MONTCLAIR — In the end, Cary Collucci figured it was a pretty good hockey hunch.
The senior cruised to the weakside of the goal and buried a quick shot into a half-open net 4:48 into the third period that proved the difference as Montclair was able rally and forge a 3-2 victory over rival Montclair Kimberley at Clary Anderson Arena.
“I went to the net and got a great behind-the-back pass and had a lot of net to shoot at,” said the senior forward after netting his sixth goal of the season. “It was a bit surprising that I had that much net, but it’s a credit to my linemates Dan Korenbaum and Jake Skorzewski. We got a good cycle going and got the puck low in their zone. The third period we wanted to grind and be even more defensive-minded.
“They (MKA) are our crosstown rivals and it was kind of a battle between two different styles. They’re a good, fast team and it’s always fun to play against them.”
Eamon Thall scored twice and Gus Bylin was impressive in goal in making 30 saves as Montclair improved to 14-4-3 and secured its second decision over MKA in a week. The Mounties downed the Cougars by an identical 3-2 final on Jan. 29 to claim the Montclair Cup.
“Gus Bylin was tremendous today for us,” said Montclair coach Pat Verney. “It was a gutsy performance by our entire team.”
The Mounties, outshot 32-28 overall, were able to strike for a power play goal, a shorthanded tally and finally Collucci’s game-winner at even strength.
But for most of the first two periods it was Bylin who held his own in the Montclair crease as he turned aside a 26-shot barrage through the first 30 minutes.
“I just tried to keep my game tight,” said the sophomore, who stopped 13 shots in the first period. “MKA was really crowding the net and trying to work for good shots in the slot the first two periods. I just tried to stay focused and keep my game simple. My defense was strong in front of me.”
Montclair Kimberley (5-11-2) displayed a swift, opportunistic transition in the first period and rarely allowed Montclair to establish much below the dots.
The Cougars opened the scoring when Oscar Worob took a nifty tape-to-tape pass from Alexandros Gaffney (two assists) and whipped in a shot from the high slot with 5:32 left to give MKA a 1-0 advantage.
“We were out to win,” said the junior forward of his sixth goal. “We had good speed and were the faster team for the first couple of periods. Montclair bangs and is physical and they pack their defense in pretty well in their zone. They’re a tough team to score against.”
Given its first power play of the game, Montclair produced the equalizer 3:58 into the second period.
Montclair Kimberley goalie Kenan Diano, who was also solid in halting 25 shots, denied a close-in attempt by Skorzewski and froze the puck. On the ensuing faceoff, Thall stuffed in a loose puck that slid behind Diano to make it 1-1 as Will Schiffenhaus assisted.
“We got off a shot and it hit their goalie (Diano) and went behind him and nobody picked me up, so I just tapped it in,” said Thall of his first of the game and ninth of the year.
Still, Montclair Kimberley continued to move the puck smartly and with pace and restored its 2-1 lead in transition after a turnover in the neutral zone sent Gaffey in on a two-on-one with Brian Schindler. Gaffney saucered a nifty pass to Schindler, who deposited his 19th goal with 3:05 left in the second.
But with Montclair Kimberley on a power play and the clock winding down in the second, Thall delivered a critical goal for the Mounties when he took a pass from Korenbaum off an offensive zone faceoff and snuck a shot past Diano with just 32 seconds on the clock to knot it at 2-2.
“That was a big goal,” said Thall. “It was right off the faceoff and I just whipped a shot on goal. We needed that going into the third. Going into the third we had some momentum.”
The Mounties were able to control the puck more and get it deep consistently in the third, the only period they outshot MKA (8-4) in the match.
Montclair Kimberley called timeout with 1:13 left and a faceoff in its end, and Diano was pulled for the extra attacker with 1:01 left, but the Cougars could not get the equalizer.
“They play very well in their system,” said Montclair Kimberley coach Tim Cook, “and their goalie played very well, too. We carried the play for much of the first two periods, but Bylin with their defense they don’t give you much. In the third we didn’t want a tie and we battled. It was a similar game to last week’s Montclair Cup. I’m proud of our guys.”
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
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