MONTGOMERY: Cougars showing potential

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
   With a young roster and some early season injuries, nothing is going to come easy for the Montgomery High ice hockey team.
   The Cougars opened the season with an impressive 10-0 win over Hightstown before dropping a 4-1 decision to Hopewell Valley on Monday. Montgomery is scheduled to open its Skyland Conference schedule today against Ridge.
   ”We’re looking to scratch and claw into the states,” said Montgomery coach Rob Scarpa, whose team has just four seniors on the roster. “That is what we would like. We have an incredibly difficult schedule again this year. So we’ll just keep trying to get better little by little.
   ”We lost two players in the last week on different lines so we thought we were walking in with two solid lines and three total lines but we’ve had to move things around and try different parts in games. We’re still trying to figure each other out right now.”
   The Cougars had a balanced offense in the win over Hightstown as Chris DeMarco led the way with three goals and two assists. Cam Garinger and Ryan Irving each scored two goals, while Bryan Liu, Steve Schwimmer and Brandon Szigeti added a goal apiece.
   The balance will be a key ingredient for a Montgomery team that should get better as the season progresses. The Cougars were young last year and they’re young again this year.
   ”We only lost three seniors off last year’s teams so the guys have been there,” Scarpa said. “We lost 14 seniors the year before so we were young last year. I knew we would go through some growing pains. There is enough talent there to make a workable team. They just have to make minor adjustments. They’ll do it. I have lost zero confidence in them. I think we’ll be a good team.”
   In the loss to Hopewell, Minbae Lee scored the only goal of the game for the Cougars, who trailed, 2-1, before a goal with 10 seconds left in the second period gave Hopewell a 3-1 lead.
   ”They outplayed us and were a better team tonight,” Scarpa said after the Hopewell loss. “Not only are we young but we were missing another two forwards tonight. We’re a little beat up right now. But take nothing away from Hopewell, they did a nice job and did the things that we’re not doing right now.
   ”We’re still trying to get the young guys to play the game the right way and they are learning. I don’t think this is what we are as a final product. There is no quit in there. They work hard.”
   Montgomery has been one of the state’s most successful programs in the past. The Cougars slipped to 7-17-1 last year. But with a plethora of young talent, the team will look to get back to its winning ways.
   ”We need to get back to how we usually play which is grinding things out and getting the pucks in the corners,” Scarpa. “If we don’t do that we’re going to struggle.”