Brick entered Wednesday evening’s Dowd Cup semifinal meeting against No. 5 Southern with a top seeding and weighted hearts.
Beloved classmate Thea Gail Juezan died during the past week and a 6-0 victory for the Green Dragons gave those grieving her a chance to congregate and a much-needed reason to cheer.
“Playing in a situation like this is tough,” Brick goalie Jake Lampiasi said. “As one of the leaders you’re trying to stay confident and trying to stay focused, while trying to keep your teammates focused on the task at hand.”
Lampiasi did that by snuffing out all scoring efforts by the Rams and proving to be a difference maker in posting a 24-save shutout.
“The circumstances surrounding the game, the way the school and the students came out and came together tonight provided a lot of motivation,” said Brick’s leading scorer Andrew Reiss. “We played our hearts out for them and were able to come away with the victory.”
Reiss, as he’s done consistently throughout the season, fronted the offense by completing a hat trick in the second period, picking up his fourth goal in the waning minutes of the third period and dealing out two primary assists. He now has 33 goals and 19 assists.
“Andrew was and has been outstanding for us,” said Brick coach Bob Auriemma, in his 50th season with Dragons. “He’s really been working on his shot, his speed and his position play. We’ve really been pleased with him.”
Nikita Klinisove gave the Dragons a 1-0 lead 40 seconds into the second period with assists by Reiss and Tyler Iannarone.
Klinisove scored again after a successful penalty kill resulted in an odd-man rush on which Ryan Mooney ripped a slap shot from the point. A rebound found Reiss, who flipped it through the crease past outstretched Southern goalie Kyle Pinder and onto the stick of Klinisove, who buried it at 5:53.
Reiss extended the lead to 3-0 at 8:41 after corralling a bouncing puck along the right boards, carrying to the point unpressured, toe dragging between the legs of a charging Southern defender into the slot and beating Pinder above the glove from the left circle.
Reiss scored on a third-period breakaway, cruising from Pinder’s blocker side and transferring the puck from his forehand to his backhand before flicking it off the crossbar and in.
“We got off to a slow start, a little bit of a letdown, but the boys really hustled tonight,” Auriemma said. “They covered for each other the whole game. When one guy made a mistake, another one picked him up. And that’s true team play.”
“To have shutout on this stage is a huge confidence booster for the entire team,” said Lampiasi. “And as we move forward to in this tournament and into states we need to have confidence. This time of year is all about confidence.”
Brick will play the winner of No. 3 Brick Memorial and No. 2 Wall in the Dowd Cup Championship game on Saturday.
“My freshman year, we ended up losing this game to Red Bank,” Reiss said. “and last year we ended up going into overtime in the finals game and tying with Middletown South, so, we definitely want to win this game badly.”