Goalie is sometimes the hardest position to pin down for hockey coaches who are fortunate enough to have two competing for a job.
Does a coach go with the more technically sound one or the one on a hot streak? Does he go for the older one or the fresh legs?
Cheshire coach Anthony Giusto and his Lyman Hall-Haddam Killingworth-Coginchaug’s Rich Minnix have elected for the latter, going with underclassmen to backstop their teams to the start the season.
“In my seven years here, our senior goalie has been our starting goalie and been a very good goalie,” Giusto said on the Record-Journal preseason hockey podcast. “This is the first year that we have an underclassman really challenging for that net and my philosophy has always been the best kids play.”
Sophomore Nicholas Maringola takes Cheshire’s starting spot from last year’s graduated goalie, Tom Bishop, and looks to be gaining confidence after a 6-3 opening night win over Conard on Saturday.
“There’s always a little bit of nerves before games and stuff,” said Maringola. “I was a little bit more this time. New guys, new season: got to start it off right.”
Maringola spent last season playing with the Junior Wolf Pack. This is his first season with the Rams.
“I played with a lot of these guys before and I know the way they play,” Maringola said. “I’m just happy I can be their guy that they can lean towards.”
Maringola is talented enough to accept the mantle that is the Cheshire starting goalie job. He appears confident when coming out of his crease to play a puck and give his defense assistance on a breakout. He has good size while still being mobile, and has good positioning, making his job look much easier than it actually is.
At times, rebound control was a cause for concern and searching for the puck through the chaos in front of the net seemed to be a difficult task for him. Those are things Maringola plans on working on and should become easier with experience and age.
“There’s always stuff I want to work on,” said Maringola. “I really want to work on my rebound control and shots up high.”
Though Maringola is clearly capable of retaining the starting spot, Giusto is keeping him on a tight rope, keeping his options open with every shot.
“Nick gave us what we expected,” said Giusto. “But like I told both guys, my decision rests on the last shot. You let up a bad goal on your first shot, I may pull you. I’ve done it before.”
Giusto continued by saying senior Anthony Vignola will see time this year as well.
Another young gun taking over in net for a new team is Andrew Sacco at Lyman Hall-Haddam Killingworth-Coginchaug. Sacco, a freshman, comes to the Trojans after time spent with the Connecticut Chiefs out of South Windsor.
In Sacco’s first game at the high school level he took the North Haven Indians into overtime at 3-3 before a rocket of a shot by North Haven’s Dom Biondi got past him and ended the game.
“The second period he made a good number of saves when we were shorthanded,” Minnix said of his young goalie’s performance. “He was a little nervous coming into the game, but he settled in after the first period. It’s great to have him.”
Sacco, a shorter goalie than Maringola, does not allow his height to hinder his presence in net. He takes up a good portion of net space that shooters see. He also relies heavily on his speed and his athletic ability to make up for that lack of height.
“First period was a little rough; I had to find my groove,” said Sacco. “Once I found it, things started going my way a little bit.”
Like Maringola, Sacco was nervous playing his first game with his new team, then settled in nicely. Rebounds tended to cause a few troubles for the young goalie, but beautiful recoveries in his butterfly showed seamless transition along the ice.
“I’m looking to work on improving playing the puck and making sure my guys come ready to play,” said Sacco.
Sacco is a mature goalie for his age, already looking to take on some sort of leadership role as the starting goalie. He still has time to improve and grow as a player and person. The next step in growing as a goalie will come Tuesday against a familiar face: Maringola and the Rams in a 4 p.m. start at Northford.
“Sacco and I actually grew up playing together,” said Maringola. “We’re buddies who train over at Pro Crease together, so it’ll be cool to see him down the other end.”
Last year when the Rams and Trojans met, Cheshire won 5-3. This season, though, a developing Cheshire team will run into a LH co-op that looks ready to make a deep run in the state tournament.
Cheshire’s speed and intensity may catch a lot of Division III teams off guard, but the Trojans come off a game against North Haven, which plays with the same uptempo style as Cheshire.
The Rams rely on a number of players to take on the scoring load, as they have in the past, while Lyman Hall has a lot of its offense roll through Scott Bradley or Kyle Roberts. If the Rams are able to shut down those two studs, will guys like Matt Pettit, Josh Martinez, T.J. Isleib, or T.J. Arduini be able to step up for the Trojans?
The Rams bring in a young team with just a few leaders with varsity experience, while most of the Trojans have played a full varsity season or two. Will experience be a factor?
Or … will this game come down to which young goalie can make the bigger save in the late minutes of the game?