Freehold Township on track for winning ice hockey campaign

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By Jeff Appelblatt

There’s one thing Freehold Township High School ice hockey coach Mike Celano hopes for from his team this year, and so far, so good.

“The number in the win column is larger than in the other,” the coach said. “That’s a good thing.”

Last year’s team went 10-12-1, so the losses outnumbered the wins. This year, the Patriots (5-3-1) have won a majority of their games, and that’s what the coach had hoped for.

“I really can’t complain,” the coach said. “The guys are playing well. We have a good system going. We’re really putting the pieces of the puzzle together.”

Not that it should surprise Celano that his team has played well. Almost everyone from last year’s 10-win team is back.

“Max [Halvorsen], Tyler [McNamara], Brendan [Liebross], Julian Kislin — they’re doing a very good job upfront,” Celano said, naming his top four scorers who combined for 46 goals in the first nine games. “And Jacob Liebross has really been stepping up for us.”

The younger Liebross, Jacob, wasn’t on the team last year. He’s only a freshman, but he has fit in with the club right away, beginning when he netted a goal in Freehold Township’s opener Dec. 3.

The Patriots relaxed a while after tying St. Rose High School Dec. 23, but Celano expects his team to be ready to snap back into action in time for its match Jan. 4 at 4 p.m. at Old Bridge High School.

“It’s mid-season right now,” Freehold Township’s coach said after the recent tie.

But when the break is over, Celando noted that the team has to be focused.

One of the other most important pieces to the Freehold Township puzzle is its goaltender, Nick Raiola. One of the 10 seniors back from last year’s squad, Raiola stopped more than 86 percent of shots fired his way from getting into the net. Only Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, which beat Freehold Township, 7-3, Dec. 10, was able to slide more than five shots past the goalie. And yet, Raiola was still able to fend off 75 percent of the shots that were fired his way. Rumson-Fair Haven (5-5) took 28 shots on Raiola.