South Xtra: After two tough season, Keystone Oaks makes strides on ice
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Ryan Rosato was just a freshman when he played in the 2010 Nailers Cup final for Keystone Oaks against Ringgold.
After two rebuilding seasons that saw the Golden Eagles go a combined 13-24-1, Rosato helped make Keystone Oaks a tough out once again.
The senior forward scored a team-leading 58 points for the Golden Eagles (13-6-1), who won eight of their last 10 regular-season games and finished in second place in Section 4 of the Open Class.
But, despite Rosato's hat trick, Keystone Oaks fell in heartbreaking fashion Sunday in the Nailers Cup quarterfinals against Hollidaysburg, losing 6-5 in double overtime.
It was the seventh time Rosato scored at least three goals in a game this season.
"He's consistently been our best player," Keystone Oaks coach John McCarthy said. "He has very good vision, good speed and an accurate shot."
Rosato was very good the past two seasons, combining for 70 points (35 goals, 35 assists). But he took his game to another level as a senior, breaking out with 36 goals and 22 assists to finish in the top 15 in the Open Class in points.
He's also the team's leader.
"Ryan is definitely our leader," McCarthy said. "He leads by example, but when he says something in the locker room, everyone listens."
In addition to Rosato, McCarthy had a lot of other top talent returning. Bryton Tomko and Ryan Ribeau combined for 64 points last season and scored a combined 79 this season. Cody Dulski and John Conley were fourth and fifth, respectively, in points last season and are in the same spots this year.
But the difference this season was the top players had help. The past two seasons, Keystone Oaks had played only two lines. The injuries and fatigue of playing with a short bench is one of the reasons McCarthy and Rosato said the team struggled.
But this season with the emergence of Rosato's sophomore brother, Devin, fellow sophomore Jack Malka, freshman Eugene Barrilla and senior newcomer Mike Pomaibo, the team has depth at every position.
It has allowed Keystone Oaks to play three lines most of the season and withstand the injuries that have accumulated.
"Our top talent is the same, but we have more depth this season," Rosato said. "It's a big difference."
The Golden Eagles entered the playoffs fifth in the conference standings, but with wins against both section champions in their conference, Greensburg Salem and Indiana.
McCarthy, whose teams have reached the conference finals twice in his five years as Keystone Oaks coach, said prior to the playoffs he wouldn't have been surprised if the team lost in its first game or won the title.
Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, the former was true. But no matter what, McCarthy said this season has been a great experience.
"It's been rewarding," McCarthy said. "Hockey is a long season. You start practice in September and it doesn't end until March. When you're struggling and losing, it makes it even longer. Fortunately, even in down years, the guys have cared and discipline has never been an issue.
"But success always makes it better."
First Published February 28, 2013 12:00 am