine games played. He has also netted two game-winning goals.
The Ghosts also received goals from Alex Gordon and Nicholas Scipione, as well as a goal and two assists from Paul Abendroth.
With the win, Abington moved into second place in the National Conference, two points behind CR South and one ahead of CR North. The Ghosts will take on Neshaminy on Thursday in a National Conference meeting.
While the top of the of the National Conference has seen the same three teams on top for quite some time now, teams like William Tennent and Neshaminy are still making a solid push to gain ground in the standings.
The Panthers (5-6-1) are in fourth place with 11 points, largely in part because of the play of freshman Andrew Bean, who has scored 10 goals and added five assists in 10 games.
“We knew from the spring that Andrew was going to be a good player,” Tennent coach Nick D’Aurizio said. “He’s a smaller guy and you can’t expect too much out of a freshman, but he’s just gotten better every game. He’s a great kid with great attitude, and we knew he was going to be a big player, but to produce at the level he has been producing at and to be our best player is just awesome. He’s one of a few freshmen who have contributed this year, and we’re ecstatic that we can get that kind of production out of these guys.”
With Tennent right in the middle of the playoff hunt, and with the top-three teams from each division along with the next two teams with the highest winning percentage making the postseason, D’Aurizio is very confident in his team’s chances to play beyond the regular season.”
“We fully expect to make the playoffs,” he said. “We’ve been a little inconsistent; however, the way the standings look now, we think we have a really good shot of not only getting in the playoffs, but doing something in them if we take care of business in our upcoming games. I think the guys are going to do it.”
Tennent will face Pennsbury on Thursday and will have a huge game next Wednesday when it hosts CR South at Bucks County Ice.
In the American Conference, besides Archbishop Wood sitting in first place with 17 points, things are a lot more congested than in other conferences.
Wissahickon and Upper Moreland are tied in second place with identical records of 6-2-1, while Lansdale Catholic is behind those two teams with 12 points and a record of 6-3-0.
The Trojans, who have a game on hand with Wood, received a huge offensive effort in an 11-1 win over Hatboro-Horsham last Thursday.
Matt Vervlied, Edward Buckart, David Pataki and Tyler Freas all scored two goals apiece for Wissahickon, while Vervlied added four assists to help Wissahickon come out with the victory.
“All of those guys scoring for us are upperclassmen, so it’s good that our offense goes through them,” Wissahickon coach Ryan McLaughlin said. “They’re proving to be good leaders, and honestly, we just have to keep going and developing as a team and start playing the numbers game. We’re not worried about putting our time into something else, but we’re just more concerned about playing our game and staying focused.”
Pataki, a defenseman, currently sits in fifth place in American Conference scoring, with 11 goals and 10 assists. Dustin Rabinowitz, also a defenseman, leads the Trojans with 12 goals and 12 assists, also in nine games played.
The Hatters, who are currently 0-9-0 on the season, have still been looking for their first win. Head coach Gus Salfiti believes his team can still get over the hump in the final month of the season.
“You know, we have a young, inexperienced and small team,” Hatboro-Horsham coach Gus Salfiti said. “We have a series of concussions and we haven’t all been there at the same time because of sickness and injuries, but I do believe we have what it takes to get a win. We just have to get it all together at one time. We have to get it all together for 48 minutes. We have the chance to win a couple games and I just want to be competitive. (It would) be nice to get a complete game.”
Hatboro-Horsham has a tough test on Thursday when it visits Lansdale Catholic, but hopes it can come up with something next Thursday against Harry S. Truman.
Truman, which has lost its only two games since coming back from the break, fell to Wood by a score of 11-1 last Friday.
North Penn, which has arguably the two best defensemen (Caleb Witzaney and Jeremy Snyder) in the entire Continental Conference, still sits comfortably in first place, holding a record of 8-1-1 while being three points ahead of Souderton, which has played three more games.
Central Bucks South (6-2-0) and Central Bucks East (4-4-0) still have a chance to climb in the standings, as each Continental Conference team has only played eight games and has plenty of time to cover ground.
CB South, led by Connor Bechtel’s five goals and league-leading 21 assists, have won four games in a row, helping to climb up the standings before its game against Council Rock North this Thursday.
Last Thursday, CB South defeated Souderton, 8-5, thanks three assists from Bechtel and also thanks to a hat trick from Nick DeLaurentis, who now has seven goals and 11 assists on the season. Jake Bauer and Jimmy Milanese also chipped in with two goals apiece in the win over the Indians.
Pennridge (4-7-0) and Central Bucks West (4-7-0) sit in fifth and sixth place, respectively, in the Continental Conference, while Plymouth Whitemarsh (1-7-) and Hatboro-Horsham sit at the bottom of the American conference.
Despite its tough season, CB West, which earned a 4-2 win over Pennsbury last Thursday, has gotten a solid effort out of the likes of Austin Siemion and Patrick Smith, who have six goals and three assists and three goals and five assists respectively to lead the team.
On tap for this week, besides CR South and Tennent’s game on Wednesday night, includes a huge lineup of games on Thursday. CB East and Wissahickon face each other at Hatfield Blue (9:00 p.m.) in a non-conference game, while Wood and Upper Dublin will meet at Bucks County Ice at 7:00 p.m. Tennent and Pennsbury will also square off in a National Conference on Thursday, playing at Grundy Rink A at 7:20 p.m.