BRICK – A season ago, second-seeded Brick Township saw St. Rose skate into the Ocean Ice Palace and snatch the Dragons’ hopes for a Shore Conference Tournament semifinal berth with a 6-5 overtime victory that needed seven rounds of a shootout to be decided.
On Wednesday night the Dragons played host to the Frozen Roses – ranked ninth in the Asbury Park Press Top 10 Poll – once again, but flipped the script on St. Rose thanks to a pair of late goals by J.T. Maloney, including the game winner with just 22 seconds remaining in regulations, and a stellar performance between the pipes by Jake Lakatos, which resulted in a 5-4 triumph.
According to the sophomore net-minder, it was an intermission missive delivered by senior Brian Lange – who scored 61 points for the Dragons (1-0) last season but is still working his way back into the lineup after some pre-season indecision about competing for his high school program – that lit the fuse and allowed this Brick team to erase a 4-2 deficit leading into the third period.
“Lange wasn’t able to play with us today, but he came in and said what had to be said,” said Lakatos, who stopped 47 of 51 shots to preserve the opening night victory. “It hurt us not to have him tonight, but for him to be there, supporting us with all the other fans upstairs, and then coming in to talk to us. That was huge…We knew we had to win to prove ourselves.”
Entering the third period it was imperative that Brick strike first if a comeback bid was to ensue, and sophomore forward James Wiater answered the call, barreling his way to the front of the net and putting it past St. Rose (0-1) goalie Will Lemonie, who made 17 saves in the non-divisional matchup, cutting the lead to 4-3 at 3:11.
With Brick buzzing and the ice titled in its favor, the offensive onslaught continued as Maloney knotted the game at 4-4 with just over 10 minutes to play.
His work wasn’t done though, as Maloney followed senior Jared Canfield into the offensive zone on a rush and with 22 seconds remaining chipped a rebound to the back of the net to send Brick home with a 5-4 opening night win, and avenge the heart break experienced in 2013-14.
“We were all tired after the second period,” Maloney admitted, “but we knew we could skate with this team and just had to dig deep and pick up our play. We knew we could beat this team if we came out in the third and played like we could. And we were able to get it done.”
“When we saw this game on our schedule opening night, we knew what this game meant to us after last season’s tournament loss,” Maloney added. “After that loss it was just awful for us. It eats at you. But coming back to get this win, it means a lot to us and is a big confidence boost for us moving forward.”
Brick and St. Rose traded goals in the first 40 seconds of play as Ryan O’Malley cleaned up a rebound off an Alex Phipps shot to put the Frozen Roses on top 1-0, before Wiater notched his first of the season, with assists from Michael Mooney and Nick Ulanday, to even the score.
Later in the first with Brick short-handed, Ulanday forced a turnover at his own blue line and raced to the opposing net, jamming home his first of the year and staking the Dragons to a 2-1 advantage.
St. Rose captain Mikey Leather closed out the first period and opened the second with consecutive short-handed goals to put the Frozen Roses ahead, and Phipps’s first tally of the season sent the Frozen Roses into the intermission with a 4-2 lead.
After the win Brick won’t play again until Wednesday, December 10 at home against Class A South foe Toms River East, while St. Rose hosts Class A Central rival Red Bank Catholic – ranked second in the APP Top 10 Poll – on Friday, December 5 at 8 p.m.
RELATED: Shore Conference Ice Hockey: Get to know the teams, players, coaches