For a right-handed shot, Alex Konovalov possesses a lethal snipe coming down his off-wing.
The Ridge senior forward, one of the most prolific goal-scorers in state history, made a triumphant return to the ice following a freak injury just prior to the start of the season, to lead the Ridge Red Devils to the NJSIAA Public A state title with a goal and two assists in a 4-1 victory over Randolph at Prudential Center in Newark on March 4.
With the game tied at one, Konovalov broke in down the left side before cutting back and letting go one of his trademark wrist shots from the top of the circle. The twisted wrister tickled twine 4:59 into the third period, top corner where momma hides the cookies, giving Ridge a 2-1 lead and an advantage the Red Devils would not rescind en route to victory.
With 19 goals and 11 assists in nine games this past month-plus, Alex Konovalov is HockeyClan’s State Player of the Month.
“Between the second and third periods my heart dropped,” said Konovalov, who came back mid-January after suffering a fractured fibula in practice just before the season opened. “Playing in this atmosphere, in this building against a team like Randolph, it’s nerve-wracking.”
“I had a guy on me every time I was on the ice, but I play with some great teammates,” Konovalov, who spent the better part of a decade living in the Russian capital of Moscow, said. “I was able to find some open space on that goal. As a senior to play my last game at “The Rock” and win a championship is something, but I wouldn’t be here today without a bunch of great teammates, and my linemates Luke Rich and Blake Loges.”
In a record-breaking career that set new school records in goals (98), assists (90) and points (188), Konovalov’s final tally — the game-winning goal in the state championship — may go down as his finest.
“He’s one of the best players we’ve ever had here,” said Ridge coach Tim Mullin, who has seen a lot in his 23 seasons as coach at the Somerset County school. “He broke all the school-records in goals, assists and points and led our team to the state championship this year with that key goal that made it 2-1. That says it all.”
Konovalov shattered all previous school-records held by Keith Macey, who recorded 74 goals and 144 points in a prolific scoring career in his own right.
“I actually forgot how good of a player he is since I hadn’t seen him play all year,” Mullin said after Konovalov’s five-goal game against Hillsborough on Feb. 4. “He’s obviously pretty good. Five goals? That was something.”
“Alex’s goal-scoring ability — every game Alex scored three goals,” Mullin said with a laugh. “Anytime, you’ve got somebody on your team that scores three goals a game, you’re going to be in good shape. It’s hard to put into words. It was really nice to win it this year.”
While Konovalov didn’t register a hat trick in every game he played, he came close to averaging one with 28 goals and 16 assists in just 12 games. The senior forward turned in hat tricks in six games, including a four-goal, three-assist performance in his first game back against Hunterdon Central on Jan. 21.
“It’s just amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish this past year,” Konovalov said. “It’s only been a day and half since it all happened but it still feels unreal. As I said previously, from the first practice this year, I knew we definitely had a team capable of making a very long run in the post-season. It was evident from our success on Monday. Everyone contributed thoughout the lineup. I’m just really thankful to be able to play hockey at Ridge with some of my best friends and be able to win a second championship in three years.”
2018-19 HockeyClan Honors
2017-18 HockeyClan Honors
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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