Stafford Leader Winter Sports Previews

Southern Ice Hockey Team Expects to Contend for Another Division Title This Winter

Dec 08, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy Senior David Lytle was one of the Southern Regional ice hockey team's leading offensive players last winter and should be again this season.

For the past three seasons, the Southern Regional ice hockey program has taken a turn upward, scoring bunches of victories, leading its division, and regularly playing well in the Shore Conference and NJSIAA tournaments. So far this season, the Rams are off to a slow start, falling in two straight games, but head coach Matt Hayes expects that to turn around rather quickly.

“After a relatively rough start, we’re looking to push for another run at the division title this season,” Hayes said. “We also want to make return appearances in the state tournament, as well as the Shore Conference Tournament. We have a talented and seasoned squad, and I’m hoping we’re going to be firing on all cylinders soon.”

Indeed, the Rams have a capable group of players and should be back in the hunt for the Shore Conference Class A South crown yet again. But as the grind wears on, whether the Rams will have enough in the tank to withstand the tough conference and state tourneys remains a mystery.

Offensively, Southern has some pop with seniors David Lytle, who led the team with 24 goals last season, Paul Keyes, who contributed  12 goals and 27 assists a year ago, and Hunter Bello leading the way. But with the graduation of Jack Conrad in June, the Rams are going to need a couple of returning forwards to pick up the scoring slack the former captain provided. Among those who will need to help bury the biscuit are seniors Matt Constantino, Matt Flynn, Joe Harper and Nolan Ruff, along with junior Joe Cajzer, sophomore A.J. Irwin and Bryan Janiszewski.

Defensively, the Rams are a bit light in terms of bodies. Keyes is listed on the roster as a defenseman, and without question his skating and puck-handling abilities will benefit the back lines really well. But with five others on the defensive rotation, consistency and steering clear of taking too many penalties will be key factors in their production. The defensive unit also includes senior Ray Luedtke, junior Shaun High, sophomores Justin Braun and Jeffrey Leonard, and freshman Josh Irwin.

In goal, two veterans of the crease will see plenty of action, with senior Cam Conrad getting the nod as the likely starter in most games and Anthony Scalvino as his highly capable backup. Last season, Conrad faced 492 shots and managed a .923 save percentage while allowing 38 goals and tallying 488 saves.

Unfortunately, during the first two contests against Wall and Monroe, Conrad didn’t have much defensive help, as he faced 54 shots. The Rams lost, 6-2, to the Crimson Knights in their opener on Nov. 27, followed by a 4-2 decision against Monroe on Dec. 1. Following a Dec. 6 home contest against St. John Vianney, Southern returns home to meet Central on Dec. 11 in its first divisional clash of the season.

David Biggy

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