Ice Vault tripleheader

December 19, 2009 on 1:21 am | In game recap | Comments Off on Ice Vault tripleheader

I hit up the Ice Vault tonight for a scheduled quadrupleheader that ended up having three games, including two headliners: Bergen Catholic-Don Bosco Prep and Ramsey-Northern Highlands. I was warmly received by all, and it was great to put faces with names in several different instances.

For the record, I believe this was my first visit to the Ice Vault in four years, going back to a state game and the NBIAL Cup finals in 2006.

On to the games …

Don Bosco Prep outclassed Bergen Catholic from start to finish on Rink 1. The Crusaders, beset by problems throughout the first three weeks of Kevin Mulligan’s tenure, have seen both Carlo DiPiazza and Justin Selman leave the team and were overmatched tonight.

Bosco, skating three lines, got all its offense from its top unit of senior Connor Leen, junior R.J. Burns, and senior Tyler Stephanik. Their puck movement was very impressive on the opening goal, 9:36 into the first period, as Leen and Burns used one-touch passes to set up Stephanik at the back post. Later in the period, Leen showed great composure to set up shop behind the net and thread a pass through traffic to Burns for a second goal.

The Ironmen led 4-0 after two periods with a 22-7 shot advantage, and although BC pulled two goals back early in the third period, including a shorthanded tally, Bosco pulled away for a 6-2 win.

Over on Rink 2, Ramsey and Northern Highlands played a close, tense, low-scoring game in front of a raucous crowd of more than 800. I really enjoyed watching the student bodies cheering against each other and the animated atmosphere.

On the ice, Ramsey was the better team and pulled out a 3-1 win, with a late empty netter padding the margin. To be honest, since Ramsey is the prohibitive favorite to repeat as Public B champion, I was expecting a little more offensive firepower. But that would have been out of character for this Ramsey team, which is built on defense. In 28 games last year, the Rams allowed more than two goals only four times. They scored more than five only eight times. So a blowout is rarely on the cards for this squad.

I was very impressed by Michael Gwon and Scott Rothlisberger on the blue line and Tyler Bishop up front. Matt Braun in goal was barely needed until the third period, but he made some crucial and underrated saves that preserved the win and is a definite plus. Gwon scored both goals with individual efforts coming out of a corner and scoring from close range. The Rams skated three lines almost the whole night, very impressive for any public.

Other than Gwon’s plays, Northern Highlands’ Enrique Carrion was more than capable, stopping 24 shots. The Highlanders were definitely disappointed in their own performance; head coach Jason Beswick called a timeout less than five minutes into the game in an effort to wake up his team and lamented afterward that his team only showed up for the third period (9-3 shot advantage).

Anyway, Ramsey will get stiff tests in the Ice Vault Holiday Classic against Don Bosco, St. Peter’s, and Kinnelon and later this year against two-time defending Public A champion Randolph (Jan. 8) and Public A contender Morris Knolls (Feb. 16). The rematch with Northern Highlands is at Sport-O-Rama Jan. 16. It will be interesting to see how Ramsey’s outstanding defense copes with the offensive talent of Don Bosco and Morris Knolls, in particular. I’d certainly expect Northern Highlands’ forwards to be as strong as any in Public B, and Ramsey handled them well tonight. Public A and the Gordon Conference are another level.

Anyway, glad to get a look at some more teams and see some friendly faces. We’ll see if snow allows anybody to see games on Saturday.

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