the last full day of 2005 has 16 games, and here are the early results:
Indian Hills 1, Ramapo 1
I’m pretty sure this was my first NBIAL league game Wednesday, as I traveled north of the border to Sport-O-Rama in Monsey, New York for the clash between intra-school-district rivals Ramapo (6-0-1) and Indian Hills (6-1-2). It was about what I expected of the NBIAL: dense, physical, hard-nosed hockey with not a lot separating the two teams, but I would have loved to see some more scoring chances. Even with 12 power plays, the teams combined for only 30 shots. I won’t go so far as to say there were more cheap shots than shots, but the game was chippy at times, and both coaches had words for the officials after the final whistle. Oh yeah, and they tied 1-1.
The teams played at a fast pace but did not race end to end, instead controlling the game in spurts. Ramapo had the best chance of the first period, ringing the left post with 5:26 remaining. Scoreless into the second period, Indian Hills goalie Anthony Tabbacchino made a good save on Ramapo’s Robbie Sorrenti in the first 30 seconds. After being outplayed in the early part of the second period, Indian Hills took a 1-0 lead past the halfway mark. Working on an ineffective power play, forward Brad Montalbano stepped up with pace at the red line, gained the offensive zone, skated around a defenseman, and feinted to his backhand before sliding a forehand shot that trickled through the pads of Ramapo’s Dan Menken.
The emotional goal sparked the game a bit, and even a casual observer could see jawing going on after several big hits. Ramapo finally tied the game with just 6.3 seconds remaining in the second period. Still in the offensive zone after a power play, Matti Makela fed linemate Sorrenti in front, and he one-timed the puck behind Tabbacchino.
The physical play continued early in the third period, and Ramapo had a shorthanded rebound goal disallowed because the net was dislodged, and the Raiders were unable to capitalize on two power plays late in the period. Both teams had trouble getting shots on net from the points, and the game ended in a 1-1 tie, disappointing both teams. Indian Hills, a bit banged up after four tough game in eight days, tied Ramapo for the third consecutive game and has not beaten the Raiders in the last five years (0-5-3). Still, the Braves beat Fair Lawn and Ramsey and are just one point behind Ramapo, which has yet to play Ramsey for the first time.
Indian Hills 1, Ramapo 1
8:25 IH (pp) #22 Brad Montalbano (#11 Tim Aberle)
14:54 Rmpo #28 Robbie Sorrenti (#17 Matti Makela, #10 Zander Pindyck)
#38 Anthony Tabbacchino (IH) 16-15
#30 Dan Menken (Rmpo) 14-13
Power plays: IH 1-6, Rmpo 0-6
Both SCIAA tournament semifinals produced shutout upsets on Tuesday, with Central Red powers Bridgewater-Raritan and Ridge falling to first-year program Hillsborough and 2003 champion Montgomery, respectively.
Montgomery 3, Ridge 0
In their previous meeting Dec. 10, No. 17 Ridge beat Montgomery despite missing two players due to suspension. If anything, the Red Devils were expected to inflict more damage on the White Division Cougars in this meeting. But Montgomery (6-1) got two power-play goals in the first 5:42 en route to a surprising 3-0 win over Ridge (4-2-2) in the day’s first game at Bridgewater Sports Arena.
The Cougars opened the scoring through Mike Yetter at the 2:46 mark when he stole the puck as a Ridge defenseman tried to clear it and quickly snapped a shot underneath Jon Lyons before the Red Devil goalie could react. Given another power-play opportunity less than three minutes later, Montgomery needed only 20 seconds to convert. This time Sean Hover’s point shot trickled off the inside of Lyons’ pad and into the net for a 2-0 margin. After killing a Ridge power play, the Cougars struck again with an element of fortune at 9:53. Mike Violette threw a blind backhand in front of the net from the right corner. The puck caromed off a Ridge defender and on goal, where Lyons made the initial save. Robbie Sparno was first to the rebound, however, and tapped it in at the back post for a commanding 3-0 lead.
The remainder of the game was a blur of power plays, turnovers, and solid goaltending. Coasting with a 3-0 lead, Montgomery was able to get the puck deep in the zone and rely on its forecheck to slow down the opposition. Ridge forwards, in contrast, were too often dispossesed while stickhandling into the zone and lacked the tape-to-tape passes necessary to get through the netural zone with space. Sophomore goalie Ian Healey had a tremendous game for Montgomery, stopping all 25 shots he faced, including 20 saves over the final two periods.
Hillsborough 1, Bridgewater-Raritan 0
The second game was expected to be the closer contest, and it did not disappoint. First-year program Hillsborough (8-0) condemned No. 1 seeds to an 0-3 all-time record in the tournament with a 1-0 upset of No. 10 Bridgewater-Raritan (6-1) in a pulsating semifinal.
A first-year program with a lot of junior hockey experience, Hillsborough skates just four seniors and relies on its top line, especially junior Michael Lysyj, for most of its offense. The Raiders served early notice they would not be intimidated when they were able to kill off a power play just 15 seconds into the game. Perhaps the most crucial play of the first period, however, came just past the halfway mark. Raider goalie Eric Visnovsky came out for a loose puck, but with pressure from each team, his clearance was deflected toward the empty net. Visnovsky’s helmet flew off, mandating a stoppage of play and, in this case, nullifying a Panther goal.
Bridgewater-Raritan had a slight edge in even-strength play during the first period and early in the second period, but the game completely changed at the 6:02 mark. Hillsborough forward Alex Merry took advantage of a defensive slip to skate in against Gary Biggs with a semi-breakaway. Biggs reacted well to save Merry’s wrist shot, but a sliding Bridgewater-Raritan player inadvertently knocked the puck into his own goal, sending Hillsborough and its crowd into rapture. The Panthers almost tied the game within two minutes, as Visnovsky made a sprawling toe save on Chris Caravanos after a deft backdoor pass from Kevin Tino. The remainder of the period was all Hillsborough, as Biggs made a ridiculous total of 16 saves, at least half of them in the final five minutes.
Having skated three lines most of the game and playing with desperation, Bridgewater-Raritan was able to turn the tables in the third period. The Panthers had four minutes of power-play time from the 7:15 to the 11:29 marks of the third period, forcing nine saves out of Visnovsky. After stopping three chances in a row on the first power play, he made the game’s biggest save on the second by getting across his crease to deny Tino, who had snuck to the back post for a rebound. The defending champions pulled Biggs with 1:08 to go but never came close to tying the game.
Montgomery 3, Ridge 0
2:46 Mtgry (pp) #20 Mike Yetter (#12 Jim Yetter)
5:42 Mtgry (pp) #7 Sean Hover (#20 Mike Yetter)
9:53 Mtgry #2 Robbie Sparno (#19 Mike Violette)
#35 Ian Healey (Mtgry) 25-25
#45 Jon Lyons (Rid) 19-16
Power plays: Mtgry 2-5, Rid 0-6
Hillsborough 1, Bridgewater-Raritan 0
6:02 Hboro #18 Alex Merry (unassisted)
#32 Eric Visnovsky (Hboro) 29-29
#23 Gary Biggs (BR) 29-28
Power plays: Hboro 0-4, BR 0-5
man, heck of a day of hockey. And I was in the city with my siblings and cousin. So here’s what I’ve gleaned from e-mails and the like about one of the state’s busiest days:
West Morris (3-2) scored a surprisingly lopsided win over Mendham (3-3) Tuesday night at Mennen Arena, beating its crosstown rival 6-2. Trailing 1-0 in the second period, the Wolfpack scored five goals in 5:32, including three in the final 1:26, en route to a 6-1 lead. Eddie Strobino scored two goals, including the shorthanded goal that tied the game, and Kenny Hunt added two more. Andrew Bogadek, despite giving up a soft goal early in the second period, finished with 20 saves. The Minutemen, whose players wore blue ribbons on their jerseys to commemorate a classmate killed in a car crash last week, outshot the Wolfpack 22-14.
Elsewhere, Delbarton’s trip to Rhode Island did not start well, as Division I leader LaSalle beat the Green Wave 2-1 at Providence College’s Schneider Arena. Delbarton faces defending state finalist Bishop Hendricken tomorrow.
Realignment proponents might be interested to note that Rhode Island is down to just four teams competing for the Division I championship, with 16 schools split into ‘Large’ and ‘Small’ in the Division II ranks, and 15 teams split geographically in Division III. A four-team state championship division is by no means something to strive for, but I am starting to think breaking New Jersey into divisions, as most other New England states do, might not be such a bad idea. This might be an idea to explore in more detail another time.
I got around a bit and heard about some of tonight’s other action, so here’s a look at a few games that might not get mentioned elsewhere: