With nine freshmen joining the Council Rock North varsity ice hockey team this season, one wouldn’t call the Indians’ current campaign a rebuilding season as much as they might dub it a do-over.
The glue that binds this youthful group of hockey marauders together is goalkeeper Rex Goldberg, a junior who is starting between the pipes his third consecutive season.
“We have to give our goalie credit – Rex Goldberg,” said North senior Will Sohn. “He’s probably the smallest goalie in the league but he’s up there with all the skill he displays.
“He keeps us in it in every game. Every one of his saves keeps us going.”
“Our season will start, finish and end with Rex as our goalie,” added North coach Mike Epstein.
“A junior, he faces probably 50 shots a game. If one goes in, he forgets about it.
“The kid is really mentally strong, he’s a warrior on the ice, and he battles every puck.”
Goldberg nearly willed the Rock to a win Dec. 4 at Revolution Ice Gardens.
But it was not to be.
On the precipice of what would have been its biggest triumph of the season, the visiting Indians just could not stop a final flurry of shots by SHSHL National Conference rival William Tennent (3-3) in order to finish off a 3-1 lead heading into the final period.
As things panned out, the Panthers outshot CR North 20-5 in the final frame and scored three times, the deciding tally coming with 52 seconds remaining to emerge with a 4-3 triumph. Forty-one saves posted by Goldberg including several that came on breakaways could not help the Indians salvage a win.
“We challenged them after the second period because we knew they could play better,” said Tennent head coach Nick D’Aurizio. “That’s what coaching is all about – pushing your guys to find that next level.
“Not every team responds but they showed maturity and they realized they could overtake that game and they did.”
Earlier in the season facing Lower Moreland, Council Rock (1-5) came out on top, entering the win column for the first time in a 6-2 triumph over the Lions.
“We’re a young team, we’re kind of undersized,” stated Epstein. “Our first couple of games were against some of the bigger schools – CB West, Council Rock South, Neshaminy.
“They took it to us pretty good.
“Getting the kids a win – to keep them motivated – was a good thing for them.”
Helping to anchor the victory was senior center Vlad Litvinov who tallied twice, opening the scoring midway through the first period off a feed from Clare Schaffer before feeding freshman Owen Stout for a 2-0 lead with just 44 seconds left in the initial frame.
“He’s a good kid, works really hard,” commented Epstein. “We don’t have a lot of goals as a team but he has a bunch of them.”
Freshman Chris Hahn and senior Colin Kiefer added two more goals in the second period, sending the Indians into the final frame with a 4-2 edge. Hahn fed classmate Noah Epstein for a goal nine minutes into the third period and Litvinov finished things off with a strike of his own with only seconds remaining in regulation.
The scoring leader for the Rock, Litvinov added a goal and an assist to the effort against William Tennent.
Freshman Wyatt Pasch gave North an early lead, scoring his very first varsity goal nine minutes into the game off a feed from Epstein and Jude Hollister. With the score knotted at a goal apiece in the second period, Litvinov and freshman Antonio DiLossi fed Kiefer from behind the net. Litvinov then took a feed from sophomore Wil Pasch and notched his fourth goal of the season, giving the Indians a 3-1 edge heading into the final frame.
Toiling the ice for Tennent is senior Tom Hartenstein, however, and he too notched his fourth goal of the season in this matchup. His was the game-winner in this one, coming 15:08 into the last period off a feed from Matthew Castan, who drew the Panthers within a goal with his tally 5:50 into the final frame. Six minutes later, Hartenstein knotted the score at three apiece, scoring even strength off a feed from Zach Devor and the rest, as they say, is history.
“We got tired,” explained Kiefer, afterward. “We had a couple of bad bounces and we didn’t make smart plays where we could have gotten the puck out.”
The second period had to be the Rock’s best in the season as North outpaced their hosts, 2-0.
“I felt like we definitely brought a lot more intensity coming out of the first period tied,” added Kiefer. “We don’t have a lot of close games. We’re a young team and it’s hard to stay with these faster, older teams.”
“We brought the intensity because we really wanted to get the win.
“We just fell short.”
North also had its power play working on this night as it tallied twice on the man-advantage in the second period.
“(Vlad) found me for a goal; I found him for a goal. I thought we played really well on offense,” commented Kiefer. “The power play, I think we went 2-for-2, 2-for-3.
“The power play went really well tonight; it stinks we couldn’t put anymore in.”
After the game, Kiefer described what it is like to play on a team with nine freshmen.
“It’s definitely different,” he said. “It’s a lot different than having a defined older, more mature, group.
“They have a lot to learn but they’re doing their best, giving their full effort the whole game.”
Coach Epstein, who was called up from the middle school program in order to help head coach Chris Gallagher assimilate the youngsters into the varsity lineup, says the current group is staying unified, despite suffering its fifth loss of the season against the Panthers.
“They are staying high. They are not getting down on themselves and they’re not getting on each other,” the coach said.
“They know some of the bigger schools, we’re going to struggle with.
“They know it’s a process and they’ve all bought into the process; they know it’s going to take a couple years to rebuild the program.”
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