It was an incredible opening month of the season for Wall Township winger Zach Tarantino.
The senior standout not only led the Shore Conference in scoring with 39 point on a club-best 15 goals and league-leading 24 assists…and he did it all in just 11 games, a count that equates to 3.55 points-per game, which also led all local skaters.
Over this opening stretch of games Tarantino led the Knights to a record of 10-0-1, allowing Wall Township to remain as one of just eight undefeated teams in the state of New Jersey.
WALL TOWNSHIP: Tarantino lands Player of Week 5 honors
One the best facilitator’s of offense the Shore Conference has seen over the past four years, Tarantino became the first skater in Wall Township history to record 100 career assists when he picked up the primary helper in an early-season non-conference victory Monroe.
The following night Tarantino notched his first career hat trick in another non-conference triumph over Old Bridge (Dec. 5), and maintained his scoring touch six nights later with four goals and a single-game career-high seven points against Rumson-Fair Haven (Dec. 11).
Tarantino was at his best in the Winding River Holiday Tournament, where in three consecutive victories over Toms River South-East, Jackson Liberty and Jackson Memorial the senior logged 14 points on six goals and eight assists, including two tallies and assist in a 3-2 finals victory over the Jaguars.
For his efforts, Tarantino has been named the Shore Conference Player of the Month for December.
John Gelatt, St. John Vianney: The junior standout was also in contention Player of the Month honors, as Gelatt posted a team-leading 26 points on nine goals and 17 assists in just nine games, all while accepting a role that saw coach Mick Messemer often shift his two-way stud to the defensive end to help protect leads and close out big victories, including wins over state powers like Middletown South (Dec. 8) and St. Augustine (Dec. 12). With Gelatt leading the way the Lancers posted a record of 7-1-1 through the opening month of play.
BLOOD & GLORY: Bloodied Gelatt leads Vianney past CBA
Chris Repmann, Middletown North: There’s been no bigger a pleasant surprise in the Shore Conference than the emergence of Lions sophomore Chris Repmann as a legitimate offensive force, and one that has helped elevate his club into the Shore Conference Cup and State Championship conversation. Through nine games the winger led High School North in all major offensive categories, including scoring (21), goals scored (11) and assists (10), while leading the Lions to a record of 7-2-1 and a statement making 3-1 victory over St. John Vianney (Dec. 19) in which Repmann scored twice and assisted on another.
LION’S ROAR: Repmann earns Player of Week honors
GOALTENDER OF THE MONTH
The production of Gelatt and a loaded Lancers forward corps that includes some of the Shore Conference’s most dynamic skaters — including Jake LaRusso, John Gutt and Brett Schneider — has garnered the majority of headlines around this club through the opening month, but St. John Vianney wouldn’t be in the state championship conversation without the play of junior goaltender Jeremy Connor.
Connor closed out the month of December with a conference-leading save-percentage of .944 to go with a 1.75 goals-against average — which was good enough for second among all qualifying netminders — and the second most saves among local goalies with 234.
Connor logged his third career shutout in an opening night victory over Red Bank Catholic, and surrendered more than two goals in a game just once, and in came during a monumental 5-3 victory over Gordon Conference power and state title contender St. Augustine (Dec. 12).
Matt Pousson, Jackson Memorial: Now fully healthy and at the top of his game, the senior keeper was stellar in December and also in the running for December’s top keeper, as Pousson posted a save-percentage of .940 to go with a conference-leading 1.73 goals-against average. Through nine appearances Pousson finished tied for the league-lead with eight victories, and third in saves with 233. His performance helped lift Jackson Memorial to a Winding River Holiday Tournament finals berth.
Logan Beattie, Wall Township: Beattie emerged as one of the best goaltenders in the state a season ago, and he’s picked up right where he’s left off as a junior, posting a .936 save-percentage and a conference-leading 1.33 goals-against average. His eight victories and two shutouts were both tied for tops in the league, and his efforts helped Wall Township close out the month as one of just eight unbeaten teams remaining in the state of New Jersey.
DEFENSEMAN OF THE MONTH
With more of a premium being placed on his defensive efforts, John Hallard’s immense offensive capabilities have not been producing points at the rate he’s displayed in previous seasons, but junior defenseman has almost single-handedly stifled some of the top offenses in the Shore Conference this year, including that of St. John Vianney. Middletown North logged a signature victory over the Lancers on Dec. 19, a game in which Hallard played nearly 40 minutes and helped hold the Lancers to a single third period goal. He also led all Lions defensemen in scoring with five points on two goals and three assists in just six games played.
Thomas Swartwout, Brick Memorial: The junior pivot was also in the running for Defenseman of the Month, as he placed his two-way skills on full display in December, leading his Mustangs club and all local defensemen scoring with 18 points on eight goals and 10 assists in 12 games. Swartwout’s biggest outing came on Dec. 17 in a meeting with crosstown rival Brick Township, in which he logged two goals and three helpers…all while organizing a holiday toy drive for he and his teammates to present to kids at a local children’s hospital.
James Bianco, Howell: He was tossed into a prominent blue line role a season ago as a freshman when coach Bill Daley moved captain Ryan Damelio into a full-time forward role. As a sophomore Bianco has been given the reins to the Rebels defensive unit as yet another longtime pivot in Sean Mylod moved up front. All Bianco did in December is post four goals and six assists, helped his club to an unexpected record of 7-4-0 as well as a John Piccolo Winter Classic Tournament Championship.
ROOKIE OF THE MONTH
Ocean Township’s Kenny Maxwell burst onto the scene with an opening night varsity debut to remember, as the freshman scored five goals as part of a six-point outing…and he hasn’t slowed down.
Through eight games Maxwell leads the Spartans in scoring with 19 points on a club-best 14 goals and five assists, while helping to lift Ocean Township to a record of 5-2-1, the program’s best start since 2013-14 when the program reached the state quarterfinals.
GREAT DEBUT: Maxwell has incredible start to varsity career
Cole Schneider, Toms River North: Though the Mariners have mustered just a 5-7-0 start to the season, Schneider has emerged as the club’s most dynamic offensive force, posting a team-leading 23 points on six goals and 17 assists, while finishing December as the eighth-leading scorer in the Shore Conference and the top local freshman point-producer.
Luke Satkowski, Jackson Memorial: Jackson Memorial’s success is predicated on its depth of talent in all zones, and the emergence of Satkowski as a reliable two-way skater has been pivotal to the Jaguars 8-2-1 start to the season. The freshman winger finished the opening month with 13 points on eight goals and five assists.
The Mustangs may not be lighting up the win column, but at 2-0-4 Marlboro closed out December as one of just eight unbeaten programs in the state of New Jersey, and Anthony Galante has been a heart of these successes and stalemates.
Galante finished as the team’s leading goal scorer with 10 tallies to go with five assist through the Mustangs first six outings of the new year.
The sophomore winger had two goals in an opening night win over Jackson Memorial, before delivering his first career hat trick in a 3-3 tie with Divisional foe Freehold Township. The sophomore winger notched two more in a notable tie with Middletown North, and picked up another as well as two helpers in a 5-5 finish with Jackson Liberty four nights later.
Conor Murray, Manasquan: At 6-2-0 Manasquan is off to its best start since the 2010-11 season, and what’s more the Warriors have taken full control of the division title race, skating to five consecutive Class A Central victories. The club’s offensive output and three strong lines have garnered much of the attention, but it’s the two efforts of senior captain Conor Murray that have been integral to the outfit’s success. Murray is a top pair defenseman but with Manasquan, but a standout forward at the travel level with the Jersey Shore Whalers, a skillset that has allowed the pivot to become a dynamic skater in all zones. Murray logged a goal and an assist in an opening night victory over a young and hungry Rumson-Fair Haven club, and lit the lamp again in a back and forth battle with public state title contender Middletown North. Through eight games Murray has record seven points on three goals and four assists.
Sean Mylod, Howell: Using the same method as he did a season ago with Ryan Damelio, coach Bill Daley decided to shift a standout defenseman and captain in Sean Mylod from the defensive end to a top line center position…and the results have once again been remarkable. The senior closed out the month as the Shore Conference’s fourth-leading point producer (29 in 11 games), and led all local skater with 19 goals scored, while leading Howell to a 7-4-0 record and a holiday tournament title in Old Bridge.
Kay Brezniak, Toms River North: The Mariners managed just five victories through the month of December, and senior netminder Kat Brezniak was between the pipes for four of them. Brezniak closed out the month of December with a save-percentage of .907, and as one of just six local goaltenders with a mark above 90 percent. Brezniak also posted a stellar 2.00 goals-against average.
TEAM OF THE MONTH
Wall Township and St. John Vianney sit atop this list, as the Knights are off to an undefeated start, while St. John Vianney cemented itself as a legitimate Non-Public state title contender with a big victory over St. Augustine.
Neither club took a lead in their head-to-head matchup as the pair of local powers took skated to a 2-2 tie, and then where does Middletown North fit into this conversation after taking a 3-1 win from Lancers…and then what about Middletown South, as the Eagles notched a 3-2 victory over the Lions on opening night and sit at 7-2-0 through the opening month of play.
But the nod goes to Wall Township, as the Knights finished as one of just eight teams in the state with an undefeated record, and already have championship under their belt with a 3-2 victory over Jackson Memorial in the Winding River Holiday Tournament.
Did I mention Jackson Memorial is 8-2-1 and deserves to be in this conversation? And don’t sleep on Manasquan either.
In short, January and February should be a lot of fun.