Sunday afternoons are for football

January 22, 2006 on 2:56 pm | In analysis | Comments Off on Sunday afternoons are for football

a few thoughts before I let the NFL playoffs, Rice women’s basketball, and U.S. soccer take center stage:

Delbarton 3, CBA 1
I saw almost the entire Delbarton-CBA game last night, and it was a really feisty encounter. Both teams were playing hard-nosed, physical, and occasionally dirty. Three of the game’s four goals were scored on the power play, and Delbarton captain Alex Smigelsi was whistled for five minor penalties, which earn an automatic game misconduct. Note this is a misconduct, not a disqualification, and carries no suspension or team ramification.

Delbarton head coach Bruce Shatel handed Sean Kaplan his third start of the season in goal after incumbent Jeff Leone started in Friday’s 4-3 loss to St. John Vianney. Kaplan responded with 11 first period saves and 26 for the game. Despite being drastically outshot early in the first period, Delbarton went on top thanks to a late power-play goal from Charles Nerbak on a subtle pass from Dan Pressl.

CBA also had the better of play early in the second period and finally tied the game on a power play of its own at the 8:23 mark. Mike Chilton fed Trevor van Riemsdyk on the point, and his shot appeared to deflect off a Delbarton defenseman at the edge of the crease before going in. Delbarton responded with 1:14 to play in the period, again on the power play. Skating behind the net, Nerbak fed a cutting Smigelski in the left circle, and although Ryan Cuming made the initial save, Matt Schillings was on hand to pop the rebound over Cuming’s dive.

Delbarton got a key insurance goal early in the third period, as the physical Chris Volonnino dropped a pass down low to Nerbak, who deked a backhand shot through Cuming’s legs. The Colts’ best chance to get back in the game came on a mid-period power play which included 1:05 of 5-on-3 play, but they only managed two shots. Kaplan made 12 saves in the third period to secure the win. Freshman Alex Velischek has spent more time at his normal forward position in the last two weeks for Delbarton (8-4-1), skating on the second line with Nerbak and Volonnino; sophomore Jason Harden has joined Mike Campbell, Dan DeRenzi, and Brian Fuller on the blue line. CBA (3-5-5) lists 10 freshmen or sophomores on its roster. The scoreboard listed shots at 27-18; I don’t entirely trust that number.

Rankings quandaries
So I will have plenty of rankings questions when I sit down to figure them out tonight. Let’s start in the 3-5 slots. Yes, Delbarton lost to St. John Vianney to split the season series. But the Green Wave dominated the shot count in Friday’s loss and outscored the Lancers 6-5 in the two games. And Morristown-Beard beat St. John Vianney, but moving the Crimson up to No. 3 would be a bit much.
Similarly, the NBIAL teams really screwed me up with their exciting games this weekend. Ramsey could be considered the division’s top team after splitting games with Ramapo and Indian Hills, beating the Braves one night before IH handed Ramapo its first loss of the year. Fair Lawn appears to have lost a step on the top three.
Hillsborough and Montgomery are clearly going to move up thanks to Hillsborough’s 4-1 win over Bridgewater this week, although both teams will get adequate chance to prove themselves with upcoming Skyland Conference games. St. Augustine Prep had egg on its face after Ramapo made the drive to Vineland to find no referees. And what to do with Northern Red teams?
Check back really late tonight or tomorrow for updated rankings.

Other weekend action
Steinert and Mendham had a wild one Friday, with the Spartans pulling out an 8-6 win. Additionally, check out this trivia from Mendham’s other game against a CVC opponent this year … in Hopewell Valley‘s 5-2 win over the Minutemen Jan. 6, the Bulldogs scored one goal of each type: even strength, power play, shorthanded, penalty shot, and empty net.
Vernon beat Newburgh Free Academy (N.Y.) 16-6 Friday night. Sixteen! That’s just crazy. However, the Vikings should’ve saved some of those goals for Saturday’s 6-2 loss to Clifton.
Madison beat Hudson Catholic 3-2 on Friday. ‘Nough said.
Bishop Eustace and MonDon tied 3-3, further confusing the Southern Red picture. Eustace has won three consecutive Handchen Cup titles, so the smart money is on the Crusaders to pull out the No. 2 seed, but they only lead Red Bank Catholic by a half-game.
I’m not sure how to feel about the Paramus CatholicSt. Joseph Montvale series. They played twice in an 18-hour span, tying Friday night 3-3 before PC won Saturday afternoon 4-1. Next time, how ’bout a doubleheader with the first game starting at 9 p.m. and the second game at 12:30 a.m.? Somehow, I don’t think the NJSIAA would sign off on that.
Pingry and Mendham tied for the second time in six days Saturday, and the recent resurgence of Jefferson has the Halvorsen Division turning heads. Mendham is just 1-4-2 in league play but has five potentially winnable league games remaining. West Morris ought to have enough of a head-start to win the division and earn promotion, but Mountain Lakes could have something to say about it.
Also, the Mercer County Tournament bracket is now available on the ice cups page. I’m not a big fan of the power-point seeding process … Hopewell Valley and Lawrence ahead of Notre Dame? C’mon now. No way Notre Dame and Princeton should meet in the semifinals.

on the other rink

January 21, 2006 on 12:28 am | In game recap | 3 Comments

First of all, I’d just like to say that I saw more cars on 287 tonight driving with one functional headlight than I’ve seen in the past month combined. You might want to check that.

Don Bosco Prep 2, St. Peter’s Prep 1
No. 2 Don Bosco Prep (7-4-1) maintained third place in the Gordon Conference Friday by holding off No. 9 St. Peter’s Prep (6-4-2) by a 2-1 score at the Ice Vault in Wayne. The Ironmen scored two first-period goals and seemed to lose their intensity the rest of the way, allowing the Marauders a goal with 1:29 remaining before hanging on down the stretch.

The game lacked flow, and many a face-off was delayed when one center, or both, was removed out for a minor infraction. Neither team recorded a shot on goal until the 8:02 mark, but Don Bosco Prep scored soon after. Dave Conte fired a shot from the left point that Kevin Fox turned aside, but with St. Peter’s Prep defensemen nowhere to be found, Billy Sanborn had plenty of time to square the puck to a wide-open Greg Blinn for a simple tap-in. St. Peter’s Prep responded with a bit of its 1-1-3 trap, but the Ironmen doubled their advantage three minutes later. Conte’s point shot was again the catalyst, with Fox sprawling to stop a deflection and Steve McKenzie flipping the rebound over a diving Fox.

Despite four power plays in the first two periods, Don Bosco Prep never put St. Peter’s Prep away, and the Marauders (who go old-school with their Latin motto “Sub umbra Petri,” or “under the shadow of Peter,” on the bottom of their jerseys) began to skate into the game. St. Peter’s Prep had a few close-range chances to beat Erick Cinotti, but managed to get in each other’s way on several occasions. Don Bosco Prep used several different line combinations in the second and third periods, but could not find a third goal.

Although Kevin Reich delivered the game’s best hit in the third period, St. Peter’s Prep kept coming, finally pulling a goal back with 1:29 remaining. Second-line forward Bryan Robinson centered a pass from behind the net, and Mike Dellutri had plenty of space to beat Cinotti under his blocker. Although the Marauders pulled Kevin Fox for the final 1:19, Cinotti did not have to make another save.

Meanwhile, on the other sheet, the Ice Vault squeezed in an arena-record 750 (EDIT: 877) fans for the rivalry game between Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley. The Patriots came out with a 3-1 win.

Ramsey 6, Indian Hills 4
This was by far the most entertaining game of the night. #7/wb Ramsey (9-4-1) handed #3/wb Indian Hills (10-2-2) its first loss in 32 all-time NBIAL league games (22-1-9) after a breathtaking third period.

Indian Hills had the better of play in the first period, although Ramsey’s first line certainly created some chances. Indian Hills got a goal from Perry Clarkson, but David Zaentz responded for Ramsey with a breakaway goal after a smart feed by Casey Mignone. The Braves continued to carry play early in the second period, but the play of Ramsey goalie Chris Clifford kept the game tied.

Although Ramsey relies more on its first line than Indian Hills, the Rams seemed to pick up steam in the second period, taking the lead at the 8:36 mark when Brave goalie Anthony Tabbacchino could not hold Patrick Nerney’s point shot. Stamina started to tell the other way late in the period, however, and Ramsey had to ice the puck for a line change. On the ensuing face-off, Brave forward Kevin Ryffle jammed in a back-post rebound to tie the game with 1:48 left in the second period. Ramsey’s top line came right back with plenty of pressure, and David Zaentz looked to have scored from another Mignone feed, but both referees missed the play and, after conferring, did not recognize the goal.

Indian Hills began the third period with a bang, taking a 3-2 lead on a point shot from Tim Aberle past a screened Clifford. Ramsey had to be feeling deja vu all over again when David Zaentz was whistled for two minor penalties on the same play, since the Rams lost to Ramapo last week on a pair of power-play goals from a double power play. Indian Hills only scored once on its double power play, but the goal appeared to be a crushing blow. Brad Montalbano let loose with a slap shot from the left wing, which Clifford deflected straight up into the air with his blocker. Ryffle gloved the puck, dropped it for himself, and finished past Clifford’s despairing dive for a two-goal advantage.

When the second penalty expired, Ramsey responded with immediate pressure, but it took two minutes before it paid off. While Ramsey’s first line skated for probably 9-10 minutes in the third period, the Rams appeared to be matching their first line against Indian Hills’ second line whenever possible. No matter which line they were facing, the trio of David Zaentz, Derek Zaentz, and Mignone completely turned the game around in a span of 1:26 in the third period. Ramsey got a break on the first goal, as Andrew Burns’ point shot was knocked away by an Indian Hills defender but fell right to Derek Zaentz, who fired into the empty half of the net to cut the deficit to 4-3. Mignone stunned the Braves just 21 seconds later, sliding a backhand through Tabbacchino’s legs to tie the game in the blink of an eye. But the top unit was not done, as Derek Zaentz fed Mignone behind the net. His spinning backhand pass left Tabbacchino searching for the puck, which found David Zaentz wide open in front of the net for an easy finish.

Ramsey’s second line got through its one remaining shift without too many problems, and Mignone closed the game with an empty-net goal with less than three seconds remaining. The Rams celebrated an emotional win; their first this year over one of the NBIAL’s top four teams and revenge for an earlier 6-4 loss to Indian Hills. The teams could meet again in the NBIAL Division II championship game. Many of the elite players on both teams play club hockey together, so the post-game line saw a lot more man-hugs than handshakes – the way it should be after a hard-fought contest.

Don Bosco Prep 2, St. Peter’s Prep 1

SPP 0 0 1 1
DBP 2 0 0 2
SPP  3 11  7 21
DBP  5 11  7 23

8:25 DBP #26 Greg Blinn (#21 Billy Sanborn, #27 Dave Conte)
11:33 DBP #46 Steve McKenzie (#27 Dave Conte)
13:31 SPP #14 Mike Dellutri (#23 Bryan Robinson)

#24 Kevin Fox (SPP) 23-21
#1 Erick Cinotti (DBP) 21-20

Power plays: SPP 0-4, DBP 0-5

Ramsey 6, Indian Hills 4

IH   1 1 2 4
Rmsy 1 1 4 6
IH   11 10 10 31
Rmsy 6 9 9 24

8:49 IH #17 Perry Clarkson (#44 Ryan Larkin, #28 Anthony LaGrega)
13:39 Rmsy #44 David Zaentz (#91 Casey Mignone, #18 Joe Warner)
8:36 Rmsy #22 Patrick Nerney (#91 Casey Mignone, #44 David Zaentz)
13:12 IH #9 Kevin Ryffle (#22 Brad Montalbano, #7 Bryan Thompson)
0:57 IH #11 Tim Aberle (#7 Bryan Thompson, #28 Anthony LaGrega)
4:18 IH (pp) #9 Kevin Ryffle (#22 Brad Montalbano)
8:22 Rmsy #12 Derek Zaentz (#21 Andrew Burns, #91 Casey Mignone)
8:43 Rmsy #91 Casey Mignone (unassisted)
9:48 Rmsy #44 David Zaentz (#91 Casey Mignone, #12 Derek Zaentz)
14:58 Rmsy (en) #91 Casey Mignone (#22 Patrick Nerney)

#38 Anthony Tabbacchino (IH) 24-18
#30 Chris Clifford (Rmsy) 31-27

Power plays: IH 1-3, Rmsy 0-1

Knolls beats Randolph sixth consecutive time

January 19, 2006 on 10:42 pm | In game recap | Comments Off on Knolls beats Randolph sixth consecutive time

Morris Knolls 3, Randolph 2
In the best public-school matchup of the season so far, No. 8 Morris Knolls (12-2) got a last-minute goal from Justin Lewandowski to edge No. 13 Randolph (10-3-1) by a 3-2 margin Thursday night at Mennen Arena. I’m estimating the crowd at 1,000, give or take, and the post-game traffic jam was worthy of Seton Hall Prep-Delbarton. A thrilling game, despite a number of penalties, and the Golden Eagles earned their sixth straight win over the Rams since 2003, including four wins by one goal and the public state final last year.

I arrived for the second period with Randolph ahead 1-0 thanks to a power-play goal from Chris Tamminga early in the first period. The teams combined for 12 penalties on the night, and it was another power play that tied the game early in the second stanza. Running the point on the power play, Dan Duda slid the puck to the right face-off circle for Tommy Tomensky, whose centering pass found the stick of Jimmy Timmins at the edge of the crease for a skillful, no-look redirect past Dan Swenson to tie the game.

My impression from the first five minutes of the second period was that Randolph kept the puck in the Knolls zone whenever Duda, Tomensky, and linemate Steven Jones were not on the ice. But those three teamed up for the go-ahead goal just three minutes after the tying goal. Jones skated out of the right corner, drawing the attention of Swenson, before flicking a backdoor pass to Duda, who controlled the puck expertly with his skate before sweeping it home. Randolph kept in the game at even strength, however, and almost tied it with 2:07 remaining in the second when forward Rob Kral skated out of the corner and rang the right post.

Other than that, Josh Ofner was largely up to the task, stopping any shot on which he was square to the shooter. But with its first line forced to spend too much time killing penalties, Knolls finally faltered. As Randolph neared the end of its seventh power play, defenseman Matt Incledon sent a classic back-door pass from the left point to the right face-off circle. Forward Ryan Bannon tried to control the pass with his skate, but the puck skittered through the slot to the opposite side of the ice, where Mike Turner was on hand to finish past a late-arriving Ofner for an emotional tying goal.

The real dramatics were still to come. After calling a time out with 59 seconds remaining, Knolls earned a face-off on the right side of the Randolph neutral zone after a clearance attempt hit a player leaning over the bench. Jones controlled the puck off the draw and looked to Duda wide on the left before turning inside and playing Tomensky into the zone along the right boards. Tomensky won the puck against the boards and threw it into the middle. Second-line forward Justin Lewandowski swiped the puck on goal, where it trickled through the pads of Swenson and, agonizingly, crossed the goal line just inside the left post for the dramatic winner with 22 seconds remaining.

Although Knolls won the game, Randolph put its narrow escape against Mountain Lakes in the past and outshot the defending champion 29-23, with by far the better of play from its second and third lines. But in the end, Knolls’ top line got some help from a pair of second-line forwards in a crucial win. Knolls leads Randolph by one game in the Mennen Division standings, and the teams have identical league schedules until their Feb. 13 rematch. Knolls leads Morristown-Beard and Chatham by three points, but both have a game in hand. Randolph has not beaten Morris Knolls since a 4-0 win in the 2003 Mennen Cup semifinals.

Morris Knolls 3, Randolph 2


MK  0 2 1 3
Ran 1 0 1 2


MK  6 11  6 23
Ran 12 8  9 29

2:57 Ran (pp) #12 Chris Tamminga (#19 John Beatrice)
3:32 MK (pp) #10 Jimmy Timmins (#41 Tommy Tomensky, #14 Dan Duda)
6:27 MK #14 Dan Duda (#44 Steven Jones, #41 Tommy Tomensky)
8:39 Ran (pp) #11 Mike Turner (#29 Ryan Bannon, #15 Matt Incledon)
14:38 MK #7 Justin Lewandowski (#41 Tommy Tomensky, #44 Steven Jones)

#45 Josh Ofner (MK) 29-27
#31 Dan Swenson (Ran) 23-20

Power plays: MK 1-5, Ran 2-7

Hillsborough’s most impressive win

January 18, 2006 on 11:07 pm | In game recap | 2 Comments

Hillsborough 4, Bridgewater-Raritan 1
Runaway Central Blue leader Hillsborough (13-1) posted its most impressive win of the season Wednesday, overcoming a rash of penalties and No. 11 Bridgewater-Raritan (10-2) with a 4-1 win at Rock Ice Pavilion.

Bridgewater came out intent on avoiding its only loss of the season, a 1 -0 decision to the first-year Raiders in the Somerset County Tournament semifinals. The Panthers almost took the lead just 2:35 into the game, when Mike McCullough hit Kevin Wetmore at the back post, but Hillsborough goalie Eric Visnovsky slid across to make an outstanding save. Hillsborough controlled play through the rest of a choppy first period, with Bridgewater trying to use stretch passes to generate offense.

The stop-start nature of the game continued in the second period, but Hillsborough took a deserved 1-0 lead at the 8:36 mark. With a 2-on-2 break, standout forward Mike Lysyj’s shot was deflected to the front of the net, where Matt Daugherty was able to flip it over the pads of Gary Biggs for the opening goal. Bridgewater’s desperate reaction produced a stunning series of Hillsborough penalties, and while the Raiders killed off everything in the second period, they had four players in the penalty box in the final minute. Visnovsky had to make at least eight shorthanded saves in the final five minutes.

Bridgewater-Raritan finally took advantage of its power plays early in the third period, as Kevin Tino’s point shot in a 5-on-3 slipped under Visnovsky’s blocker. Once the teams were at even strength, however, Hillsborough renewed its aggression to break the tie. With six minutes remaining, Tino broke in from the left side with a semi-breakaway, but he lost control of the puck while deking to his backhand, and the Panthers were soon whistled for a penalty. A minute into the power play, Lysyj broke into the offensive zone on the left side, and Tino slid to break up the play. His attempted clearance, however, was gloved by Matt Janos, who drew Biggs toward the left side of the ice before feeding a centering pass to Lysyj in the slot, who easily deposited it behind Biggs for the go-ahead goal. The finish reminded me a bit of the clips of Wayne Gretzky’s goal that broke the NHL’s career goalscoring record.

Janos and Lysyj were double-shifted as part of Hillsborough’s eight-forward rotation most of the afternoon, and they combined on an insurance goal with less than two minutes remaining. With the Raiders trapping, Bridgewater could not get up the ice, and when Janos and Lysyj combined to knock away a poor breakout pass at the blue line, Lysyj had a simple finish over Biggs’ glove. Also, a deserved shout-out to Bridgewater-Raritan’s student public address announcer for (I believe) correctly pronouncing the last name Lysyj (LEE-see). Alex Merry added an empty-net goal to provide the final 4-1 margin.

While the scoreboard shot total was off the mark, Hillsborough was by far the more impressive team in earning only its second win of the season over a top-30 opponent. The Raiders have regular-season tests remaining against Ridge, Montgomery, and Bridgewater-Raritan again.

Hillsborough 4, Bridgewater-Raritan 1


Hboro 0 1 3 4
BR   0 0 1 1


Hboro 10 10  8 28
BR   7 13  7 27

8:36 Hboro #19 Matt Daugherty (#11 Mike Lysyj)
1:25 BR (pp) #20 Kevin Tino (#22 Nick Powers, #16 Richie Lewis)
10:20 Hboro (pp) #11 Mike Lysyj (#10 Matt Janos)
13:24 Hboro #1 Mike Lysyj (#10 Matt Janos)
14:32 Hboro (en) #18 Alex Merry

#32 Eric Visnovsky (Hboro) 27-26
#23 Gary Biggs (BR) 27-24

Power plays: Hboro 1-2, BR 1-7

break up the Halvorsen Division

January 15, 2006 on 2:45 am | In game recap | Comments Off on break up the Halvorsen Division

When I looked at the Mennen Arena schedule for Saturday, I wasn’t very excited. In fact, I planned to skip Mennen altogether and split my time Saturday between the Gordon Conference games at Aspen Ice in Randolph and South Mountain Arena. But I got a call to work the first game at Mennen and stayed for the second and third games. Glad I did.

Most public schools in the state are intimidated by No. 7 Randolph and No. 11 Morris Knolls, the 2004 and 2005 public champions, respectively, and last year’s public finalists. In their own backyard, however, two Halvorsen Division opponents stood up to the big kids on Saturday.

In the first game, a banged-up Mountain Lakes team used a defensive game plan to limit speedy Randolph‘s opportunities in open ice, and the Rams’ inability to generate offense came to the fore once again. With junior Matt Lowell solid in goal, the Lakers took an unlikely lead with 1:23 remaining in the second period when sophomore forward Michelle Wieczorek flipped in the rebound of a Zach Cohen shot for her first career varsity goal. Randolph spent most of both periods in the Lakes zone but mustered only 15 shots; at times it looked like the Rams were passing the puck to the goalie more than shooting.

Trailing 1-0 into the final stanza, Randolph got a gift when Mountain Lakes was called for an unusual delay-of-game penalty for picking the puck up off the ice, and the Rams capitalized with a 5-on-3 power play goal from Mike Turner. They continued to pepper Lowell, outshooting Mountain Lakes 15-1 in the first half of the period, but the game remained tied. Randolph finally broke through with a fluky goal when Ryan Bannon’s low-angle backhander deflected off a Laker defender and floated behind Lowell with 1:32 left. Mountain Lakes recovered to pressure Dan Swenson in the final minutes but could not tie the score. Lowell finished with 37 saves.

Rival Morris Knolls watched confidently while warming up for its next game, even exchanging jeers with Randolph fans before getting down to business against licensed giant-slayer West Morris. The Wolfpack beat Morristown-Beard 3-0 earlier this season behind a 49-save performance from Andrew Bogadek and were up to their old tricks when Eddie Strobino scored early in the second period for a 1-0 lead. Bogadek made 25 saves over the first two periods to keep it a 1-0 game.

But the difference between Morris Knolls and Randolph was underlined by the Golden Eagles’ third-period response. Knolls’ top line of Tommy Tomensky, Steven Jones, and Dan Duda absolutely took the game over as few lines in the state can. Starting the period shorthanded, Tomensky took a long pass from Duda and beat Bogadek on a breakaway to tie the game just 27 seconds into the period. Duda then set up Jones for a second goal just 43 seconds later to make it 2-1. With plenty of time to regroup, West Morris buckled down and got a tying goal from Scott Olivo near the three-minute mark.

But Knolls answered back less than two minutes later, with Tomensky scoring twice in 23 seconds to make the game 4-2. He completed a natural hat trick at the 12:20 mark and, after Bryan Clark contributed a rare goal from a different line, Tomensky scored his fifth goal of the period with 46 seconds left to complete the rout. Knolls scored on four of its first five shots and beat Bogadek 7 times in 13 shots for the period. On three occasions, the Golden Eagles scored goals less than 43 seconds apart. But the message has been sent – the Halvorsen Division can play.

In the nightcap, Charette Division leader Park Regional beat Haas Division leader Kinnelon 4-3 despite being outshot. In other Saturday action, John Bellamente tallied the ridiculous total of seven goals in Mount Olive‘s just-as-ridiculous 14-6 win over Dayton. Delbarton moved back into second place in the Gordon Conference with a 3-1 win over St. John Vianney, while Seton Hall Prep held off Pope John 4-2.

Randolph 2, Mountain Lakes 1

Ran 0 0 2 2
ML  0 1 0 1
Ran  8  7 24 39
ML   4  5 10 19

13:37 ML #2 Michelle Wieczorek (#8 Zach Cohen)

1:08 Ran (pp) #11 Mike Turner (#10 Derek Ranger, #22 Ricky Roma)
13:28 Ran #29 Ryan Bannon (#15 Matt Incledon, #11 Mike Turner)

#31 Dan Swenson (Ran) 19-18
#30 Matt Lowell (ML) 39-37

Power plays: Ran 1-4, ML 0-4

Morris Knolls 7, West Morris 2

Ste 0 2 2 4
HV  1 1 0 2
MK  14 11 13 38
WMC 3 8 5 16

3:24 WMC #9 Eddie Strobino (#2 Todd DeVoid)
0:27 MK (sh) #41 Tommy Tomensky (#14 Dan Duda)
1:10 MK #44 Steven Jones (#14 Dan Duda)
2:58 WMC #40 Scott Olivo (#2 Todd DeVoid)
4:08 MK #41 Tommy Tomensky (#44 Steven Jones)
4:31 MK #41 Tommy Tomensky (#44 Steven Jones, #14 Dan Duda)
12:20 MK (pp) #41 Tommy Tomensky (#14 Dan Duda, #44 Steven Jones)
12:51 MK #18 Bryan Clark (#40 Alex Cleeland, #5 Dennis Cole)
14:14 MK #41 Tommy Tomensky (#44 Steven Jones, #14 Dan Duda)

#34 Andrew Bogadek (WMC) 38-31
#45 Josh Ofner (MK) 16-14

Power plays: MK 2-4, WMC 0-4

moving day

January 13, 2006 on 11:18 pm | In game recap | Comments Off on moving day

I can already tell there’s going to be some serious movement in the Top 20 this week thanks to Friday’s action. For starters, unranked Bishop Eustace (7-4) downed rival and sixth-ranked St. Augustine Prep (9-1) by a 3-2 score this afternoon in Vineland to deny the Hermits dominance over the Southern Red Division. Elsewhere, reports have No. 1 Seton Hall Prep (7-0-2) with a 3-1 win over No. 2 Don Bosco Prep (6-3-1) at South Mountain Arena and Notre Dame (4-3-2) with a big 7-4 win over St. Joseph Montvale (4-3-4). No. 4 St. John Vianney (6-3-1) moved into fourth place in the Gordon Conference with a 5-3 win over No. 10 St. Peter’s Prep (6-3-1). Finally, in NBIAL action, No. 19 Ramapo (9-0-2) used two power play goals and a penalty shot save to edge Ramsey (7-4-1) by a 2-1 score in a classic game at Sport-O-Rama. Also, East Side, Hamilton, and Demarest all won on the same night, each recording its first victory of the season – what are the odds?
But I was in Bridgewater tonight for the second installment of perhaps the state’s best public-school rivalry, and it didn’t disappoint.

Bridgewater-Raritan 1, Ridge 0
No. 14 Bridgewater-Raritan (10-1) already had one big win this week – 2-0 over No. 13 Chatham – and headed into Friday night’s encounter hoping to sweep the regular-season series from rival Ridge (6-3-3) after the Panthers recorded their first-ever win over the Red Devils in the season opener Dec. 2.

Both teams came away more pleased with their performance in this game, played with much more speed, but the Panthers pulled out another one-goal victory. Fans from both schools packed BSA, and more than 500 people were standing three-deep in some places on the balcony railing. I spent the first two periods on tiptoes trying to see over and around everybody.

With loud student sections screaming all the while, the two teams skated furiously for the first two minutes before the game settled down into a rhythm. Bridgewater had the better of play and had six shots before Ridge got its first, but Jon Lyons stood tall in the Red Devil goal. The Panthers almost took the lead with 4:30 remaining when Chris Caravanos, in the left circle, took a neat feed from defenseman Donny Pelligrino and fired a wrist shot that rang the right post. Lyons’ counterpart, Gary Biggs, came up with a big save on a Ridge 2-on-1 in the final minute of the period to keep the game scoreless.

Bridgewater broke the deadlock just 34 seconds into the first period. Head coach Patrick Alvin elected to start the second period with his second line, and it produced an early 3-on-2 break. Croy Vanderbeek slid the puck ahead to Steven Minichini in the slot, and although Lyons made the initial save, a mad scramble ensued at the top of the crease, and Chris Tommins was able to tap in what proved to be the only goal of the game.

It energized Bridgewater for the first half of the period, but star forward Kevin Tino missed a breakaway as Lyons stacked his pads midway through the period, and the score remained 1-0. Ridge picked up its play for a two-minute stretch behind first-line forward Andre Menard and the inspired play of its second line, but the Red Devils appeared to be running out of gas at the ice cut.

No fans left during the ice cut without asking a friend to save their spot at the railing, and the game resumed with typical intensity exemplified by collisions at the Ridge net. The Red Devils pressed play through the middle part of the period but rarely got quality shots on net at Biggs. It looked like Bridgewater would have an easy time of it when granted the game’s first power play with 3:42 remaining, but Ridge got a make-up call 20 seconds later, and the 4-on-4 time produced Ridge’s best chance.

With 2:46 remaining, Ridge’s Keith Macey swept in from the left boards and had his initial shot stopped by Biggs. The rebound fell to an open Menard on the edge of the crease, but Biggs sprawled to take away an easy finish, and Menard was unable to lift the puck over the goalie. When Biggs finally covered up, the Bridgewater bench and stands were at their loudest. Ridge took a timeout with 1:11 remaining, but an icing call pinned the Red Devils in their own zone for the entire final minute, and they were never able to cross center ice to pull Lyons.

BSA could use some more bleachers for big games like this one, but the atmosphere was just about perfect. And although Ridge fans walked away on the losing end, the Red Devils probably proved themselves as a public contender. There is no rest for the weary, however, as Bridgewater gets a chance for revenge against Hillsborough Wednesday and hardly has a break in its schedule the rest of the season.

Bridgewater-Raritan 1, Ridge 0


BR  0 1 0 1
Rid 0 0 0 0


BR  13 14  3 30
Rid 6 6  8 20

0:34 BR #18 Chris Tommins (#12 Steven Minichini, #4 Croy Vanderbeek)

#24 Brian DiNardo (BR) 1-1
#23 Gary Biggs (BR) 19-19
#45 Jon Lyons (Rid) 30-29

Power plays: BR 0-1, Rid 0-1

sneaking into the CVC

January 11, 2006 on 11:55 pm | In game recap | Comments Off on sneaking into the CVC

I made my first ever trip to Mercer County Park for some CVC action tonight, and I’ve got a few stories to tell. I got off the turnpike at exit 8A instead of 8. Mistake. I needed maybe five illegal driving maneuvers to get back on track and successfully follow 535 all the way to MCP, but I got there well in time for the middle game.
Let’s give some credit where it is due … the CVC has the best security in the state. I actually had to work to talk myself in at the door and later had to defend my position in the camera area next to the ice. No wonder nobody wants to drive down there. (Just kidding, my thanks to the security gentleman who allowed me to stay without proper credentials.)
MCP may not be the best rink in terms of ice (in this weather) or facilities (teams regularly changing out in the open), but it really feels communal. As you would expect, Morris County and Mercer County have leagues that feel more local than most others, with games at only one or two rinks, a lot of intra-district rivalries, and kids and parents that know each other. So just hanging around the rink is fun for people from the area.
The two games I showed up for featured the top four teams in the CVC, which everyone has assured me can compete with any public in the state.

Princeton 1, Notre Dame 1
In a rematch of last year’s Mercer County Tournament final, which Princeton won with an emotional 3-2 upset in overtime, the Little Tigers put their unbeaten, untied mark on the line against their biggest test of the season. Notre Dame does not have its strongest team but is still the CVC’s hegemon.

The Fighting Irish played like it in the early going, holding Princeton without a shot for more than six minutes. Both teams had trouble getting shots to the net at times, especially on the power play. Princeton goalie Shane Leuck, the inspiration to last year’s MCT run, had to be on his game to kill an Irish power play late in the period, but the Princeton forecheck stepped up to clamp down and hold the score 0-0 after one period.

The Little Tigers continued to gain confidence early in the second period, but neither team could break the deadlock. John Ryan had the best chance of the period with 4:33 remaining, jamming a shot across the face of goal from a bad angle. The first two periods, played with only three penalties and no goals, took 45 minutes of real time. No joke.

So we headed scoreless to the third period, but Princeton’s Sam Finnell broke the deadlock at the 1:44 mark with a slap shot from the left face-off circle that snuck through the pads of Notre Dame’s Ken Turner. With the Little Tiger students roaring their team on, the Irish fought back immediately. Just 23 seconds later, Mike Williams’ point shot deflected off the skate of forward Ryan McInerney and past Leuck to tie the score.

The goal prevented Princeton from building momentum, and the teams traded chances down the stretch. Turner made a key save with 8:30 remaining when he reached to his right to deny a one-timer from Jonathan Naylor in the slot. Leuck topped his counterpart with a pair of saves in the final six minutes. First, with Notre Dame on the power play, he slid to his right just in time to stop a back-door one-timer from Adam Shemansky. Two minutes later, he earned a personalized chant from the Princeton fans with a showy glove save on a Shemansky backhand.

The game finished 1-1, and Leuck (26 saves) was the difference in the contest. Princeton head coach Paul Merrow had Ryan playing on one line, with Finnell and Peter Teifer on another. Judd Lambert’s troops were, predictably, most dangerous with Shemansky and Mike Slowikowski on the ice. Slight edge in play to Notre Dame, but relying on Leuck is part of Princeton’s game plan.

Steinert 4, Hopewell Valley 2
The smart money was on Steinert in this game, thanks to comparative results against Notre Dame. Yet Hopewell Valley completely dominated the first period, peppering Alex Toth with 17 shots. The Bulldogs finally broke through at the 10:19 mark, with Paul Martori firing a wrist shot past Toth from the right face-off circle. Hopewell could not extend its advantage, however, and Steinert managed to regroup in the short break between periods.

Whatever Bill James told his troops, it worked, because the Spartans opened the period on the power play and quickly tied the game. After a strange bounce behind the net got goalie Jay Amato leaning the wrong way, Jonathan Firth pulled the puck in front of the net and flipped in a backhand before Amato could react. Steinert built on its early momentum less than two minutes later, as D.J. Ruppert sent a pass from one blue line to the other, and Mitch Wien set up linemate Gil Schaffer in the slot for a backhanded finish.

With two public schools playing, the fans were louder and more plentiful in the second game, and they even jeered the referee for attempting to give a stick back to the wrong bench. Steinert dominated the second period, holding Hopewell without a shot until the 9:24 mark, but the Bulldogs pulled back to tie at 10:31. Skating with a two-on-one break, Tom Rush pulled up in the left face-off circle and unleashed a slap shot that beat Toth up high, deflecting the goalie’s water bottle in the process. The teams finished the period with a flurry of fruitless end-to-end rushes.

After the ice cut, the Bulldogs once again came out flying. In the first 30 seconds of the period, Toth made three saves and twice saw Bulldog shots ring off the post. But, pinned in its own zone, Steinert broke out when Kevin Owen fed Wien for a breakaway. His shot was well high, but caromed off the glass back into the slot, and Schaffer was on hand to score the go-ahead goal and earn his 100th career point.

The weather gave the game a surreal atmosphere, at least for this inexperienced CVC watcher, in the final eight minutes, as the downpour outside increased and created fog on the ice. I watched through the fog as Hopewell Valley’s Jay Amato stopped Justin Decowski on a breakaway with 7:20 left, but Ruppert managed to scramble home a rebound 22 seconds later and danced into the arms of his teammates to celebrate the clinching goal.

Hopewell Valley has now lost to each of its division opponents by a 4-2 margin. Steinert tied Notre Dame 4-4 in the other division game. Right now I would have to go Notre Dame, Princeton, Steinert, and Hopewell Valley in that order, but the top three are clearly virtually interchangeable. They should meet plenty of times in CVC play, the Titans Cup, and the Mercer County Tournament.

Princeton 1, Notre Dame 1

Pri 0 0 1 1
ND  0 0 1 1
Pri  4  6 5 15
ND   9  8 10 27

1:44 Pri #20 Sam Finnell (unassisted)
2:07 ND #2 Ryan McInerney (#13 Mike Williams)

#33 Shane Leuck (Pri) 27-26
#1 Ken Turner (ND) 15-14

Power plays: Pri 0-1, ND 0-3

Steinert 4, Hopewell Valley 2

Ste 0 2 2 4
HV  1 1 0 2
Ste 5  8 10 23
HV  17  4 15 36

10:19 HV #44 Paul Martori (unassisted)
1:44 Ste (pp) #22 Jonathan Firth (#16 Justin Decowski)
3:39 Ste #23 Gil Schaffer (#8 D.J. Ruppert, #12 Mitch Wien)
10:31 HV #94 Tom Rush (#72 Hank Wittman)
1:02 Ste #23 Gil Schaffer (#12 Mitch Wien)
8:02 Ste #8 D.J. Ruppert (#23 Gil Schaffer, #12 Mitch Wien)

#30 Alex Toth (Ste) 36-34
#35 Jay Amato (HV) 23-19

Power plays: Ste 1-5, HV 0-5

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