Some Shore Conference star power was on display on Friday at the Ocean Ice Palace when No. 2 Wall beat No. 4 Point Boro 7-3 to nudge the Panthers (11-3-1, 6-2) out of first place in Class B South.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead when Carter Klotz forced a turnover in Wall’s zone before lifting a shot over the glove of Troy Klahre from the slot, 20 seconds into the contest for his 21st goal of the season.
What may have staggered some teams seemed to have a calming affect on the Crimson Knights (13-5-3, 5-1-1), who could now focus on the present, rather than the 0-4-1 record over the last five game they carried into Friday.
“That first goal they put up against us, as crazy as it may sound, really seemed to settle the team down,” Wall coach Mike Dianoria said, “which is exactly what we needed. We have some good hockey kids, with good hockey minds and we were amped up to play, as they were, and they got the big first goal. But one of the things we were focusing on early in the game was to not let our highs be too high or our lows too low, whether we score or let one up early. We wanted to be even keel, and I think we did that.”
The momentum started to shift with a tripping penalty that led to a game-tying power-play goal by Wall’s Luke Stohrer at 6:31 of the first period, with assists going to Alex Wuestneck and Tom Panico.
Wall had another power-play goal 3:51 into the second period, when sophomore Pat Judge swung a pass to Jeff Morgan, who walked in to the left circle and scored. Morgan’s 26th goal of the season made him the Shore Conference leader in points with 55.
“Jeff operates on another level at times,” said Dinanoria. “His skating, puck handling and passing, he can do it all. He’s that good and he’s a sniper. He was hitting the net tonight. Sometimes he doesn’t, but we’ll never tell him to stop shooting. Because when he has that far post dialed up coming down the off wing, it’s a beautiful thing.”
After Mike Kitrick’s goal improved Wall’s lead to 3-1, Point Boro’s Steven Kovaleski tied Morgan for the scoring lead by chipping in a loose puck for his 30th goal of the year and 55th point.
Morgan regained the scoring lead (58 points) when he converted a feed from Tom Panico to extend the Wall lead to 4-2 at 9:06 and recorded a hat trick 8:23 into the third period, again receiving an assist from Panico. It was Panico’s fourth assist of the game and 17th of the season.
A pair of J.T. Tarantino goals at 11:29 and 13:31 of the third sandwiched Klotz second score of the game.
“It’s great to have a lead in the division again,” said Panico, who returned to the lineup after a two-week stretch of club hockey with Team Comcast of the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League, and a five-day battle with the flu. “We have two games left in the regular season and we have to win them. We have to finish strong heading into the playoffs.”
Point Boro’s Nate Bissey stopped 21 shots while the Shore Conference’s leading netminder, Troy Klahre, saved 27 of 30 shots faced.