quite the third-period collapse

January 25, 2006 on 9:27 pm | In game recap | 3 Comments

Toms River North 3, Bridgewater-Raritan 2
I got my first look at No. 17 Toms River North Wednesday at the Rock Ice Pavilion in Dunellen. And although the Mariners were outplayed most of the game by No. 19 Bridgewater-Raritan, TRN rallied from a 2-0 deficit with three goals in the game’s final 4:40 for a dramatic 3-2 win that could relegate the preseason public favorite Panthers to a No. 7 seed, at best, in March’s NJSIAA public state tournament. Center Chris Moser scored two goals, including the game-winner with just 14 seconds remaining.

TRN (11-5) was without sophomore forward Sean Betterly and seemed intent on keeping its shifts ridiculously short in the first period; both teams’ third lines were used sparingly, but Bridgewater’s probably saw a bit more ice time. After some hard hits in the early going, the Panthers picked up play in the middle of the period and pressured Mariner goalie Dan Labbate into six saves by the middle of the period. But Bridgewater-Raritan (11-3-1) struggled on its first power play, as TRN forward Nicco Palmero had a breakaway saved by Gary Biggs. Late in the period, a Palmero shot deflected off a Bridgewater stick and rang the post.

The game continued scoreless through the second period, with each team exchanging completely fruitless power plays. Although Bridgewater-Raritan appeared to have slightly more depth at forward, TRN received superior play from its defensemen, and that would prove critical in the final minutes.

But the game was still scoreless into the third period, when Bridgewater-Raritan emerged from the ice cut with new intensity. The Panthers dominated the first nine minutes of the period and got the breakthrough at the 4:21 mark. After a period of pressure in the TRN zone, the puck cycled to the lower left face-off circle, where second-line forward Chris Tommins ripped a slap shot that snuck between Labbate’s shoulder and the near post for a 1-0 lead. BR continued to push forward, doubling its advantage four minutes later when Nick Loughlin, who assisted on the first goal, jammed in a rebound.

It looked like Bridgewater’s forward depth had worn down TRN, but the Mariners increased the physical part of their forecheck and pinned the Panthers in their own zone on the next shift. Finally Chris Moser picked up the puck in the right corner and flipped a cross-ice pass to the back edge of the crease, where Frank Crea knocked the puck down with his body before lifting it over Biggs’ blocker and under the crossbar at the near post to make it a 2-1 game. Two minutes later, Moser wrapped around and tried to feather a pass into the high slot for Crea. Although Crea could not reach the pass, he tracked it down near the blue line and dropped the puck back down to a wide-open Moser for a one-timer past Biggs to stun the once cruising Panthers.

The game’s next twist came after a Bridgewater timeout and 18 seconds of play. The officials whistled TRN goalie Labbate for playing without a mouth guard, a 10-minute misconduct. A skater served the penalty, and Labbate stayed in the game. North then used its timeout with 0:45 remaining and a face-off in the Bridgewater zone. As time wound down, Alex Cohen wristed a point shot that Biggs saved, but both Paul Daley and Moser were alone on the doorstep, with Bridgewater hoping to break out of the zone, and Moser slid the puck underneath the sprawling goalie for the winning goal with just 14 seconds remaining.

Bridgewater-Raritan had no way back after that blow, and TRN skated away with an emotional victory just two nights after losing 7-5 to Southern White leader Old Bridge. The Mariners scored three goals in 4:26, each from the edge of the crease with Bridgewater defensemen nowhere to be found. Based on recent results, you have to assume Morris Knolls, Randolph, Montgomery, Hillsborough, Old Bridge, and Toms River North will all be seeded ahead of Bridgewater-Raritan. The NBIAL and CVC schools are pushing to be there too.

Toms River North 3, Bridgewater-Raritan 2


TRN 0 0 3 3
BR  0 0 2 2


TRN  6  6 9 21
BR   7  9 10 26

4:21 BR #18 Chris Tommins (#9 Nick Loughlin)
8:12 BR #9 Nick Loughlin (#18 Chris Tommins, #2 Kevin Wetmore)
10:20 TRN #10 Frank Crea (#21 Chris Moser, #11 Paul Daley)
12:15 TRN #21 Chris Moser (#10 Frank Crea)
14:46 TRN #21 Chris Moser (#11 Paul Daley, #19 Alex Cohen)

#35 Dan Labbate (TRN) 26-24
#23 Gary Biggs (BR) 21-18

Power plays: TRN 0-1, BR 0-2

Also, a nice role reversal at Mennen Arena tonight … No. 20/wb Mount Olive avenged a 7-1 loss to No. 15/wb Park Regional with a 2-0 win behind a pair of goals from … you guessed it, John Bellamente. Regional will still win the Charette Division title if it wins its remaining two league games.

Clifton and Middletown South played to a 2-2 tie tonight, a result that will probably see most of the Northern Red Division relegated below a host of southern teams. And in the Gordon Conference, CBA ran its division record to a remarkable 1-5-6 with a 1-1 tie against St. Peter’s Prep.


  1. At times BR was on the TRN game but after the coach utilized the third line (checkers) the BR team could not even get the puck out against the third liners (2nd Period). It is amazing how this effort went unnoticed by the coach who insisted on wearing down his #1 line and defenseman #24. You saw the PK at the end of the 2nd and the same kids stayed on ice for the PP. It was ridiculous and almost cost TRN the game as the exhausted #1 line finally came to life late in the third

    Comment by Paul Moser — 25 January 2006 #

  2. The shots posted on scoreboard at end of game had TRN at 28 and BR at 24. This noticed because of the tremendous comeback by TRN and how many shots they had in last minutes.

    Comment by P. Moser — 25 January 2006 #

  3. NFHS rules require goaltenders to serve all majors and misconducts. What happened here?

    Comment by SJR73nMD — 26 January 2006 #

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