Southern’s Hockey Season Hits Abrupt End

Loss to Jackson Liberty Closes Disappointing Year
By DAVID BIGGY | Feb 07, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Southern Regional forward Hunter Bello looks to fire a shot toward the net during the Rams' 8-5 loss to Jackson Liberty on Feb. 2.

Despite high expectations, there are times when a team’s season just doesn’t go the way everybody had hoped. For the Southern Regional ice hockey team, the 2017-18 season was one of those seasons.

“The past three seasons have been pretty awesome,” head coach Matt Hayes said following the Rams’ 8-5 loss to Jackson Liberty on Feb. 2. “We had a really talented group of players this year, and we were more than suited for another run at the state tournament. Things just didn’t formulize for us.”

With 11 seniors on the squad, the Rams went into the season with expectation they would put together another winning season, make the Shore Conference and NJSIAA tournaments, and still be playing during the latter half of February. Unfortunately, the loss to the Lions ended Southern’s season at 5-12-4.

The problems for the Rams started just 3:05 into the first period, when Liberty’s Zach D’Andrea rushed into the offensive zone, got by a defender and sent a shot past starting goaltender Anthony Scalvino. Less than two minutes later, D’Andrea repeated his first effort, giving the Lions a 2-0 lead. The Lions took a 3-0 lead with 1:26 to go in the first when Nick Waldron fired a shot in from the left circle.

In the second period, the game got a bit wild from a scoring sense. Southern recovered early on, with Paul Keyes scoring twice within a 39-second span, but the Lions scored three consecutive goals during a three-minute spurt to push the margin to 6-2. However, the Rams stormed back with goals by Bryan Janiszewski and Joe Cajzer with 4:52 and 4:29 left in the period, before David Lytle closed the margin to one, 6-5, when he scored from the high slot with 1:34 to go in the second.

But that was the end of Southern’s offense, as the Rams were continually closed down in the neutral zone and played much of the third period in their end. The few chances they generated were easily handled by Liberty goalie Brendan Sheerin. Meanwhile, D’Andrea scored again with 9:02 left to make it 7-5, and a fighting major provided the Lions with a five-minute power play soon after. They eventually scored an empty-net goal with 34 seconds left to seal the victory.

The bright spot for the Rams was Keyes, the senior center who scored twice and gave out two assists, which included the 100th point of his fantastic career as he became the only Ram in the program’s history to eclipse the century mark. Senior Hunter Bello also gave away a pair of assists. The senior goaltenders, Scalvino and Cam Conrad, combined for 21 saves.

“We were really light on defense this year,” Hayes said. “We didn’t have a lot of defensemen to start the season and we shifted some of our forwards to defensive positions when we needed to, so we just lacked experience on defense. But overall, we were inconsistent the whole season – with everything.

“We challenged our guys this season. We played a really tough schedule because we believed we had the players to take on that kind of schedule. We lost a lot of close games. So, we were in games. But if you don’t play for five to seven minutes every game, you’re going to get bit against those good teams, and that’s what happened to us this season.

“We have good hockey players on this team, but things didn’t pan out the way we wanted.”

Fortunately, Southern will retain most of its defensive crew going into next season, and Hayes is expecting to see some incoming freshmen with high level of hockey experience. Still, the Rams are losing a lot of offense and two netminders, so next season will certainly have the “rebuilding” label.

“We’re going to have to look at our schedule for next year and see what fits for the type of team we’re going to have,” Hayes said. “We’re going to have a young squad next year, and we’re going to have to shore up our defensive play. But for now, the guys coming back will have to learn something from this season and get better.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

 

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