The opening game of the annual Winding River Rink Tournament pitted a pair of new teams against one another as Wall skated to a 7-3 decision over Central Regional on Saturday night.
The Golden Eagles (1-3-1) are in the midst of their inaugural varsity ice hockey season with a squad one year removed from junior varsity competition, while the Knights (5-2-0) entered the 2013-14 season having graduated 28 players in the past two years, including All-Shore selections Tom Panico and Troy Klahre.
“We had five freshmen on the ice tonight,” said Wall coach Mike Dianora, “and two-thirds of our team didn’t play varsity hockey last year for a majority of the minutes. The turnover is good because it’s a different team now. It’s a workman team, and it’s important to have that attitude as a foundation to build on.”
The difference between the two clubs on Saturday proved to be Wall’s returning first-team All Shore center Jeff Morgan, who continued to shine in his fifth game of the year, after missing the first two due to injury.
“Jeff can control the game,” Wall coach Mike Dianora said, “he’s that good. Each time when they scored, Jeff went out and put the puck in the net, or got it to Waddell. He’s a complete hockey player now, and when he’s out there working and moving his feet, he’s one of the best you’ll see around here, and that includes the kids from Christian Brothers Academy.”
Morgan recorded three goals and three assists, including on all three of linemate Ryan Waddell’s goals.
Waddell opened the scoring with a short-handed goal at 3:06 of the first period after a blocked shot transformed into an odd-man rush, before Morgan went forehand-backhand and over the glove of Central netminder R.J. Boucher, who made 44 saves, sending Wall into the first intermission with to 2-0 lead.
Early in the second period Central’s junior captain Robbie Wiatrowski cut the Knights’ lead to 2-1, sliding a quick wrist shot past Wall’s Jake Henderson, who stopped 19 shots, at 3:46 off an assist from Dylan Jenkins.
Morgan followed with a another short-handed goal for the Knights and Waddell put home his second before John Bastardo put the Knights up 5-1 at the end of the second period.
In the third period, Jenkins scored a goal to go with his assist and Wiatrowski notched his second tally of the game while Waddell capped off his third hat trick of the season.
With the victory, Wall heads to the tournament finals at 6:30 p.m. this evening as the defending champion and will take on Class B North division rival Point Boro, which defeated Jackson Memorial in the other semifinal, 5-4.
The Panthers’ Chris McDermott recorded a hat trick in the victory, including the game-winning goal at 7:28 of the third period, sliding the puck to the back of net after an extensive effort to dig it lose off the boards. Point Boro’s Steven Kovaleski recorded three assists to go along with his goal, while line-mate Owen Herrington paired a goal with four assists.
Jackson Memorial’s Frank Cear scored a goal and assisted on another by Austin Boyle, while Tanner Graczyk and Michael Termine rounded out the scoring for the Jaguars.