MIDDLETOWN, NJ — The North-South battle in Monmouth is a healthy one. Friends and neighbors, but allies turned enemies once the puck drops and there is no love lost between them — only a fight for pride.
Frank Wendling gave Middletown North a one-goal lead 38 seconds into the game, Michael Ferlanti scored twice to give Middletown South a brief advantage, but Bob Fitzgerald found redemption and the back of the net with 2:37 remaining in regulation en route to a 2-2 tie at Middletown Sports Complex.
“We always expect hard game against our hometown rival and we definitely showed up to play tonight,” Middletown North team captain John Miranda said.
“The team had a really solid game tonight and worked hard,” Miranda, who set up Wendling less than a minute into the game, said. “We got the early lead and it really helped the boys get some momentum going.”
After Wendling drew first blood, Ferlanti answered on the power play just 5:13 later, assisted by Demitri Forand an Nate Block.
Despite a total of 18 shots in the second frame, nine by each squad, neither North’s Matt Corella (22 saves) or South’s Sean Caswell (20 saves) refused to budge in a scoreless second session.
The game was fluid, with end-to-end rushes and minimal minor infractions as teams stuck to their guns setting up a pivotal third period. But once again, special teams played a role.
With Bob Fitzgerald in the penalty box for slashing, Ferlanti deflected another shot home on the power play giving Middletown South its first lead of the game with 11:42 left. Forand was initially credited with the goal, but was credited with a huge assist on the go-ahead goal. Andreas Forand and Michael Volpi were also involved in the play.
Redemption would find Fitzgerald, however.
As the final seconds ticked away in the third, Fitzgerald redeemed himself as the junior cashed in with 2:37 left to tie the game and send both teams home deadlocked in a 2-2 standoff.
Wendling and Zach Brady assisted on the game-tying goal.
“Going into our rivalry game, we knew we had to play a complete game to have a shot,” Middletown North head coach Don Wood said. “Our main focus had to be in our zone because South has a lot of firepower.
“We were able to get on the board in the first minute, which was huge for us. We aren’t a team that is going to “run and gun.” We’re not built that way,” Wood said. “Team defense and our backstop, Matt Corella, who was excellent, is paramount in us getting out of there with a tie. We got into trouble a few times, getting pinned in our own zone with their cycle, but Corella was there to make every save we needed.”
On the other side of the line, Middletown South coach Tony Nemati saw it as opportunity lost.
“It was a well-played game, both teams played a spirited, physical game as expected,” Nemati said. “We didn’t capitalize on some opportunities and we still need to improve in some areas but the boys are in good spirits. Hats off to North for a well-played game.”
“I thought we played well but didn’t score on our chances,” Middletown South forward Demitri Forand said. “The power play was dominant and we controlled the puck for most of the game. We kept pressure really low but they were able to get goals when needed and we didn’t. We had multiple chances to put the game away in the last few minutes but were unable to capitalize.”
Unfortunately for everyone, both teams will have to wait until Feb. 4 for a rematch. Middletown South (2-1-1) is back in action at Mahwah on Dec. 15. Middletown North (1-1-1) will take on Jackson Memorial in its next bout on Dec. 12.
“I expect us to continue doing well this season and win more games as we go deeper into the season,” Miranda added. “We have young talent that will become one of our stronger weapons against teams as they continue to get a better feel for the game.
“We are striving to make states this year and hopefully go father than we did last year.”
1-0 MN Frank Wendling (Jesse Dickinson, John Miranda) 14:22-1st
1-1 MS Michael Ferlanti (Demitri Forand, Nate Block) 9:04-1st PPG
2-1 MS Michael Ferlanti (Demitri Forand, Andreas Forand) 11:42-3rd PPG
2-2 MN Bob Fitzgerald (Frank Wendling, Zach Brady) 2:37-3rd
Shots: 24-22 Middletown South
Written by John Christian Hageny @JCCSPORTS
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