TOMS RIVER – When Wall forward Shane Haviland was a child. he could be seen in his driveway, dangling orange street-hockey balls around imaginary defenders and rocketing wrist shots with a toy stick to the back of the twine.
Crimson Knights coach Mike Dianora remembers it vividly.
“I’ve known Shane since he was a baby, because I know his father real well,” said Dianora, who is in his 15th season behind the Wall bench. “And this kid was roofing backhanders with a mini-stick when he was years old. His hands and skill are unbelievable. He’s got great ability.”
Though that immense talent for the game was overshadowed the past couple of seasons by some of the Shore Conference’s top point producers, Haviland, now a junior at Wall, has grown into his body and developed into an offensive force — and that skill set was on full display Thursday night at the Winding River Rink, where Wall edged Class B North rival Central Regional 5-4.
“Shane’s skill level can match up with anybody in the conference, and you can use the three-letter word ‘CBA’ as well,” Dianora said. “He can easily take a game over and he did that tonight. … Shane won this game for us. His teammates played great, but he went out and won it for us.”
And that’s not an overstatement by any stretch, as Haviland had a hand in all five Wall goals, assisting on Ryan Burns’ second of the season while scoring four of his own, including the game-winner with 1:36 remaining in the third period.
“It’s great to come through for my team in a game like this,” said Haviland, who now leads Wall with seven goals. “Central Regional is a very good team, and this is a huge divisional win for us, especially after tying Jackson Liberty last night (Dec. 9). This is a big two points for us.”
Central Regional carried a 2-0 lead into the second period, after senior captain Adam Leighton drilled a slap shot from the point past Wall’s freshman netminder Logan Beattie — who made 24 saves — at 2:42 of the first, before Mikey Mania assisted on Dale Schweighardt’s fourth of the season.
Haviland answered in the second, opening the middle frame with back-to-back tallies off assists by sophomore Zach Tarantino.
Mania’s team-leading sixth goal of the season broke the tie at 6:54 of the second, before Haviland and Tarantino helped out on Ryan Burns’ second of the year, sending the clubs into the intermission knotted at 3-3.
Haviland completed the hat trick at 1:51 of the third period, lofting a wrist shot past Central goalie Riley Kakubczak — who stopped 31 shots — before Leighton’s fifth goal of the season tied it at 4-4 with just over four minutes to play.
With under two minutes to go, Wall broke out of its own zone on a three-on-two rush, and with a bit of tick-tack-goal passing, it was Burns feeding Tarantino on the left wing, who slid a cross-crease pass to Haviland for the eventual game-winner.
“We have a lot of good forwards on this team,” Tarantino said. “We have nine or 10 guys who can really play up front. And everybody plays; we roll four lines. Things are really starting to come together for us, the chemistry is developing, but it also takes a lot of pressure off when Shane is scoring like he did tonight.”
Central Regional entered Thursday night’s tilt off a tie with Middletown South — ranked fifth in the Press’ preseason Top 10 Poll — and after the fight his Golden Eagles put up against Wall, ranked eighth in the poll, coach Joe Pelliccio was happy with the effort.
“It came down to mistakes tonight. We just made one more than they did. It’s a young season, and we’re going to work on eliminating those mistakes in the future. But the coaches and I are happy with the way the boys fought. And in terms of confidence, this wasn’t the worst week for us. The kids know what they have now, and we’re going to compete every night.”
Up next: Wall hosts Manalapan on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 7:45 p.m., while Central hosts Jackson Liberty that night at 7:30 p.m.