TOMS RIVER SOUTH/TOMS RIVER EAST
Head Coach: Jason Verdon, First season
Record last year: 9-10-1/1-18-1
Division/Classification: Class A South/Public A
Home Rink: Winding River Skating Center
OPENING DRAW: There is strength in numbers, and with the number of rostered skaters dwindling over the last couple of seasons, former rivals Toms River South and Toms River East have joined forces as a cooperative program for the 2017-18 season.
Last year the Indians were on the brink of a state playoff berth, finishing a game under even, a season due much in part to a trio of senior skaters — Mike Caufield, Hunter Simeon and Ricky Napoli — who combined for 162 points. The Raiders campaign was far less successful, as East managed just a single victory, and saw its star forward, Colby Dineen, and standout netminder, Nick Price, also walk at graduation.
There are several holes to fill with the loss of those five skaters, but a bevy of talent ready to take the reigns.
DIVISION RIVAL: Southern Regional aims to sustain success in 2017-18
OFFENSIVE ZONE: If it seemed like Zander Taafe (Jersey Penguins 18UAA) never left the ice in his junior year, that’s because he wouldn’t…sometimes for entire periods. A two-way standout, Taafe was often tasked with taking seemingly endless shifts, in which he would start out at his natural center position, before working his way to the defensive blue line for a “break.” Despite the strenuous amount of ice time, Taafe still finished tied for the team-lead with 11 goals.
Taafe will be joined up front by junior and Toms River Blackhawks product Dylan Barnfield, whose skating strength and quick wrist shot allowed the winger to standout as a sophomore with nine goals and seven assists. Barnfield’s Blackhawks teammates Casey Jacoby (5g, 1a) and Matt Sherwood (1g, 3a) will return for their sophomore seasons and are expected to take on a larger role in the offense.
DEFENSIVE END: The Toms River cooperative will have four returners skating on the blue line, but it’s senior Alex Waldron (Jersey Penguins 18UAA) who will anchor this group. Much like Taafe, Waldron played massive minutes a season ago for Toms River East and saw much of exemplary skill sapped by fatigue. Waldron still managed two goals and six helpers, but will be able to shine as a senior with aid coming from junior pivot Brandon Coyle (3g, 5a) and sophomore Blackhawks blue liners Aidan Inteso and Dylan Skorge (1g, 4a).
DIVISION RIVAL: Jackson Liberty enters 2017-18 with dynamic trio
BISH BETWEEN THE PIPES: Though it was the trio of seniors — Caufield, Napoli and Simeon — who garnered most of the headlines for Toms River South’s success in 2016-17, the efforts of netminder Mark Bish can’t be overlooked, as he led all freshman keepers in save-percentage (.884), goals-against average (3.35), total saves (513) and victories (9).
Bish is the favorite to enter opening night as the starter, though Sean Cook (Blackhawks 16UA) — who made five starts for Toms River East as a freshman — will push Bish for time between the pipes.
CLASS A SOUTH ALIGNMENT
Toms River North