WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange High School ice hockey team, which opened its season over the weekend, is looking to balance the challenges it might have scoring by playing tough in the back and containing opponents with a strong defense.

The Mountaineers, who opened their season with a loss to A.L. Johnson on Friday, will host Toms River East Friday night at Codey Arena before seeing their schedule ramp up with more frequent dates later in December.

By then, head coach Eddie Scafidi hopes the team's young core will have become more acclimated to the speed of the varsity game while his back line makes things tough for opposing skaters.

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"Our strengths will be from the back to front," Scafidi said. "With a new young core, we will be competitive in every game. We will have to work hard to put the puck in the net."

Senior Lucio Maffei and junior Drew Palent are two strong defensemen who bring back ample experience, and a pair of freshman goalies, Julian Melendez and Jackson Pruksamukul, have shown promise.

Goal prevention will be an element Scafidi counts on while the offense develops its own identity following the graduation of prolific scoring forward Davey Campbell. Junior forward Cameron Murphy is the most experienced player up front. Freshmen Jack Olsen and Andrew Rayon are two young forwards who could provide an offensive boost.

Seniors on this years roster include Maffei, Aman Bellette, Daniel Edwards, Joe Naileth, Devin Andrade, Davis Ward, Shawn Sandels and James Durand.

"We are hoping for a state tournament bid," said Scafidi, whose team was 7-13-3 last season.