Top-seeded Red Bank Catholic opened the inaugural Shore Conference Tournament on Wednesday afternoon with a 9-2 victory over No. 16 seed Jackson Liberty.
Despite posting 19 shots in the first period, the Caseys (16-1-3) could only muster one goal against the Lions’ (7-9-3) impressive sophomore net-minder Chris Stefanowicz, and entered the second period tied at 1-1 after a wrist shot from Jackson’s Nick Severino ricocheted off the mask of a Red Bank defender and past Mike Cosentino, who made 16 saves in the victory.
“He was outstanding today,” said Caseys coach Ken Carlson of Stefanowicz, who made 42 saves, “and you always start to worry when you put in that sort of effort of and only come away with one goal because guys can get complacent. But I think we put out a solid effort and our depth wore them down as the game progressed.”
Complacency doesn’t appear to be a piece of the Caseys’ vernacular as Red Bank followed Kevin Stickle’s first period marker with five more in the second, including goals by Evan Hoey (who leads the team with 31), Matt Chinnici, Ian Malone, and pair from John Gattuso.
“It took a while for us to fully come together as a team in this one,” Gattuso said. “In the first period we didn’t play as well as we’re capable of, but we came out firing in the second, developed a good chemistry throughout the rest of the game and got it done.”
Griffin Hurley, Max Weber, and Stephen Flego notched third period goals for the Caseys, who outshot Jackson Liberty 51-18, while the Lions’ Joe Low scored his seventh of the season.
Despite the first round exit, Lions coach Bob Acropolis said he is proud of this Jackson Liberty club, who qualified for postseason play for the first time in program history.
“This was a big first step for this program,” Acropolis said. “Qualifying for this tournament was huge for us. Obviously we would’ve liked to have had a little better showing, but it’s been tough for us down the stretch as we’ve lost some guys to injury.”
Acropolis is also excited about the future of this team, and moving forward with a young nucleus, including a starting six that featured five sophomores and a junior.
“I was very happy that these guys battled to the end against such a good team,” Acropolis said. “A lot of my underclassmen have never experienced playing a team with that type of size and skill. This was a great learning experience for these guys, and it will be one they carry with them into the future.”
With the victory, Red Bank Catholic will play the winner of No. 9 seeded Ocean and No. 8 seeded Jackson Memorial next Tuesday at the Red Bank Armory at a time to be announced.
In other Shore Conference Tournament action, second-seeded Brick hosted No. 15 Manalapan, and the pair played a thrilling finish after the Green Dragons jumped out to a 5-1 lead through two periods.
Brick answered an opening marker by Manalapan’s Ryan Kirschner with tallies from James Wiater, David Kearns, Ryan Mooney, and two more by Brian Lange.
However, the Braves would answer with four consecutive goals by Mike Lisciandro, Kirschner, Parker Gaglione, and Branden Kushnir knotting the game at five with under eight minutes remaining in regulation.
In the waning minutes of the third period and this opening round game hanging in the balance and Brick on the power play, Kearns stepped to forefront and delivered the game-winner and his team leading 25th of the season.
Brick’s Andrew Reiss recorded four assists and Jake Lampiasi made 22 saves in the victory.
SHORE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
RB Catholic 9, Jackson Lib. 2
1 5 3 — 9
1 0 1 — 2
Goals/Assists: First period: (R) Stickle (Hoey, Coviello) 11:04; (J) Severino (Low, La Bianca) 14:06; Second period: (R) Hoey (Anderson, Flego) 1:59; (R) Chinnici (Goehring) 3:32; (R) Gattuso (Hoey, Mintz) 8:02; (R) Malone (Chinnici) 9:27; (R) Gattuso (Hoey, Mintz) 14:43; Third period: (R) Hurley (Weber, Goehring) :19; (J) Low (Uliano, Seyglinski) 5:53; (R) Weber (Hurley, Goehring) 9:08; (R) Flego (Goehring) 11:52; Saves: (R) Cosentino 16, (J) Stefanowicz 42; Shots: RB Catholic 51-18; Records: RB Catholic (16-1-3), Jackson Lib. (7-9-3).
Brick 6, Manalapan 5
1 1 3 — 5
1 4 1 — 6
Goals/Assists: First period: (M) Kirschner (Lisciandro, Gaglione) 2:10 (PP); (B) Lange (Price) 4:36; Second period: (B) Wiater (Mooney, Reiss) 7:07; (B) Kearns (Reiss, Wiater) 7:24; (B) Mooney (Reiss, Lange) 9:44 (PP); (B) Lange (Reiss, Price) 12:11 (SH); (M) Lisciandro 14:36; Third period: (M) Kirschner (Kushnir, Rakovitch) 4:57 (PP); (M) Gaglione 7:00; (M) Kushnir (Rakovitch, Lisciandro) 7:51 (PP); (B) Kearns (Price, Lange) 11:45 (PP); Saves: (B) Lampiasi 22, (M) Ambrose 30; Shots: Brick 35-27; Records: Brick (16-5-2), Manalapan (11-9-2).