Keystone Oaks hockey starts season 2-0
Starting strong has been something that has escaped the Keystone Oaks hockey team in recent seasons. The squad dropped four-straight season openers and started with losing streaks last season and in 2009-10.
But this season, the Golden Eagles are flying high as they defeated Altoona, 7-4, and Indiana, 4-3, to start the season 2-0.
“It is my fifth season coaching the team and this is our first year with an opening win,” Keystone Oaks coach John McCarthy said. “It's good to win a first game finally. We still have lots of work to do but the one thing we like about this group is that they are very coachable.
“They want to learn and really believe in each other.”
Keystone Oaks started fast against Altoona in the season opener, picking up a 3-1 lead in the first period thanks to two unassisted goals by Bryton Tomko and a Ryan Ribeau goal off an assist by Ryan Rosato. The Mountain Lions roared back in the second period, outscoring the Golden Eagles 3-1 to tie the game heading into the final period. The lone Keystone Oaks in the second period score came from Cody Dulski.
Keystone Oaks finished strong with a three-goal final period, as Devin Rosato and Tomko scored on power plays and Eugene Barilla had an unassisted goal.
The Golden Eagles trailed 1-0 early against Indiana but tied it up when Eugene Barilla found an open John Conley in front of the Little Indians net and the senior sent the puck past goalie Austin Moody.
Keystone Oaks extended the lead early in the second period as Rosato scored an unassisted goal on a power play. But the Little Indians answered back with two power-play goals of their own. Dulski brought his squad back late in the period with a goal from the right side of the net to tie the score at 3-3. Rosato gave his squad the win in the final frame, scoring on a power play off assists by Tomko and Dulski.
The strong start to the season can be contributed to the group of returning talent. The Golden Eagles return their top five point-producers from last season – Rosato (39), Tomko (39), Ribeau (27), Dulski (18) and Conley (17). Four of those athletes – Rosato, Ribeau, Dulski and Conley – are seniors and are serving as the team's leaders. The team has struggled to find postseason success the last two seasons and the veterans know their time is running out.
“The seniors on the team made it to the Nailers Cup their freshman season and lost,” McCarthy said. “This is their last chance and they know it. They have learned they cannot do it on their own and are pushing the team to get better.”
While Tomko might be a junior, McCarthy praised the ability of the forward and the wealth of experience he brings to the squad from playing amateur hockey.
“He is playing like a senior,” McCarthy said. “He is calm and cool no matter what the situation is. We are very fortunate to have him. It is like having an extra senior on the team.”
The team is breaking in a new starting goalie in Jonathon Mead. The sophomore played backup to Daniel Smee last season and
“He went to multiple goalie camps over the summer and played in adult leagues as a goalie,” McCarthy said. “He has a hunger to get better.”
Mead will have plenty of talent in front of him on defense to keep goals off the scoreboard. Sophomore Devin Rosato is back from getting a large amount of minutes on the ice last year.
“He has a smaller build but has the best vision on the entire team,” McCarthy said.
Senior Frank Fingers and junior Nick Jaras both return and the team added sophomore Jack Malka, a player who has amateur experience, during the offseason.
“We have a good core,” McCarthy said. “We just need them to get used to working together.”
With the wealth of talent on this season's squad, the Golden Eagles are setting their sights on some big goals – winning the section, winning the Chiefs Cup and winning the Open Class Cup.
“We always strive for that,” McCarthy said. “It is all about the journey of the season. If you don't get there, the work you put in teaches the kids life lessons. At this point, every team should have those goals and that is what we are going for.”
The Golden Eagles return to the ice Nov. 29 when it travels to Greensburg Salem. Puck drops at 9:15.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-388-5813.