Three players graduated from last year’s Allentown-Robbinsville high school ice hockey team (10-9) that lost in the opening round of the NJSIAA tournament to Freehold Township High School, but the remaining players return for what looks to be a stronger season in 2015-16.
“We need more scoring than last year,” said Dan Bergan, head coach for all 10 years Robbinsville has played, including its merger with Allentown as a co-op team in 2011-12. “We need to continue to have strong goaltending. Our defensive group should be solid for us this year.”
The Ravens, who have qualified for the state tournament all but their first season, play their first four games at Mercer County Park, starting at 8 p.m. Nov. 30 against Ocean Township High School. They follow Dec. 3 (6 p.m.) against West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North and Dec. 4 (3:30 p.m.) against Wall High School. The schedule is peppered with top 20 caliber teams in Montclair High School, Kinnelon High School, Wall, Roxbury High School, Governor Livingston High School, Monroe Township High School, River Dell Regional High School, Paramus High School and Edison High School.
Playing in the Colonial Valley Conference Colonial Division, the Ravens scrimmaged Nov. 18 against Princeton High School and jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Bergan then gave his bench players opportune playing time while holding on for a 6-5 victory.
“We have a mix of forwards this year that remain relatively intact other than the major losses of Anthony Pluchino and Dom Rubino to graduation,” Bergan said. Pluchino is playing club hockey at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and defenseman Jim Kenna is the other significant graduate. “While most high school teams run in four-year cycles, we have been fortunate to be able to have a sustained run moving forward for seven consecutive seasons before hitting a reload season in 2014-15. With the graduation of the three important seniors, we are looking for incremental progress for the 2015-16 campaign.”
Captain John Francis, one of five seniors on the team, will anchor the offense with support from seniors Matt Kalczynski and Ben Solomon, who is a student at Allentown. Bergan looks to junior Shawn Camisa taking on the big role as the go-to scorer this season, while junior Aidan Fredericks of Allentown is expected to emerge as an important contributor after developing in the Ravens’ system the past two years. Josh Rosenbaum brings many seasons of travel hockey experience, while Joe Pontrelli got ample experience as a freshman last season.
Brian Eider, a sophomore from Allentown, is looking to anchor his own line this season and become a major cog on the forward lines, Bergan said.
The other forwards include Liam Hartmann, a freshman from Allentown who has shown good skill, while sophomore tryouts Andrew Laurits of Allentown and Matt LaPreta show a lot of promise despite being inexperienced skaters, Bergan said.
Freshman Frankie Marra also could earn minutes from the start.
Senior Joey Nolan and junior Nick Koch, both from Allentown, shared most of the minutes in goal last season and are ready to compete for the starting job, while sophomore Luke Young and freshman Justin Cooper are backups being primed for the future.
They’re supported by a defense that remains solid, despite the loss of Kenna, behind senior John Martin, who Bergan said is coming on very strong in every way as a leading All-Colonial Valley Conference All-Star candidate. Ryan Van Duren stepped in during his first season and played major minutes as a freshman last season.
“He has developed into a force at the blue line,” said Bergan, who also believes sophomore David Canizares has made big strides over the offseason to play a dependable role.
Newcomer Ryan D’Auria of Allentown has the size and work ethic to be a force on defense. Freshman Daniel Simone shows potential to contribute down the road.
Joining Bergan on the bench are assistant coaches Mark Phillips, who has coached all 10 seasons with Bergan; Dan Greb, who is coaching his eighth season; Dennis Green, who is coaching his seventh season; and Connor Given and Richie Flocco, who are starting their second seasons.
After a 4-20 debut season, the Ravens have gone 113-62-14, winning two Patriot, two Colonial and one Valley Division championship over the last eight years and suited up three CVC Players of the Year, including Allentown’s Logan Fredericks. The Ravens’ defining moment came in the 2013 NJSIAA Tournament quarterfinals when they took perennial power Randolph High School into overtime before losing, 3-2.