A team seeking to build its program often calls upon one or two marquee players to jump start the effort. The Neshaminy entry in the Suburban High School Hockey League has just such a player in Robbie Seewagen.
In his sophomore year Robbie earned second team All-SHSHL honors. This year he leads the Redskin scorers with 26 regular season goals and 14 assists for a total of 40 points. His scoring punch helped Neshaminy to a second place finish in the National Conference with a 9-2 record. They were one game behind the frontrunner, Council Rock South.
Robbie, a junior at Neshaminy, humbly recounts his early hockey career. “I started really young. When I was little, I was sort of chubby so I wasn’t the most athletic kid. My dad played hockey when he was younger and I needed something to do to stay busy. One day he woke me up and took me to a rink. That was that. I couldn’t skate for about three years when I started hockey.”
Perseverance paid off and Robbie soon came to see hockey as a great release, a time to relax and have fun. “For me it became my oasis. If I’m having a bad day or a bad week, I just go out and all the problems go away. You don’t worry about the big test you’ll have tomorrow or you don’t worry about that problem you have going on. You just get out on the ice and there’s no problem. You just go out and have fun.”
Robbie started his career playing at the Grundy Center in Bristol. “I played for the Grundy Senators and that will always be my home. I’ll never love any hockey more than I love Grundy. I train here in the off-season. When I turned thirteen, I said its time to get to a higher level and we went to Virtua in Pennsauken.”
There Robbie perfected his skills and learned the nuances of this fast-paced sport. “I would say that my offensive IQ and my shot are my best attributes. Since I was young, I really worked on my shot. I feel if I get in an open space I can pick my spots. When I get in the offensive zone, I can really see the ice and judge what’s going on.”
A common sight for ‘Skins fans was Robbie weaving in and out of traffic before lining up one of his lethal deliveries. “I’m a winger. Basically my job in the defensive zone is to take care of my point and make sure no shots get out from the slot. In the offensive zone its just to score goals.”
Scoring involves more than slamming the puck into the net. You have to size up the opposing goalie and place your shots appropriately. “At the varsity level, especially the tier one level, its more than having a hard shot. When you’re younger you can get by with a hard shot. Now goalies are getting bigger and better and you need to know where you’re putting your shot. A lot of it is being smart and knowing what’s going to happen before it happens.”
Robbie, along with Joey DeMatteo, Nolan Geria and Tom Gallagher accounted for 70 of Neshaminy’s 118 regular season goals. Their scoring punch helped the ‘Skins real off 12 overall wins in the regular season and the Suburban High School Hockey League playoffs. In the tourney they defeated Central Bucks East 5-3 before succumbing to the number one seed, Central Bucks South, 5-2.
Along the way, Neshaminy pulled off some memorable wins, perhaps none more satisfying then their 5-2 conquest of archrival Pennsbury. “I think we had a few road bumps this season, especially since we had a lot of young guys. About half way through the season we played Pennsbury and beat them 5-2. That was huge for us because they had beaten us earlier in the Gannon Cup. That whole game we dominated them. After that we all sat down and said we can beat anyone. Then we went on a tear.”
The tear lasted right up until the opening round of the Flyers Cup where the ‘Skins met up with the Pennridge Rams. Leading 3-2 going into the final period, Neshaminy could not hold on and lost a 4-3 heartbreaker.
Robbie realistically appraised the ‘Skins performance. “Last night (March 3rd) was one of worst games we played all year. It was a Flyers Cup game and we struggled. Everyone was gripping the stick a little bit. We play best when we have fun. There were some points in the game where we got a little too nervous and iffy.”
Losing 4-3 to Pennridge meant more than bowing out of the Flyers Cup. For Robbie it marked the end of some lifelong hockey friendships. “Obviously I was really upset. You hate to see the season end so abruptly. There are three seniors on the team (Joey DeMatteo, Charlie Potash, Ryan McColgan) that I’ve been close to since I was little and it was tough to see them in the locker room and know it was the last time I’d see them put on a Neshaminy jersey. It was a tough pill to swallow.”
The disappointment was balanced by the knowledge that Neshaminy had shown such improvement from year’s past. “I think this year was a big stepping stone. Two years ago, they really struggled and barely squeaked into the playoffs. This year we made a huge statement especially against some powerhouse teams. We gave a lot of teams a run for their money.”
Robbie particularly lauded the underclassmen. “I can’t speak enough about the freshmen. Our freshmen are absolutely incredible. They fit right in. They’re all great kids and work incredibly hard. I think in the next three years the Neshaminy team just might win a state championship.”
Though a pretty lofty goal, Robbie’s words reflect the marked improvement in the whole Neshaminy program. They are set to make their make in the Suburban Hockey League.