One of the premiere matchups of the inaugural Shore Conference Hockey Tournament played out in the semifinals on Thursday afternoon as top-seeded Red Bank Catholic and No. 4 Point Boro needed more than the allotted 45 minutes of regulation to break a 1-1 tie.
After a grueling three periods of play, the game entered overtime, which was ultimately a brief session. The Caseys’ Matt Chinnici played the puck in deep, where it was gathered by Todd Goehring, who sent a centering pass to the front of the net. Though his pass was broken up, the puck landed on the stick of a charging Griffin Hurley, who flipped it to the back of the net for the game-winner 26 seconds into the extra frame for a 2-1 RBC victory.
“I was coming down the middle and Todd put one in front trying to sneak it in,” Hurley said. “Max Webber was out in front digging away at the pile and I happened to be in the right spot at the right time.
“This is the greatest feeling in the world. After I scored I just sprinted toward the bench and they came at me. I got a little banged up at the bottom of the pile, but I’ll be ready for Howell in the finals.”
Red Bank Catholic defenseman Kevin Stickle opened the scoring for the Caseys at 5:07 of the first period when the captain lifted a hard-rising wrist shot from the right point that weaved its way between heavy traffic in front of the crease and past Point Boro’s screened net-minder Nate Bissey for a 1-0 lead.
“We were working hard the entire game,” Stickle said, “focusing on trying to put pucks to the net and chip away at rebounds. But their goalie [Bissey] played tremendous, and to be able to come away with a win in a game like this just feels great.”
Bissey stymied the sharp-shooting Caseys after that point, turning away 41 of 43 shots faced in the defeat, and thwarting several point-blank scoring chances with both a quick flick of the glove and fast pads.
“It got to be a little frustrating,” Stickle said, “but we kept at it, stuck to the game plan, got pucks to the net, and eventually it paid off.”
“I’ve been coaching at Point Boro for the last three years,” Panthers coach Alex DePalma said. “Nate was a sophomore when I got here, and I can say without a doubt that this was the single best game I’ve ever seen him play. He saw the ice well; he was on top of everything; he was incredibly focused from the moment the puck dropped. It was an incredible performance.”
Like Bissey, Red Bank Catholic’s Mike Cosentino was also pristine in net, turning away 29 of 30 shots in the victory. He has allowed only five goals in three Shore Conference Tournament games to this point.
Bissey received some offensive aid later in the first period when the Panthers took advantage of a Caseys cross check, as Owen Herrington centered a pass from behind the net to Lance Nelson, who buried his third goal of the season at 9:23, a power-play goal that knotted the game at 1.
Nelson fronted an unsung cast of Panthers youth that DePalma was pleased to see rise to the occasion on this type of postseason stage.
“RBC knew who our top guys were [Steven Kovaleski, Chris McDermott, Herrington] and they shadowed them,” DePalma said. “So our second line had to step and score a goal for us, which Lance was able to do. Our guys had to compete in other ways and were committed to blocking shots. Our freshmen, Dan Herrington and Matt Kimak, stepped up in the defensive end and did an incredible job, especially in this type of atmosphere.
“Maybe my guys were expecting me to jump on them in the locker room after this loss, but as a coach I can’t be prouder of the way they played . . . and I think it can carry over into the states.”
With the loss Point Boro will prepare for the first round of the NJSIAA Public B tournament where, as the No. 8 seed (the highest seed the program has received in its 11-year history) the Panthers will host No. 25 Ramapo 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Ocean Ice Palace.
Red Bank Catholic moves on to a meeting in the Shore Conference Tournament final with sixth-seeded Howell 7 p.m. Saturday at Middletown Ice World.
HOWELL 4, ST. ROSE 3: Howell earned its way into the Shore Conference final with a 4-3 shootout victory on Wednesday evening that extended past three periods of regulation time, a 15-minute overtime period, and into eight rounds of a shootout before the Rebels’ Louie Kuka put one to the back of the net, and Bobby Dovenero kept one out to secure the victory.
St. Rose, which entered the game off a 6-5 shootout victory over second-seeded Brick, forced overtime when Noah DeFazio put home a game-tying power play goal at 11:01 of the third period. The Frozen Roses also received goals from Ryan O’Malley and Ian McGirr, while Andrew Terracciano stopped 43 shots.
Howell, which came off a 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Monsignor Donovan, took a 3-2 lead a 6:11 of the third period on Joe DiPasquale’s second goal of the game, while Kyle Hallbauer notched his team-leading 37th goal of the season in the second period and Dovenero made 30 saves.