Head Coach: Tony Nemati, Fourth season (48-18-4)
Record last year: 19-5-1 (Public B State Tournament Semifinalist)
Division/Classification: Class A North/Public B
Home Rink: Middletown Ice World
OPENING DRAW: Middletown South lost a lot to graduation, as the Eagles watched some of the top skaters in the Shore — Gavin Gulash, Ryan Lambert, Ryan D’Emilia, Dan Berkowitz, Chris Falzone, Greg Johnson, Travis Yawger and Matt Torre — and 169 combined points walk at graduation…and the program is still in position to not only be one of the best in the Conference, but the state of New Jersey.
CROSSTOWN RIVAL: Middletown North enters 2017-18 off 3rd straight state semifinal
DEPTH OF TALENT UP FRONT: Mike Racioppi (8g, 25a), Deven Ralph (14g, 14a) and Nick Lioudakis (16g, 14a) were three of seven Middletown South skaters to finish the 2016-17 season with at least 23 points. With that much production coming from so many sources it’s easy for a dynamic trio like this to be overlooked, but they’re ready to command the spotlight in their senior campaigns. Ralph is currently leading the New Jersey Rockets’ USPHL Elite Division program with 25 points in18 games played, while Racioppi and Lioudakis have been standouts at the AYHL level with the New Jersey Jr. Titans, including the former who is team-leader in point production. After three years of varsity competition, all three skaters have the 100-point plateau in site, though Ralph — who enters the season with 85 points on 38 goals and 47 assists — is due to hit the mark first.
Senior winger Craig Bahrs finished the 2016-17 season with career-highs in goals (5) and assists (8), and the power forward will be tasked with taking on a larger role in his final scholastic campaign, as will classmate Dakota Yannibelli (1g, 2a). Juniors Marc Connor (3g, 2a) and Michael Hannigan (1g, 1a) will also be tapped for further production.
DIVISION RIVAL: St. John Vianney a state power in 2017-18
THE DEFENSIVE END: Joe Guercio (Jersey Penguins 18UAA) appears primed to breakout as one of the best two-way pivots in the Shore Conference. Coming off a junior year in which he logged one goal and seven assists, the lanky Guercio seems motivated to throw the body as well as impact the game more offensively, as the senior showed no hesitation to separate man from puck along the boards, nor to fire a heavy wrist shot at will in a pre-season tilt with Rumson-Fair Haven (a game in which he scored twice, including the game-winning tally).
DIVISION RIVAL: Wall Township has state championship aspirations in 2017-18
The bruising Bobby Matthews — who played an NJYHL schedule this fall with the Jersey Penguins organization — notched two goals and dealt out five assists as a junior, but much like Guercio, he’ll be tasked with taking an even larger role in hissenior campaign. As well as building on his production and continuing his strong positional play, Matthews will also be shouldered with a leadership role, one in which he should flourish.
One of the most exciting young players on this Eagles roster is sophomore Demitri Forand, who freshman efforts on the blue line were an integral part of High School South earning a semifinals berth in the Public B state semifinals. A forward by trade, Forand has excelled this season at the youth level with a talented Jersey Shore Whalers 16U Futures team, and that USPHL experience should only help the sophomore standout continue to develop as one of the top two-way pivots in the Shore.
THREE IN THE CREASE: Most teams consider themselves lucky to have one solid in option to place between the pipes. Middletown South has three in juniors Clay Simonsen and Adam Bloodgood, and sophomore Sean Caswell.
Simonsen — who is currently competing at the 16U USPHL level with the New Jersey Rockets — has been the Eagles starter since entering the program as a freshman, and has been at backbone of the program’s success during that time, including a trip to the Shore Conference Dowd Cup finals as a freshman, and a run to the state semifinals as a sophomore…it was a season in which he posted a .902 save-percentage to go with a 2.29 goals-against average in 21 starts, including a dazzling 32-save effort against CBA on Dec. 13.
Classmate Adam Bloodgood made two starts as a sophomore, including an impressive 19-save effort in a 3-2 win over Southern Regional (Dec. 20) and a 16-save victory over Jackson Liberty in a Middletown Holiday Tournament victory over Jackson Liberty (Dec. 27). However, what might have been his most stellar outing was a relief appearance in a state semifinals showdown with Wall Township, in which he turned aside 10 of 11 shots. Bloodgood got plenty of work this pre-season with the Red Bank Generals 18UAA team, making 583 saves in 18 starts.
The dynamic junior duo will be pushed by sophomore Sean Caswell, who registered his first career shutout in his first career start, an eight-save outing against Brick Township in the Middletown Holiday Tournament. Caswell currently skates with the New Jersey Devils Youth 16U outfit, and has a .916 save-percentage to go with a 1.74 goals-against average in 14 AYHL starts.
CLASS A NORTH ALIGNMENT