SHSHL Ice Hockey Notebook (1-5-22)

Craig Ostroff’s first SHSHL notebook of the New Year features Pennsbury, Pennridge & Wissahickon.


By Craig Ostroff


Finally healthy, Falcons ready to fly

Injuries are a part of ice hockey. It’s hardly uncommon for a team to be down a couple players over the course of a season due to bumps, bruises, and breaks.

But the beginning of the 2021-22 season was something new for Pennsbury coach Ryan Daley. The Falcons’ defense was so depleted due to injuries, the team often played forwards on defense just to find enough duos.

“We were just getting riddled with injuries the first half of the season,” Daley said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Specifically on the blueline, we’ve had so much inconsistency in terms of personnel, it’s been tough.”

Fortunately, Pennsbury has had seniors Connor Coyne and Reece Millman to anchor the D. The two have been up to the challenge of maintaining steady play despite the ever-changing lineup.

“It’s definitely been one of the tougher years in terms of just being tired, because we’re so shorthanded some games,” Coyne said. “But all the new guys are pretty solid. If they keep working at it, they’re going to be fine. We just make sure we’re always are talking to each other, letting each other know if we’re doing something wrong and helping fix it.”

With sophomore Aaron McDaniel stepping into the full-time goalkeeper role, giving him as much help as possible was critical in the early stages of the season.

“It’s fair to say we’ve had an inconsistent defense in front of Aaron to start the year,” Daley said. “Aaron’s doing well, but he’s still young, he’s still adjusting as well. We wanted to give him as much help as possible.”

“We’re trying to play more aggressive defense, trying to block shots as much as we can,” Coyne said. “We want to make sure he’s getting as few shots as possible, but he’s been pretty solid so far.”

Despite the focus on the defensive end, Millman has still made the most of his opportunities on the other end of the ice. Heading into the new year, Millman is third on the team in points with 10 (5G, 5A).

“Reece is obviously the guy who’ll be paired up with the guy with a little less experience, he can shoulder that burden and make up for a lot—he’s such a talented defenseman,” Daley said. “If he wants to be a lockdown D, he’s got that. And then he can jump up on the play and he’s one of the most dangerous scoring threats in the league.

“And Connor has been fantastic this year. He’s more of a defensive defenseman, and he’s been really helpful in that regard. Those two have been incredible. You can put anyone with them and they’re going to have a decent performance because those two are so talented and such a presence out there.”

The Falcons are also seeing some of the younger blueliners settle into their roles well.

“Frankie Kolanko has gotten a lot better, you can tell he’s working hard at practices and it’s showing in games,” Coyne said. “Jason Fowler a fast guy, no fear, he goes in and does what he had to do. They’re hard workers.”

On the other end of the ice, the Falcons are powered by the veteran combo of senior captain Shane Siegmund and junior Brendan MacAinsh. Sigmund has already racked up 19 points (9G, 10A) in the team’s first six contests. He’s already piled up four multiple-goal games including a hat trick against Neshaminy, and his 19 points is second in the SHSHL and tops among Class AA teams. MacAinsh has 11 points (7G, 4A) despite battling some nagging injuries and having to adjust his play to aid the depleted defense.

“You can’t ask for anything more from Shane in terms of points, and he’s very even between goals and assists, so he’s making plays and he’s finishing them,” Daley said. “He’s been fantastic. He’s a great role model for the younger guys, he keeps working hard and he keeps producing.

“Brendan’s been great, too. He was really hot at first. He’s working through some injuries, and he had to take a more defensive centerman role. But he loves to score and everyone knows how good he is at it. That first line has been dynamite for us, and we’re looking for a lot from those guys. But our second line and third line—guys like Jake McCaw, Logan Doyle, they’re good players as well. We’re well rounded in scoring and excited to get the second half of the season going.”

The Falcons sit at 3-2-1 overall, 1-1 in National Conference play. Now healthy and ready to start the 2022 half of the season, Pennsbury will be tested right off the bat, visiting undefeated Pennridge for a Thursday 7:10 pm puck drop at Hatfield Gray.

“We’re definitely excited for it,” Daley said. “It’s kind of a role reversal from last year. We were the hot team last year, they had a couple losses early, so it’s a little flip flop. And last year, we beat them twice in the regular season and once in the league playoffs, but our ultimate goal was the Flyers Cup and they knocked us out of the Flyers Cup. They were all good games last year and the guys are excited to get after them and see what we can do with a healthy team this year.

“It can be tough coming out of the break, and we haven’t had a game since Dec. 9. But we had a really good practice this week, everyone seemed fired up. We’re excited for the game.”


Rams show the perfect blend of youth, experience

Pennridge coach Jeff Montagna knew he was returning many key pieces of the puzzle to the 2021-22 squad.

“We were bringing back a lot of the same team from last year, so we had a pretty good idea that we had a chance to be good,” Montagna said. “We had younger guys who were now a year older and more mature, a lot of this year’s seniors have been through it and know what it takes to reach the level we reached last year, so we knew we had a chance to be good.”

What he hadn’t expected, however, was how quickly his underclassmen would adapt to varsity play, and how critical their contributions would be.

“Our freshmen and sophomores have been our leading scorers and most consistent offensive threats this year, and that’s something a lot of teams don’t have,” Montagna said. “A lot of the sophomores are guys who - we had some stumbles at times last year and we decided to throw them out there as freshmen. All of those guys have been nothing short of fantastic for us.

“I go back to last year. I knew these guys were good, but when you’re a freshman, it’s hard to know when they’re ready. When we went through that stretch where we struggled, we threw them into the fire, giving them a regular shift, and I think that did a lot for them. You can never tell how someone is going to respond, but just the same, you can only learn by playing.”

Sophomore Kevin Pico—younger brother of the Rams’ stellar senior goalkeeper Ryan Pico—leads the team with 16 points (11G, 5A). Tyler Manto (3G, 7A) and Andrew Savona (6G, 4A) have risen to the challenge of expanded roles as sophomores, and Shane Dachowski is following in his brother’s footsteps as an impact freshman with 9 points (2G, 7A) so far.

“Those younger guys have been huge for us,” Montagna said. “I’d add (sophomore) Colin Dachowski to that group as well, but he’s been one of my best players since he stepped onto the ice last year as a freshman.”

The emergence of the underclassmen has also taken the pressure off senior Aeryk Lehrhaupt and the rest of the offense. Lehrhaupt remains a top scoring threat in the league, with 10 points (6G, 4A) so far this season, but the top line does not have the burden of being the primary scoring line.

“We can go two or three lines with no drop-off, and not a lot of teams can do that,” Montagna said. “We’re among the league leaders in scoring, but we only have one guy in the top 10 in scoring. That speaks volumes for this year. Aeryk is going to score his goals, but you add in those 4 freshmen and sophomores, as good as they are, it’s made my life a lot easier.

“And it says a lot about our seniors, too. They understand. They want what’s best for the team and they’re willing to step aside and let the younger guys step up if it’s for the good of the team. You could have a lot of jealousy and resentment with that, but they don’t have that.”

The veteran players are also playing their parts as the leaders and mentors to the younger players. While underclassmen may be earning more playing time than a typical season, it in no way diminishes what the senior class contributes to the team.

“We can’t do what we’re doing without the seniors,” Montagna said. “We can’t do what we’ve done without he guys I trust implicitly. I’ve coached them but they’re an extension of me now. Because they’re the leaders they are, they haven’t let the younger guys slip up, they’ve done a great job with that. That’s a credit to them. Those young guys add a whole new dimension we haven’t had, but we couldn’t do it without the seniors.”

One of only two remaining undefeated SHSHL teams, the Rams put their 7-0 record (4-0 Continental Conference) on the line against a familiar foe when they host Pennsbury at 7:10 pm Thursday at Hatfield Gray.


Three pairs and three of a kind

If you’ve seen Wissahickon play this year, you might have noticed something peculiar about the Trojan jerseys. No, you’re not seeing double … or in one case, triple.

The reason you’re seeing so many repeated names on the backs of jerseys this season is because the Trojans have four sets of siblings on the squad … including three Hussa brothers.

“We were surprised we got eight freshmen, we weren’t expecting that,” said Wissahickon coach Ken Harrington. “Some of them are very good, which is good but it can cause issues because everybody wants ice time. So a big part of the early season has been trying to figure out who as a freshman can play at the varsity level.”

Offensively, the most notable newcomer is freshman Danny Hussa, who enters 2022 fourth on the team in scoring with 10 goals and 3 assists. He joins his brothers, junior Will Hussa (10G, 6A) and senior Nick Hussa (5G, 11A). Having played on a line with Bryan Garry last year, Nick Hussa was part of the most potent one-two punch in the league. This year, he’s picking up where he left off.

“Nick and Bryan were about 90 percent of the scoring last year,” Harrington said. “They were top two in the league last year in scoring. Bryan was a guy who singlehandedly won games for us, and Nick often set it up. But this year, we’re a lot more spread out with our scoring.”

Leading the Trojan scoring so far this year is AJ Pounds. The senior is tied for team lead with 10 goals and has added 8 assists for his team-leading 18 points. As with the elder Hussa brothers, Pounds is joined this season by his brother, freshman Nolan Pounds.

Freshman Alex Winkowski joins his brother, junior Matthew Winkowski, in patrolling the Wissahickon blue line.

“With all our freshmen, four of them are defensemen, and they’re all pretty good,” Harrington said. “Matthew and Alex are quality defensemen. They’re both very good skaters.”

Senior goalkeeper Michael Bonanni is the final upperclassman to welcome a sibling to the squad. His brother Nick Bonanni is a freshman forward with a ton of potential.

In addition to the family connections, the Trojans also boast talents in junior defenseman Konrad Foulke (7A) and senior forward Ty Schiff (4G, 5A), among others.

Having stumbled a bit in the early stages of the season—the Trojans lost four straight before winning their final game before the break—the team (3-4 overall, 3-1  and tied for second place with 6 points in the American Conference) is looking to ramp things up in the second part of the season.

They’ll jump in quickly, with two games this week, including a clash with unbeaten conference-leader Abington Friday at 7:50 pm at Revolution Ice Gardens.

“This month is going to be tough,” Harrington said. “But we’re excited to get into the new year and start the next part of the season.”