RED BANK CATHOLIC
Head Coach: Joe Zdeb, Second season (6-15-3)
Record Last Year: 6-15-3
Division/Classification: Class A North/Non-Public
Home Rink: Red Bank Armory
Opening Draw: Red Bank Catholic battled through a treacherous Class A North and non-conference schedule a season ago, and earned a Shore Conference Handchen Cup Tournament berth in the process. The Caseys leaned on their gritty senior class — led by Matt Tringola, Rob Goehring, Sean Carver and Nick Velez — and one of the top goaltenders in the state in Ciaran McNelis to land that post-season appearance, and with McNelis back for his final scholastic campaign, much of that responsibility — in terms of leadership and on-ice success — will once again fall on the netminder’s shoulders.
SAVES FOR VETERANS: Pousson grows Saves For Our Vets with Brick Hockey Club
MORE ON MCNELIS: He’s arguably the single-most valuable player in the Shore Conference, and despite standing tall behind a thin defensive unit and a young core of forwards as a junior, McNelis — who skates on the national stage with the New Jersey Jr. Titans 18U program — posted an .891 save-percentage (.900 against conference opponents) and a 3.85 goal-against average (3.07 against conference opponents) while making the second most saves among local goalkeepers (631) and facing the third-most shots (708). McNelis was at his best against the top opponents on the Caseys schedule, stopping 44 shots against St. Joseph – Metuchen (Nov. 30), 41 against Middletown South (Jan. 4), 48 more in a road tilt against Wall Township (Jan. 13) and a season-high 51 stops at home against CBA (Feb. 1).
THE NEW GUY: McNelis will have a familiar face prowling the defensive blue line in Jason Harper, a Germantown, Maryland import who skates for the same youth hockey outfit (New Jersey Jr. Titans) as the netminder. Before finding a home with the Middletown-based travel club, Harper came up through a revered Washington Little Capitals organization, and put up 18 points (5g, 13a) in 45 games between the Atlantic Youth Hockey League and the North American Prospects Hockey League a season ago.
THE DEFENSIVE END: Harper is an important addition to a Red Bank Catholic defense that watched its top pairing of Sean Carver and Nick Velez walk at graduation. Harper, a puck-moving pivot with a good stick and strong skating ability, will work alongside fellow senior Kevin Jennings (5a) — who appeared at the Triple A youth level a season ago with the New Jersey Jr. Titans — and Mike Bilancione (1g, 3a), a skilled sophomore pivot skating with the Jersey Shore Whalers 16U Futures club.
DIVISION RIVAL: Wall Township has state championship aspirations in 2017-18
OFFENSIVE ZONE: Brian Anderson (3g, 10a) enters his senior campaign off an NJYHL season with the Jersey Penguins in which he led the 18UAA club in scoring with 17 points and nine goals. It’s the type of production the Caseys will need from the winger – who is also expected to see time on the blue line like he did a season ago – to help replace the 49 combined points logged by the graduated Tringola and Goehring. Junior Logan Gallagher (2g, 1a) — who also skated for that Jersey Penguins outfit — is expected to play the opposite wing of Anderson, and classmate Mario Flego (1g, 2a) appears to be penciled in as the top line centerman. Sophomores George Hart (1g), Alex Gonzalez (3g, 4a), Jersey Shore Wildcats 16UAA forward Tyler Waldron (2g, 2a), and Nicholas Reed (1g, 1a) — who led his Jersey Shore Wildcats 16UA team in point-production with 16 goals and 14 assists in 20 games — will also be counted upon for larger offensive contributions.
DIVISION RIVAL: St. John Vianney a state power in 2017-18
FRESHMAN TO WATCH: Much like his older brother and CBA standout Nic Lidondici, Justin Lidondici enters the Caseys program as a skill player with the strength of a power forward. Lindondici’s Jersey Shore Wildcats Bantam AA teammate Jack Bilancione should also earn some time in the crease.
CLASS A NORTH ALIGNMENT