Bulldogs look to keep improving on the ice

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By Warren Rappleyea

Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s ice hockey team was 5-5 heading into its final game of the Middletown Holiday Tournament Dec. 30.

The Bulldogs, who were 13-4-2 a year ago, still have plenty of talent, but replacing a player like Brendan Ban, who posted 75 points, is no easy task. Nevertheless, Rumson-Fair Haven has been able to put goals on the forward, led by senior forward Conor Deverin, who has produced 13 tallies in nine games played.

Coach Anthony Matarazzo’s team is coming off a 7-3 loss at the hands of Brick Township High School Dec. 26 in the Middletown tournament. Rumson-Fair Haven found itself in a 5-0 hole at the end of the first period and goals by Deverin, Will Catalano and Rowan Goldin were not enough to get the Bulldogs back in the game.

Previously, the Bulldogs downed Hunterdon Central Regional High School, 5-4, Dec. 27 in Middletown, as five different players contributed goals: Deverin, Colin Anderson, Blake Lerner, Christian Danielczyck and freshman Jake Whitelaw, while sophomore Trey Croddick posted a pair of assists.

Other highlights include a 6-4 success against Madison High School, with Deverin scoring twice and Goldin and Croddick each adding a goal and an assist. Sophomore goalie Sean Ryan made 43 saves to help the Bulldogs to a 4-3 win over Point Pleasant Borough High School. Third-period goals by freshman Jack Spagnuola and Deverin — a short-hander for his second of the night — keyed the victory. Rumson-Fair Haven also downed Freehold Township High School and Manasquan High School — in the season opener — after getting out to big first-period leads.

Deverin, who also has six assists, has been Rumson-Fair Haven’s primary threat, but the Bulldogs have other players who can score. Will Catalano has four goals to go with six assists, Croddick has three goals and as many assists and Anderson, a junior, and defenseman Alex Werner have three goals apiece.

Juniors Peter Mindich, Dan Quigley and Kurt Bruckman also play up front. Several freshmen have also earned playing time, including, Spagnuola, Whitelaw, Max Nicholson and Sammy Catalano, who has a goal and five assists.

The Bulldogs are relatively strong on the blue line with Werner, Robbie Hemphill and Dennis Hoffman providing senior leadership. Juniors Nick Longo and John Horner, a transfer from Red Bank Catholic High School, along with talented sophomore Blake Lerner all see plenty of time. Ryan, who transferred from Jackson Liberty High School, has posted an .860 save percentage as the main man between the pipes.

Matarazzo stresses playing both sides of the puck and is confident his squad will post its fair share of wins, despite playing in the Shore Conference’s tough Class A North Division, along with the likes of Christian Brothers Academy, Wall High School and others.

“Our goal is always to play as a team at both ends of the rink,” the second-year coach said. “If we can do that, we’re going to get better with each game.”

That mentality helped take Rumson-Fair Haven to the finals of the Shore Conference’s Handchen Cup last season, where the Bulldogs fell to Middletown High School North, 8-6.