RED BANK, NJ — Central Regional started the season off on the right foot, picking up a 2-1 win over newly-acquainted Shore Conference B-South division rival Red Bank at The Armory in Red Bank on Wednesday night.
Trevor Coltenback snuck home the game-winning goal with 11:19 to play in the middle period while Dominic Wiatrowski scored his first varsity goal – and the first goal of the Golden Eagles’ season – just 1:09 into the game to providing the offense.
When the smoke cleared, the two goals would be all Central Regional needed to pace themselves to a 1-0 start to 2019-20.
Just a season ago, the program stumbled out of the gate, failing to pick up its first victory until its 10th game played (0-6-3) on Jan. 8. But this season, with a loaded roster with depth and a balance of experience and youth, Central Regional is a team that feels they can improve on last year’s unattractive 5-12-3 mark and become a team no one feels comfortable playing.
From the opening puck drop, Central Regional came out with a hungry buzz eager to get the season started. Getting the first goal and setting the tone was the first task on the new year — and Wiatrowski wasted little time answering the call. Sophomore Joey Klutkoski crashed the net and was awarded with an assist for his efforts.
Wiatrowski felt humbled picking up the first goal of the season, but was quick to credit his team for their efforts around him.
“It feels really good to get one tonight,” he said of his first tally of his career. “We played strong as a team – getting shots on net and being fast and physical.”
With the freshman collecting a personal milestone and setting the table the only thing emulating from the Central bench was to continue to apply the pressure. They had dominated the play early on, but it was only the first minute, of the first period, of the first game.
“Of course it’s nice to get that goal that early in the game, but if you’ve been around the game long enough you know you can’t sit back on it,” Central Regional head coach Joe Pelliccio said of the early tally. “That doesn’t make us relax. If anything it should make us more nervous.”
Red Bank Regional had difficulty gaining consistent possession throughout a portion of the opening two periods, but they did enough to stay within striking distance throughout the night.
“We scored that goal really early and they still were one bounce from tying or getting back in the game the entire night,” Pelliccio said. “Even with a two goal lead; they score and all of a sudden they have a ton of momentum.”
Coltenback found the puck near the goal mouth and tucked in the game-winner a little under four minutes into the second period. Domenick Competello and Alex Krish assisted on the goal. For Krish, it was his first varsity point.
“I got a pass from Coltenback and decided to try and put it on net,” Krish said. “I just was hoping something would happen and it did.”
“I sent it up to Krish at the point and he put it toward the net and it hit off Competello and I was there to one time it in the net” said Coltenback.
Red Bank Regional, under the direction of Connor Keating, have been in a rebuilding stage the past few seasons, but flashed signs of being a team opponents cannot tread lightly around in 2019 and beyond.
“We knew we were playing a rebuilding team that is really well coached,” Pelliccio said of RBR. “They have a few talented young players and an extremely talented goalie who played great tonight.”
One of the bright spots for the Bucs was goaltender Mitchell Quinn, who stood on his head to make 28 saves and keep Red Bank within two goals, stopping all 13 shots he faced over the final 15 minutes.
Henry Spencer sniped home the lone Red Bank goal of the game with 3:38 to play, spoiling what was nearly a perfect defensive night for the Eagles. Anthony Pinto collected the only assist.
Nicholas Bilinski made 14 saves in net to earn his first win during his junior campaign.
Central’s slow start to a season is very much recent, but this team isn’t focused on old records. Instead, the only thing on the mind of anyone in that locker room is building off this win and focusing on the present.
“We have to keep it going and keep up the pace,” Coltenback said. “Use this game as momentum and keep up the pace.”
The first test against Red Bank Regional provided stiff competition for a team starting a hefty amount of underclassmen with little or no varsity experience.
“We had our work cut out for us. We had three sophomores and a freshman playing up on our starting two lines,” Pelliccio said. “We had a sophomore and a freshman back on D as well. This is a very young team, but these kids have been working very hard to prove they belong.”
Though Quinn stonewalled the Central offense, the Eagles still found themselves with a lead in the locker room, and with a young group, the conditioning and mental demeanor this group has shown brightest in the final stanza.
“I told them in the locker room during the intermission that if anyone was too tired to go out there and finish the game than they shouldn’t be out there,” Pelliccio said. “It was only 2-0 and I told them not to get frustrated. That’s a really good goalie over there, and as long as they continue to play their game they would walk out of here with a win.”
And walk away with a win they did.
Central Regional will look to improve to 2-0 when they faceoff against Lacey on Dec. 10 at 6:00 p.m. at Winding River.
Red Bank will travel to the Colonial Valley Conference to take on Hopewell Valley at Loucks Arena in Lawrenceville on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Written by Casey Krish / @CaseyKrish
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