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The SCHSHL Finals Preview 

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Turnover is part of High School sports and hockey is no exception, but please indulge my nostalgia anyway. There aren’t many players left who played against the Eastport South Manor Sharks or the St. John’s Cougars, but Bobby Trites and Brady Monteleone did. Friars assistant captain Gerard Nealon is the only other player in this series who can say the same. Why are we talking about teams that no longer field in the SCHSHL? Because experience matters and those two have it in spades. They haven’t just outlasted most if not all of their teammates, they have outlasted teams.

There is an expectation that comes donning a Bulls or Friars sweater. It’s championship or bust. The Friars have reached those lofty heights in back-to-back seasons and the Bulls haven’t. This year is different. 

There is no Nick D’Andrea, Jack Dlugos or Gavin Kata for Monteleone to lean on. This is his team now. The Friars captain has one remaining teammate from his sophomore campaign, Gerard Nealon, who has been out of the lineup due to an upper body injury since the beginning of the playoffs. Jack Mancini was part of last season’s championship squad. T.J. Ulmschneider backed up former Friars netminder Ryan Burhart in last season’s finals. One way or another, this era is coming to an end. 

Bobby Trites hasn’t been here before. The captain is the lone third-year varsity player on Bulls this season. His only returning teammates from last season, which ended in a 7-3 semifinals loss to St. Anthony’s, are fellow senior Adam Lackowitz and junior Ray Sherwood

Back in September it looked like more seasoned squads like the East Islip Chiefs, Kings Park Commack Knights and Sachem were the heavy favorites to win the league. So how did it come to be that two squads hovering around .500 at the halfway mark made it to the finals? The boys came to play. 

Roster Construction

From JV To Varsity 

Turn back the clock to the 2022-2023 season for game three of the JV Finals. It’s Brendan Landrigan and the Bulls versus James Schendorf and the JV Gold Friars, one of the two teams that St. Anthony’s fields at that level. The Bulls dropped game one to the Friars by a final score of 4-1 after going undefeated in the regular season. Smithtown Hauppauge went on to win 3-1 in game two before completing the reverse sweep in a 3-2 victory to win the best of three series. 

Two representatives from this year’s Varsity All-Star game, Gavin Bareham and the aforementioned Brendan Landrigan, were among the JV Bulls leading scorers. Max Campo, Jackson Cantalupo, J.P. D’Allessandro, Patrick Malone, R.J. Pfister, Patrick Ryan and Timmy Sellito are in the lineup for Smithtown Hauppauge. Shane Reidy was out for the playoffs due to a lower body injury. 

On the other side of the ice a St. Anthony’s squad that still went by the nickname “Ice Friars,” rolls in with a strong lineup of their own. One of St. Anthony’s All-Star representatives for this season, defenseman Michael Catizone, draws into the lineup. James Aspromonti and James Schendorf are the Captains. Daniel Cevallos, Ryan Leon, Joe Rocca, Shane Ryan and Anthony Scorcia drew into the lineup for JV Gold. Cormac Terry, whose older brother Michael was on the Friars two title winning teams at the Varsity level, was unavailable in the playoffs. Zack Sirel, who had 17 points in 7 JV games, was ineligible for playoff action. Defenseman Michael Bove and forward Devin Curry made the Friars Varsity roster after spending last season with JV Black. 

One and Done’s

Take it from someone who rolled in for their senior season before graduating, there is nothing wrong with being a one and done. Center Victor D’Errico, who spent last season with the P.A.L. Junior Islanders UPSHL Elite Team, has brought speed and sandpaper to this Bulls forward core. Defenseman C.J. Guglielmo brings a physical element to the Bulls blue line. 

Center Louis Cutalo IV, who spent last year with the Rhode Island Saints, has been a seamless fit on the Friars top line with Brady Monteleone

The Missing Pieces

The Bulls were bolstered by the additions of Juniors Michael Arnoni and David Wetzel. Arnoni is a scrappy two-way forward who excels at winning puck battles and making life hard for his opponents. Wetzel is a strong puck carrying defenseman who was selected to represent the team at the All-Star game. 

The Friars two biggest additions from outside the JV team were Tommy Azzariti and Brody O’Doherty. Azzariti scored six goals for the Freshman Friars in the 2022-2023 post-season to propel the club to a championship. O’Doherty had a cup of coffee with St. Anthony’s varsity squad as a sophomore last season. The junior defenseman has tallied 17 points in 18 regular season games.  

Analysis  

Seven Bulls have tallied points in the playoffs on seven goals through two games. Brendan Landrigan and Jackson Cantalupo have combined for five of the Bulls seven post-season goals. Bobby Trites scored the game winner against Sachem and R.J. Pfister scored in a strong showing against EI. Gavin Bareham has two assists. Victor D’Errico, Shane Reidy and Ray Sherwood have each tallied one assist, while impacting the game in ways that don’t show up on the scoresheet. D’Errico and Reidy play strong two-hundred foot games for the Bulls, while Sherwood has been rock solid defensively.

Seven Friars have scored and nine have tallied points. Tommy Azzariti, Ryan Leon and Jack Mancini have scored two goals apiece for the Friars in the playoffs. Louis Cutalo IV, Brody O’Doherty, Brady Monteleone and Zack Sirel have also found the back of the net for St. Anthony’s. Devin Curry and James Schendorf have one assist apiece. 

Head-To-Head 

St. Anthony’s lost 6-3 in their first meeting against the Smithtown Hauppauge, before the Friars tied the Bulls 2-2 in their second game. It’s hard to put that much weight into either game given the fact the Friars didn’t have Jack Mancini in round one and the Bulls were without Gavin Bareham in round two. 

The Lineup

St. Anthony’s Friars 

Forwards 

The Friars have eleven forwards rostered, but Gerard Nealon has been unable to draw in during the playoffs due to injury. Anthony Scorcia, who just came back from an injury,  plays with a snarl that you love to see. If those two are back in the lineup the Friars will be even deeper. 

With Nealon out of the lineup, Joe Rocca has slotted in next to Cutalo IV and Monteleone on line one. Rocco can use his speed well to win puck battles and generate chances. Monteleone is a smooth skater who can shift gears quickly and has the ability to dictate the pace of play. Cutalo IV likes to push the pace, punish his opponents along the wall, and he puts the biscuit in the basket as well as anyone this series.  

Devin Curry has been the lone senior on the Friars second line with sophomores Tommy Azzariti and Zack Sirel. Azzariti is a key puck carrier in transition, who has been counted upon in big moments. Sirel is a strong, fast two-way center who is always noticeable. That line has found the back of the net consistently this post-season. James Aspromonti, Ryan Leon and James Schendorf have been used as a checking line that will throw the shoulder before burying the puck in the back of the net. If Nealon is at full strength then I expect Rocca and Scorcia to be used as the fourth line wings with a center rolling through.

Defense  

The Friars have been on a heater in the second half. St. Anthony’s top pair of Jack Mancini and Brody O’Doherty tilt the ice in the Friars favor in every situation. Cormac Terry and Michael Catizone are strong two-way players who could be first pair defenseman on almost every other team in the league. 

Goaltending 

The Friars will once again turn to T.J. Ulmschneider, who has been a beacon of stability all season long. I don’t expect St. Anthony’s to make a change in net during this series unless they have to, but Shane Ryan is a more than capable option if push comes to shove. The Junior netminder was the starter for St. Anthony’s JV Gold during the 2022-2023 season and appears poised to have a strong senior season come next fall.

Smithtown Hauppauge Bulls 

Forwards

The Bulls top line of Bobby Trites, Jackson Cantalupo and Shane Reidy have been steam rolling opponents since December. The three man unit has a nice blend of speed, skill and snarl. Reidy is a scrappy center who uses his speed to push the pace. Trites is a physical two-way winger and Cantalupo is one of the most skilled puck handlers in the league. When they aren’t putting the puck in the back of the net, the Bulls top line tends to keep opponents on their heels and hemmed in their own end. 

Smithtown Hauppauge has been rolling out Gavin Bareham, Victor D’Errico and Brendan Landrigan as their second line. D’Errico’s ability to wear down opponents has freed up Bareham and Landrigan to create opportunities off the rush before getting to work on the cycle. When the top line isn’t scoring, this one does. 

Michael Arnoni centered the third line of Max Campo and Timmy Sellito at the start of the Bulls semifinals matchup against the Chiefs. Arnoni is Mark Dubeau’s Swiss Army knife, so you can expect to see him in multiple different roles throughout this series. Campo has a knack for scoring clutch goals and Sellito is a strong penalty killer. 

The Bulls have deployed J.P. D’Allessandro and Patrick Malone as their fourth line winger with one of their top three centers rolling through the line. D’Allessandro is a speedy player who I could see the Bulls turning to more and more down the stretch against a Friars squad that likes to push the pace. Malone is a power forward that can make his presence felt out there. 

Defense

The Bulls tend to use their top six defenseman interchangeably, but more often than not seniors Adam Lackowitz and C.J. Guglielmo start the game for Smithtown Hauppauge. These two like to make life tough for opposing forwards in front of their own net and in the corner. R.J. Pfister and David Wetzel are strong puck handlers with great four-way mobility. Andre McGraime and Ray Sherwood are solid shutdown defenseman with the ability to chip in offensively.

Goaltending

This is Patrick Ryan’s net. The Smithtown Hauppauge starter has posted a 2.50 GAA in the playoffs, despite going up against two of the league’s most dominant regular season offenses in Sachem and East Islip. Ryan backstopped the Bulls to three tie games this season, showcasing the Bulls netminders ability to hold down the fort when it matters. It’s hard to imagine the Bulls make a change in between the pipes, but there is no doubt that Aidan Halliday is a solid goaltender. The Bulls Junior started in a 6-3 victory over the Friars early in the season, before losing 3-2 to the Knights and 2-1 to the T-Birds. Halliday recorded three shutouts in the regular season, so suffice to say the Junior netminder knows what he’s doing.

Key Matchups

Victor D’Errico V Zack Sirel

St. Anthony’s second line has gotten involved early and often this post-season. Zack Sirel’s line was at the forefront of the Friars 5-0 win over the Tigers, before playing a key role in their matchup with the Knight. The key to shutting down this line will start in the face off dot as well as in the corners. Whoever wins the majority of these battles will be able to tilt the ice in their lines favor. 

Friars Top Pair V Bulls forecheck 

Brody O’Doherty and Jack Mancini are two of the league’s best defenseman. The Friars top pair is consistently generating zone exits before driving up ice. If these two are able to routinely escape pressure and get into rhythm then this will be a short series. 

Bulls Blue Line V Brady Monteleone

The Smithtown Hauppauge blue line did an admirable job keeping Sachem off the board at 5 v 5 in the Quarterfinals while holding East Islip to just two goals at full strength in the Semifinals. Both those teams know how to put the puck in the back of the net. Brady Monteleone is not the same type of player as Sachem’s Thomas Konkowski, nor is he similar to EI’s big three of Ryan Anatra, Thomas Ivers and Anthony Pepe. Monteleone likes to slow things down on the ice, and the Bulls can’t afford to let him do that. 

Checking Line 

The Friars third line is made up of players who set the JV division on fire last year. Schendorf is at his best when he gets work on the cycle. The Bulls can’t let that happen, because even if Aspromonti and Leon don’t capitalize on the opportunities that Schendorf helps to create, the time spent in the defensive zone will take a toll on the Bulls. 

Special Teams 

The Bulls have given up shorthanded goals in back-to-back playoff games. You can’t make those kinds of mistakes against the Friars and come away with a win. Smithtown Hauppauge will need to capitalize on the power play in the finals after going 0/5 against Sachem and 0/2 against EI. Smithtown Hauppauge went 4/5 on the kill against Sachem before going 3/3 in their against EI. 

St. Anthony’s went 1/4 on the power play against Northport Huntington before going 2/7 against KPC. St. Anthony’s was a perfect 3/3 on the kill against Northport Huntington before killing off 5/6 against KPC. The Friars have one shorthanded goal which came on a penalty shot against the Knights. 

Our Picks 

I asked LISN PXP Announcers Ian Behnke and Brendan Yerkes to share their picks ahead of puck drop on Sunday night.

Ian Behnke: Friars in 3 

“Ultimately, this comes down to the experience in the St. Anthony’s lineup. Top to bottom, there’s a ton of players that have been in this spot before. On top of that, there’s a really good player between the pipes in T.J. Ulmschneider. While a hometown crowd might help the Bulls push the series to the max, the experience of the Friars will put them over the top.” — Ian Behnke 

Brendan Yerkes: Bulls in 3 

“The Bulls have pulled off two upsets to this point and I think they do it again. It’s hard to pick against St. Anthony’s after winning back-to-back years but the Bulls are hot right now. The series will need three games, but Smithtown Hauppauge will dethrone St.Anthony’s” — Brendan Yerkes

Jack Ziskin: Bulls in 3

“The Bulls iced a strong Sachem squad in round one before ending East Islip’s championship hopes in round two. The Bulls have done all of this without winning the special teams battle and multiple key pieces have yet to find the back of the net. I expect them to figure it out in that regard, but that’s not why I’m picking them to win. This is Bobby Trites’s team and I expect the Bulls to answer the bell for their captain in his senior season.” — Jack Ziskin

Mike Brown: Friars in 3

My heart says Bulls, my head says Friars… I think we’re in for a heck of a show from these two very talented squads.

The Bulls have a core of young players who have really impressed over the past few weeks, and with the addition of Mark Dubeau behind the bench, I think Smithtown Hauppauge has its best chance at a county championship in years.

HOWEVER, St Ants has a great coach of their own with Bob Lund steering the ship. Lund’s squad plays impeccable defense and when they get into that mode, it’s incredibly difficult to get shots through to the net.

Every game will be tight and the crowd will be nuts. The team that keeps their composure, and sticks to their game plan will walk away with the title this year.

St Anthony’s leadership group has been here before, and I think they might carry a slight edge heading into the series but If the Bulls can win Game 1, all bets are off.”

-Mike Brown

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