Pope John 2021-22 preview: Lions hope experience pays off in challenging Gordon

POPE JOHN LIONS

Head coach: Ryan Brown, 15th season (176-110-35 career record)

Division: Gordon Conference

Last year: Pope John finished 2-5-2 in a shortened season. It did not qualify for the Gordon Cup.

Key losses: Lucas Buchanan, F (transferred to Trinity Pawling)

Top returners: Matt Hughes, F, So.; Emporio Ienciu, F, Jr.; Jack Kelmer, D, Jr.; Nathan Meola, F, Jr.; Declan Murphy, D, So.; Robbie Myshkoff, F, So.; Tyler Paluzzi, G, Jr.; Jake Stevens, D, So.; Soren Torlucci, G, So.; Brandon Young, D, Jr.

Newcomers: Luke Jarosiewics, F, Fr.; Jack Jarosiewics, F, Fr.

Outlook: Pope John has had a very difficult two seasons, going a combined 8-23-3 in the last two years. It also dealt with COVID-19 issues last season, delaying the start of its season by two weeks and it also saw its season come to an end prior to the Gordon Cup.

As difficult as the last two seasons have been for the Lions, a look at what was lost from last year and who is coming back reveals a team that should be on the rise this year. Its only major loss from last year was Lucas Buchanan, who transferred to Trinity Pawling for his senior year. It brings back almost its entire roster from last year and has just two seniors on this year’s team, meaning that the Lions should be positioned to be better not just this year but next year as well.

The Lions return their top two leading scorers from last year up front in Nathan Meola (4 g., 5 a.) and Emporio Ienciu (6 g., 1 a.). Matt Hughes (1 g., 3 a.), Robbie Myshkoff (1 g., 3 a.) both contributed last season, and it will also look for brothers Luke and Jack Jarosiewics to chip in as freshman this year as well.

Defensively, it will be led by sophomore Jake Stevens, a solid two-way defenseman who posted two goals and four assists last year as a freshman. Junior Jack Kelmer, sophomore Declan Murphy, and junior Brandon Young all round out a very solid group of defensemen.

In goal, the Lions return both of their goalies from a year ago in junior Tyler Paluzzi (.877 sv%) and sophomore Soren Tarlucci (.908 sv%). Both goalies put together solid efforts last year.

This is a team that- despite its disappointing record- found a way to be competitive in several in the state’s toughest conference with what was probably the youngest team in the conference. Gloucester Catholic finished the season as the state’s No. 2 team, and Pope John only lost 3-2, while it also earned important ties with powerhouses in No. 13 St. Augustine and No. 5 Bergen Catholic. If it can continue to develop like it did last year, this is a team that can certainly surprise some people in 2021-22.

E-mail Mike Gurnis at michaelgurnis@gmail.com

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