The season is only two games old, but Ithaca High boys hockey coach Paul Zarach likes what he sees from his undefeated Little Red.
“The thing that we’re learning is that we’re a pretty deep team, in that we don’t rely on one or two people or one line to score,” Zarach said Wednesday. “Through the first two games, we’ve gotten contribution from all four lines, and it’s good to know that somebody at any moment can contribute, without having to depend on one or two lines. We can spread it around, and that makes us a that much more dangerous team.”
The Little Red welcomes Geneva/Waterloo (1-2) to Lynah Rink at 7 p.m. Thursday. Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, Thursday’s game will be the first of just four home games the Little Red will play this season, all at Lynah Rink.
First-year coach Zarach — who took over this season after long-time coach and recently retired teacher Rich Armstrong was not brought back by the district — has Ithaca playing well. The team opened its season with a 5-1 victory over Shenendehowa on Nov. 24 in Clifton Springs, then scored a 10-2 victory over Ontario Bay three days later in Pulaski.
Nine different players scored goals in the win at OB, with Jacob Grippin scoring two goals and adding an assist, all in the first period. Grippin is one of six players who’ve scored two goals for Ithaca, evidence of the balance Zarach has achieved with his lineup.
“After tryouts were done, we started plugging guys together,” said Zarach, 36, a physical education instructor at the Lehman Alternative Community School who was head coach of the IHS girls team for 10 seasons before making the switch. “We’ve tried to balance the lines, we didn’t really want to have one line that was stacked and have the other three lines have unproven goal-scorers.”
Besides Grippin, other two-goal scorers for Ithaca include defenseman Ryan Emerson, freshman forward Scott Partington and senior forwards Carson Case, Chandler Pfaff and Michael Abdulky.
Charlie Estill and Luke Mendola are the anchors on defense, Zarach said, although Mendola suffered a concussion in the Ontario Bay game and is out for a couple of weeks. Zarach said he hopes to have the senior team captain back before Christmas.
One of the “newcomers” on the blue line is Emerson, who was switched back from forward to defense this season to help shore up the back end, Zarach said. Sophomore Alex Wolczanski has just returned to the lineup after a stress fracture, and Zarach was looking for a little help on “D.”
“With Alex out for first few weeks, we thought we had enough depth at forward to move Ryan back to defense,” Zarach said. “He has the ability to rush the puck, to skate the puck, he sees the ice better being back on defense, and he can jump in the play when he needs to.”
Junior goalie Brandon Kasel stopped 49 of 50 shots in the opener at Shenendehowa and started the game at Ontario Bay, stopping all three shots he faced. He’s the likely No. 1, although Zarach says he has four goalies — including junior Aaron Goldberg, senior Dylan Riker and freshman Keane Niday — who can step in and give solid performances.
Afte Thursday’s game, Ithaca heads to the Baldwinsville Tournament on Friday and Saturday, then travels to Auburn next Thursday to face the Maroons.