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High School Hockey: Offensive Powerhouses Emerge Early in the Season

by Brittany Burke / New Jersey Devils

Christian Brothers Academy's varsity ice hockey team opened its season with a 17-0 win over Marlboro and over seven games they scored 58 goals. (Photo/Courtesy

In football, the general rule of thumb is the higher the score, the better the game. Each touchdown drive is worth six to eight points and a quarterback’s abilities are judged based on how well they can maneuver an offense to march down the field and score. Sports like football are very offensively driven; hockey on the other hand, is a game of finesse.

Due to the nature of the game, it is highly uncommon to have a large amount of goals scored in one hockey game. Out on the ice, the defensemen play just as vital of a role as the forwards do. In football the quarterback is the team’s backbone and it is his job to make sure he gets the ball into the end zone. On the other hand, in hockey, the goaltender is the rock and their task is to make sure the puck stays out of the net.

Despite the usual scoring tendencies, offensive powerhouses have emerged in the opening weeks of the New Jersey high school ice hockey season. In the initial two weeks of play, final scores boasting well over six goals for one team were plentiful, while usually six goals combined between teams is considered a fair amount.

It’s not always the top three guys that are always on the score sheet. Secondary scoring and from your second third or fourth lines, those are the ones that make a difference.Head Coach Ryan Bogan

One of the stronger teams to emerge has been Christian Brothers Academy. In the team’s first game of the season, they beat Marlboro 17-0. Goalie Brett Farrell blocked the only attempt taken on net to keep the opponent off the scoreboard. With a strong three-man goaltender core fighting for the number one spot, CBA shut out their first three opponents.

“They are all competing for the number one spot and they’re pretty close, all three of them. I think they understand the position that they are in and that’s competing every day, every night,” said the team’s head coach, Ryan Bogan. “Tomorrow can be their number and if they’re hot they’ll be the number one until something happens. I think that allows them, and allows us as a team, to keep other teams off the score board.”

Keeping their opponents from scoring is something that CBA has been doing well. In the first seven games of the 2013-14 season, CBA netted 58 goals of their own and had only given up nine, pushing the team to an overall record of 6-1.

“Because of the timing of the season and where teams are as far as their schedules, I think every game, especially early in the season is treated like a practice,” commented Bogan. “As coaches you’re still trying to figure out, ok it’s December, who is going to be my top nine or who is going to be my top 10 in February and March? That creates competition and hunger and if your players have the right work ethic, which at CBA we do, and I know Delbarton, and Bosco and Bergen and public schools that I’m unfamiliar with, I’m sure, have the same work ethic and I think that is what transpires for scores to be higher.”

CBA Coach Ryan Bogan attributes the high scores to the hard work ethic of the teams throughout the state. (Photo/Prudential Center)

Across the board in both the public and non-public divisions, scores have been escalating far beyond what is generally considered the hockey “norm.” At the end of November Montgomery beat Highstown at home with 10 unanswered goals. A few days later, Paul IV and Morristown ended a game notching 17 goals between the two and St. Joseph (Met.) blanked Colonia, 13-0. Bogan doesn’t believe the high scores come from New Jersey being schematically, offensive-minded; rather he attributes it to the strong work ethic for all of the teams across the state.

“I don’t think we ever rest easy, the second you rest is the second you get caught off guard. [December 16] we played Howell and Howell, skill wise is not in the same league as we are, but work ethic wise, last night they could have easily beat us,” said Bogan. Howell came close, being defeated by CBA by just one goal. “I am a believer hard work makes skill and skill doesn’t work hard so I think it’s important to never rest easy and to always keep working.”

That work begins with developing the skills of his players, from the rookies to the veteran seniors. Bogan doesn’t subscribe to the belief of defense over offense or vice versa, which has been successful for other teams. Instead, he employs a full-team system beginning with the defense, working its way out to the forwards. This view gets all of his players involved and ultimately on the score sheet.

“Because high school is such a varying age of players, kids 14-17, I try to develop skill. We play within a system, but at the same time our system, I believe, allows kids to showcase their skill, develop their skills and improve on their skills and that starts with our defensemen coming out of the zone,” explained Bogan.

“… The system we play allows our forwards the luxury of more time with the puck, which allows them better scoring opportunities and I think that’s where it comes from. It’s not the mentality of you got to score, let’s be offensive minded and score. It’s an overall team system that allows us to be productive and that’s with the first line through the fourth line.”

In the win over Marlboro, CBA had 15 players get on the score sheet. Since that game, CBA’s scores haven’t been as high, but even with the top two forwards out with injury the team still has multiple teammates producing.

Like other coaches around the state, Coach Bogan is using the first month of play to determine who his go-to players will become in time the championship push.

“I am looking for our team to be more consistent up and down the lineup sheet. It’s important to have your top three, four or five forwards going, but to not win without the other four or five forwards being consistent playing hard [will be tough]. They’re the ones that may not be on the score sheet but they are the ones that make a difference and they’re the ones that decide how far you go in the conference tournament or how far you go in the state tournament … those are the guys that make teams better, it’s not always the top three guys that are always on the score sheet. Secondary scoring and from your second third or fourth lines, those are the ones that make a difference,” said Bogan.

Early on in the season it is clear that CBA isn’t the only team who is finding its stride, but as the year progresses the question becomes, can the teams continue to consistently find the back of the net while facing stronger and more experienced defenses or will we scoring begin to level out?

For more, head to NJ Youth Hockey Central.

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