Rumson-Fair Haven ice hockey surging to the top of the Shore Conference

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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School ice hockey player Andrew Schmidt skates into the Wall Township zone during a game played on Jan. 24. Rumson-Fair Haven is 9-1-1 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School ice hockey player Rowan Goldin dribbles the puck into the Wall Township zone during a game played on Jan. 24. Goldin scored a game-high two goals to help Rumson-Fair Haven defeat Wall, 8-2, to improve to 9-1-1 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School ice hockey player Mike Kuras tracks down the loose puck during the team's game against Wall Township on Jan. 24.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School ice hockey player Andrew Schmidt skates into the Wall Township zone during a game played on Jan. 24. Rumson-Fair Haven is 9-1-1 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School ice hockey player Rowan Goldin dribbles the puck into the Wall Township zone during a game played on Jan. 24. Goldin scored a game-high two goals to help Rumson-Fair Haven defeat Wall, 8-2, to improve to 9-1-1 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School ice hockey player Mike Kuras tracks down the loose puck during the team's game against Wall Township on Jan. 24.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

A lot has changed for the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School ice hockey team over the last nine months.

New head coach, new coaching staff, new system, new culture.

The changes to the program have been nothing but great for the Bulldogs, who have been on a monster roll out of the gate to start the 2019-2020 season.

Rumson-Fair Haven has taken the Shore Conference by storm.

The squad has roared out to a 9-1-1 start and currently sits atop the conference standings in first place.

“Everything so far this year has been very good for us,” said Rumson-Fair Haven coach Eric Zullo. “The kids have really bought into the new systems with the transition to the new coaching staff. They’re a great group. We have great senior leadership. Throughout the lineup we have kids that work hard every game. It’s been a great start and we want to continue that as we play better teams going towards the end of the season.”

The Bulldogs are a senior-laden team, led by senior captains Sam Catalano, Jack Whitelaw and Rowan Goldin.

Catalano has been an offensive machine this winter for Rumson-Fair Haven.

The senior is second on the team in goals scored with 10 and leads the team in assists with 13. He tallied a team-high two assists and scored a goal in Rumson-Fair Haven’s 8-2 victory over Wall Township on Jan. 24 at Jersey Shore Arena in Wall to help the Bulldogs win their third straight game.

Catalano is happy about his success so far this season, but is more than thrilled about how great the team has been doing.

“We haven’t had this much success in years prior to this season,” Catalano said. “We have fire power on every line. No one is selfish. We’re all just working hard and trying to score as many goals as we can to help the team win.”

Rumson-Fair Haven has been a scoring machine this winter. The Bulldogs are currently averaging over five goals a contest this season.

It was an offensive clinic put on display by the Bulldogs in their contest against Wall, with seven different players tallying a goal in the victory.

Goldin led the team with a game-high two goals scored in the victory. The senior also had an assist in the contest, giving him eight goals and seven assists this season.

“Everyone is gelling really well as the season goes on, and that’s what you want to see,” Goldin said. “I’m very confident in my teammates. We can put out anybody on the ice and get the job done. Hopefully we can get that Shore Conference title.”

Whitelaw has been solid this winter on the ice for the Bulldogs, knocking home five goals with six assists. The senior was set up with a great pass by Catalano for his goal against Wall that concluded a four-goal second period for the Bulldogs and gave Rumson-Fair Haven a 5-1 lead going into the final period of play.

Junior Ryan Croddick slashed home in his team-high 12th goal of the season for Rumson-Fair Haven in the victory over Wall. Croddick has scored at least a goal in eight of the team’s 11 games this winter.

Fellow classmate Andrew Schmidt has also provided a major impact to the Bulldogs’ success this winter. The junior is tied for second on the team with seven assists.

In Rumson-Fair Haven’s huge 1-0 victory over Saint John Vianney High School on Jan. 20, Schmidt produced the game’s only goal to help the Bulldogs hand the Lancers their only conference loss of the season so far. Schmidt has three goals scored this winter.

Junior goaltender Ronan Hickey was excellent in net against the Lancers, racking up 24 saves for his third shutout of the year.

Rumson-Fair Haven is the only team this season that has held St. John Vianney scoreless.

The Bulldogs are 5-0-1 in their last six games.

Just one victory away from tying its 10-win mark from last season and on pace to win the most games the program’s had since the 2012-2013 campaign, the Bulldogs are thrilled about the success they’ve had this season.

That said, Rumson-Fair Haven knows that they have a team that can do big things this season, which includes finishing as the best team in the Shore Conference and being contenders for the NJSIAA Public C state title.

“We had a goal at the start of the year to take the shore and put ourselves in the Public C conversation for states,” Zullo said. “We have no doubts in our minds we can be in both conversations at the end of the year. If we play our system, we can beat anybody. The sky’s the limit.”

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports