By Brian Deakyne
RED BANK – Things are starting to come together for the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School ice program.
After a shaky start, the Bulldogs have pulled off back-to-back mercy-rule wins against B-North opponents. After topping Red Bank Regional High School, 10-0, on Saturday, Rumson crushed St. John Vianney High School, 11-1, on Monday night at Red Bank Armory.
The win avenged a 4-1 loss Dec. 3 to the defending Handchen Cup champions.
With no clear leader in B-North, the previous two wins give Rumson a leg up with the end of the season looming.
“I think that’s why I lose so much sleep over this division because – just like today’s result – earlier in the year, they beat us. If these guys aren’t 100 percent prepared every week or every game, we can win every game or we can lose every game,” first-year Rumson coach Anthony Nemati said.
“That’s how close every team is in terms of skill level and coaching. You look at the schedule, and you can’t really circle any games where you say to yourself, ‘Alright, this is an easy two points.’ St. John Vianney is a good team, they’re a good program, they have a good coach, and every team we play has a respectable staff and a respectable team,” he said.
Rumson controlled the game from the outset, jumping all over St. John Vianney early and scoring five goals on its first eight shots. In all, eight players scored goals for the Bulldogs.
Conor Deverin scored all three of his goals in the first period as Rumson took a 5-0 lead less than 5 minutes into the game.
Colin Courchesne added two goals from Rumson with a host of other players nabbing the scoresheet with a tally.
“I expected us to play very well offensively because the last couple of games, in terms of puck possession and moving the puck, we’ve been playing really well,” Nemati said. “We just had some trouble finishing and, luckily, the last two games we’re getting a little bit of the scoring touch.
“We were forechecking hard for 2 minutes and coming up with nothing. Now we’re starting to bury some chances that we weren’t earlier,” he said. “I knew we were going to play hard and I knew we were going to play good offensive hockey. It was just nice to see that we are starting to get some goals out of the hard work.”
The difference for Rumson over the past two games, which it has outscored opponents 21-1, compared to the beginning of the season, is its confidence to finish plays in the offensive zone, according to Nemati.
“There’s really no way you can teach a kid how to finish,” Nemati said. “You have to hope players have confidence and a lot of is self-confidence and believing that you can score when you’re given the opportunity. We have some guys that have that goal-scoring touch and, when they’re in that opportunity, hopefully, it carries over into our next game. Scoring is an attitude. We can teach them to get there and teach them to work hard, but finishing is about self-confidence.”
John Monteferrante and Robby Garavante each added a first-period goal to help the Bulldogs boost its early lead and Alex Riguardi posted a goal in the second period.
Brendan Ban and Charlie Whitelaw each registered a third-period goal.
A year ago, Rumson was the favorite and No. 1 seed heading into the Handchen Cup when it was upset in the first round. This year, the Bulldogs are on the outside looking in, trying to crack a postseason berth.
“We do have a very tough schedule. I believe every team on our schedule for the rest of the way has a winning record and is probably states-bound,” Nemati said. “I have all the confidence in the world that these guys, especially with these last two wins, that we have enough confidence in our scoring and our offense and our defense and our goaltending that we can win those games.
“It comes down to what team shows up. If we keep showing up the way we are today, I’d put us up against anybody.”