RED BANK – Opening night at the Red Bank Armory proved to be a career performance for Freehold Township winger Max Halvorsen, as the junior recorded six goals and assisted on two more in the Patriots 8-5 victory over Red Bank Regional.
“I feel like I was skating pretty good out there,” said a modest Halvorsen. “I was hoping for at least one tonight…but I’ll take six.”
If one is able to project for the duration of this 2015-16 season, then Halvorsen is more than likely to surpass his statistical totals from an impressive sophomore campaign, in which the forward recorded 46 points on 19 goals and 27 assists.
“The kid is talented,” Patriots coach Mike Celano said. “He finished that goal that got us on ESPN last year, there’s no question about his talent. My fear is now, he scored six goals, so everybody is going to know him.”
“Now it’s about adjusting to how the other team’s going to move forward, and how they’re going to play him,” Celano added. “And now it’ll be coaching strategy for us, and how we’ll be able to develop him as a forward who can handle being shadowed and marked.”
Halvorsen christened the 2016 Shore Conference hockey season with the opening marker 59 seconds into the first period, beating Bucs keeper Jon Pierce (who stopped 19 of 27 shots) low to the blocker side, before Red Bank’s Frank Taddeo tied it at 1-1 less than 10 seconds later, poking it past Patriots net-minder Nick Raiola (who turned away 20 of 25 shots).
The club’s proceeded to trade two more even strength goals as Patriots freshman defenseman Nick Bianca notched the first of his varsity career at 1:48 of the first period off an assist by Halvorsen, with Red Bank’s Will Spencer needing only 74 seconds to answer.
Red Bank’s freshman defenseman Page Lootsma and Halvorsen matched power play tallies to close out the first period.
The Patriots took control in the second with two quick markers, as Halvorsen recorded the hat trick nine seconds into the period off an assist by Brandon Liebross, before Liebross followed up 39 seconds later with his first of the year.
“With the trio of myself, Max and Tyler up front, I think we’ll be able to push the pace moving forward, and be able to generate some offense and score some big goals,” Liebross said. “A night like this definitely helps us to find out what combinations are working. This one was definitely working, and I think tonight proved we have a lot of fire power and some potential as a team.”
Halvorsen’s fourth goal of the game came at 9:01 of the period by way of a primary helper from sophomore defenseman Ryan Ford, who helped fortify the top Patriots blue line with classmate Eric Borshchevsky in the absence of Julian Kislin, who recently announced his commitment to NCAA Division I Northeastern University.
A pair of even strength goals in the third period for Frank Taddeo completed the hat trick for the Bucs’ junior two-way skater and sandwiched two more unassisted tallies for Halvorsen, including his second power play marker of an eight-point night.
First Star: Max Halvorsen gets the nod after the Patriots junior racked up six goals and to go with a pair of primary assists.
Second Star: Frank Taddeo earns the star, playing aggressively from his two-way defensive station to deliver a hat trick of his own and deliver the primary assist on Lootsma’s power play tally.
Third Star: Patriots goaltender Nick Raiola played better than his save-percentage might indicate, as the junior made several post-to-post stops, including a series of second period saves in which the third-year starter booted away a long slap shot, before flailing across the crease to turn away the rebound with his stick and hold a 5-3 lead for Freehold Township.
Up next: Freehold Township opens its divisional schedule on Tuesday, Dec. 1 when the Patriots host Howell at 8:15 p.m. Red Bank opens divisional play on Thursday, Dec. 3 at Ocean Township at 6:15 p.m.