Oceanside may lack the firepower it boasted last season when it captured its first-ever Liberty Division championship in the High School Hockey League of Nassau County, but the Sailors have avoided any major losing streaks and could be peaking at the right time.
“We lost nine players from last season, so it’s somewhat of a transition year but we’re hanging in there,” coach Bill Clark said. “We’ve had some games to forget, but we’ve also had some games where we played really well. As long as we’ve got our whole lineup, we can compete with anyone.”
Only two of Oceanside’s first 12 games were close, and those came back-to-back in December. The Sailors lost 3-1 to Long Beach, but rebounded to beat Bellmore-Merrick for the first time in six years, 2-1. The margins in the other 10 games ranged from four to 10. “It’s been a weird season,” Clark explained. “We still have some kids displaced because of Sandy, and nobody’s really had a lot of practice time. It took a while for everyone to get their legs under them.”
After suffering a shutout loss to last year’s division runner-up, East Williston, on Jan. 8, Oceanside’s offense clicked in a big way to produce its first winning streak of 2012-13. The Sailors (6-6) beat Port Washington, 11-1, and took a lacrosse-like 14-11 decision over Great Neck/Sewanhaka.
“We have kids capable of putting the puck in the net, but we’re not as explosive as last season,” said Clark, who in addition to last year’s senior leaders Brian Hurley and Joe Mitchell lost two key cogs in defenseman Andrew Green and forward Kiernan Hurley. “If we’re going to make a run in the playoffs, we need to be better in our own end and make the most of our scoring chances,” he added.
Going into the playoffs with an experienced goaltender like junior Dominick LoManno, a returning starter, boosts the Sailors’ chances of making some noise. He was instrumental in the win over Bellmore-Merrick. “Dom’s a travel player and an All-Star,” Clark said. “When he’s with us, he’s our starter. He’s got very good skills.”
With Green’s departure to Canada to play the sport, senior Jason English assumed the puck-rushing defenseman role and ignites the team’s transition game. Juniors Danny Landstrom and Danny Bonacker returned to the back line, and juniors A.J. Saleme and Patrick Murray bolstered the unit. “We’re pretty tight on defense when the group is together,” Clark said.
Offensively, the Sailors count on returning junior Mike Jennings, newcomers Tyler, a senior, and Ryan, a sophomore, Stiemel, and senior Cam Kelly to get the job done. Sophomore Shane Clark, junior Jeremy Leider and senior Justin Provvido are also contributing. Tyler Stirmel had both goals against Bellmore-Merrick and an eight-point game (four goals, four assists) against Great Neck/Sewanhaka.