By Mike Dougherty
There’s a reason why it seems to be getting harder to score goals around here.
It’s not unusual to have a couple of marquee goaltenders who night in and night out increase the frustration level of talented opponents. Chris Stangarone of White Plains, Nick Modica of Suffern, Conor Bunyan of Fox Lane and Matt Lipsky of Iona Prep all fit that description well.
What’s different this year is the high number of netminders who are showing the ability to steal a game here and there.
“I think it’s because more people are recognizing that goalies can really help win games even more than a great forward of defenseman,” Modica said. “There’s more work being done (to develop) goalies at a younger age.”
And they are starting to show up on the radar.
Brandon Vazquez of Lakeland/Panas, Aidan Talgo of Rye, Matt DeYoung of Pelham, Brian Ketchabaw of Rye Town/Harrison, Matt Lanza of John Jay, Thomas Brill of Mamaroneck, Steven Varmon of Nyack/Tappan Zee and Greg Feliu of New Rochelle have all made headlines in the first month of the season.
There are even some quality goalies on struggling teams who face unrelenting pressure and somehow deflect enough pucks to keep games close for a time.
Zach Shapiro of Hen Hud, Joey Molfetta of Kennedy/Putnam Valley/Haldane, Anthony DePinto of North Rockland, Adam Pesce of Sleepy Hollow/Irvington/Dobbs Ferry and Sean Gondor of Ossining all fit into that category.
“Having a goalie is everything, it gives you a chance to win,” said Iona Prep coach Lem Randall, whose team has toppled CHSHL power St. Anthony twice behind 71 total saves from Lipsky.
It’s always been a fraternity.
“From my experience, goalies are a unique breed,” Randall said. “They prepare for games in their own manner. They keep to themselves and go about their business. They visualize the game on a different level than a normal player.”
There’s very little communication during games, but the goaltenders in the region seem to know most of their peers.
“We network.” Vazquez said. “A lot of us play on different teams all over the place, and we might fill in for each other every once in a while. We’re across the ice, but you might comment (in the hallway) about some piece of equipment and get to know each other that way.”
It’s hard to find one netminder in the bunch who isn’t a humble individual.
“Well, it’s tough being a goalie,” Modica said. “You want every game to be a shut out. When you give up a goal, it feels like it’s your fault. I give myself a few seconds to dwell on it, then get back to playing the game.”
Mahopac goes into stealth mode: The high expectations Mahopac had coming into the season took an early hit when the Indians were humbled by Mamaroneck, Suffern and Lakeland/Panas. It was all part of the plan.
“We just need to get a little more experience,” coach Chris Lombardo said. “We started with those teams by design, to see what we needed to work on. There weren’t many changes. We have more of a team attitude now. Early on, we had some kids looking to put the puck in the net, and now they are moving the puck.”
Mahopac is now hoping to sneak up on the contenders when the playoffs begin.
“The one thing we are focused on is staying under the radar,” Indians defenseman Tommy Kirincic said. “We don’t want to get other teams talking about us and getting all hyped up.”
In the crease: Pelham came up with six goals in the first game after losing Andrew Schauer to an injury, but has only scored three goals in the last three games without their oversized forward. … Matt Lipsky was the LoHud Hockey Blog Player of the Week. … Conference titles don’t usually mean a lot, but the school that wins Conference II has something to brag about this season with Mamaroneck, White Plains, Scarsdale, New Rochelle and Pelham all battling for the crown.