RED BANK, NJ — First-year head coach Eric Zullo is determined to usher in a new era of hockey at Rumson-Fair Haven.
In search of the program’s first winning season since 2015-16, Zullo is asking for more — and getting it — with contributions up and down the lineup.
Rowan Goldin scored twice — once shorthanded — and Spencer Hobson, Casey Freeman, Sam Catalano, Ryan Croddick and Charlie Tallman also found the back of the net in a 7-1 victory over Westfield at The Armory in Red Bank.
Andrew Schmidt collected three assists as a total of eight Bulldogs found the scoresheet while goaltender Ronan Hickey registered 16 saves to help Rumson-Fair Haven improve to 2-0 this young season.
“We went into the game knowing exactly what we wanted to do thanks to coach,” said Goldin, who finished with two goals and an assist. “We stuck to the game plan on all aspects and executed perfectly. We started off strong and physical and kept with it all game.”
A standout as a player at Montclair State from 2007-’10, Zullo has made the transition, stepping behind the bench as coach — something he is passionate about — and his passion has set up the team for success.
“We wanted a much more competitive schedule to increase our state ranking — we want to play good competition this year and Westfield was on the list,” Zullo said. “We forechecked well and controlled the neutral zone. Tonight was a great follow up to our first game.”
Hobson got the scoring started with his shot from the point 6:38 into the game, assisted by Croddick and Brett Pritchard. Schmidt set up Freeman on the power play 2:58 later before Catalano finished another play started by Schmidt less than two minutes later as Rumson carried a 3-0 lead into the first intermission.
Croddick extended the Bulldogs’ lead to four 6:15 into the second period, but Westfield struck back in the final minute of the frame on a goal from Nick Forno, assisted by Brendan Kotiga and Brendan Hiltz.
The goal, with 43 seconds left, did not have the carryover effect Westfield had hoped as Goldin went back to work just 34 seconds into the third period putting Rumson back up by a score of 5-1. Schmidt and Hobson drew assists.
“We knew they were going to come out strong and all the leaders on the team — Sam Catalano, Jack Whitelaw, Ryan Croddick, Brett Pritchard — riled us up before the start of the third,” said Goldin, who scored his second goal of the game, shorthanded, 3:15 later.
“Catalano and Whitelaw will be huge factors for us, running the forecheck perfectly (and) Croddick and Pritchard will make a huge impact for us this year,” Goldin said. “They have high IQ for the game and can handle the puck very well.”
Charlie Tallman iced it for Rumson-Fair Haven with 4:36 remaining in regulation.
After a 7-0 thumping of Montclair Kimberley Academy on Dec. 5, Westfield came crashing back to Earth.
“They are a very solid team that just outplayed us in all aspects of the game,” Westfield coach Joe Bertucci said. “They were the better team. We have a lot to work on. We are going to use this as a learning experience. I’m looking to see how my guys respond after being embarrassed — it will show our true character.”
After a 9-0 victory over Ocean Township in its season-opener, Rumson-Fair Haven has now outscored the opposition 16-1.
The road will get significantly harder for Rumson-Fair Haven, however, but that is exactly how Zullo set it up.
“We are looking forward to Madison, Ridge an Chatham — all in January — to see how we match up against the best,” Zullo said.
“We have a great senior leadership group run by Catalano, Jack Spagnuola, Goldin, Whitelaw and (Max) Nicholson. Andrew Schmidt holds our backend together.”
Rumson is in action again on Dec. 13 against Toms River North.
“It’s been awesome so far,” Goldin added. “Coach prepares us every week for our opponents so we know exactly what we will be doing system-wise days in advance. Practice is always loose and up tempo, which helps us stay engaged. He does an excellent job and cares more than any coach in the state.
“Our goalie, Ronan Hickey, will also have a breakout season for us — he has looked unbelievable so far.”
1-0 RFH Spencer Hobson (Ryan Croddick, Brett Pritchard) 8:22-1st
2-0 RFH Casey Freeman (Andrew Schmidt) 5:24-1st PPG
3-0 RFH Sam Catalano (Andrew Schmidt) 3:30-1st
4-0 RFH Ryan Croddick (Rowan Goldin) 8:45-2nd
4-1 WF Nick Forno (Brendan Kotiga, Brendan Hiltz) :43-2nd
5-1 RFH Rowan Goldin (Andrew Schmidt, Spencer Hobson) 14:26-3rd
6-1 RFH Rowan Goldin 11:09-3rd SHG
7-1 RFH Charlie Tallman (Spencer Lee) 4:36-3rd
Written by John Christian Hageny @JCCSPORTS
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