Middle school student shines in junior hockey league
Bellefonte Area Middle School student Ryan Lombardo came back this winter from a hockey tournament in Port Huron, Michigan with some extra hardware and a couple more accolades. Before being named a 2022 All-Star at the International Silver Stick tournament, the seventh-grader helped lead his Mid-State Mustangs AA team to the finals, which included eight teams that won regional tournaments in order to make it there, in addition to completing an undefeated regular season in the Eastern Junior Elite Prospects League.
In it’s 10th year, the EJEPL includes more than 80 teams across the Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Florida.
“Hockey is a team sport and my No. 1 job is to be the best goalie I can be for my team,” Ryan said.
Led by coach Derek Mathews, the Altoona-based hockey team had a 42-2-3 record as of the end of February, and according to team statistics, Ryan finished the regular season with the least goals allowed in the division.
Ryan’s passion for the sport came when he was just a kid, playing street hockey in the driveway or floor hockey in the basement of his childhood home. During a public ice session, he then convinced his parents to sign him up for hockey lessons – first beginning with the Learn-to-Skate program at Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena, and growing more persistent in wanting to learn about goaltending.
“We were hesitant at first, but he really loved to be in the net,” his mother, Angela Lombardo, said. “We tried to convince him otherwise, as we did not like the idea of pucks flying towards him, but we soon realized we were fighting a losing battle.”
His passion to learn more about the sport only grew while checking out books at local libraries that were all about hockey. That turned into taking a trip to Toronto to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame, where much of his time was spent in the hallway dedicated to NHL goaltenders.
Ryan played his first two seasons in State College and then transferred to the Mustangs as a way to further challenge himself and hone his skills in net. In his first season, the team advanced to the EJEPL championship game, but lost – something that was tough for Ryan, but proved to be a learning lesson.
“Ryan was devastated,” Lombardo said. “As the goalie, in his mind, every loss was his responsibility. Ryan is such a good kid and very humble, but now he was learning how to pick himself back up again after a big challenge.”
He’s now looking forward to starting his fifth season of hockey later this year and using motivation from a fantastic season behind him to continue with team tryouts again.
*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD. Angela Lombardo also contributed to this report.