RANDOLPH — Maybe they could be referred to as “The Security Line,” because Delbarton seems pretty safe whenever they’re on the ice.
The top trio of Michael Balzarotti, Max Williams and James Falivene combined for seven points – Balzarotti and Williams each finishing with a goal and two assists – and Brett Cleaves finished with 14 saves as Delbarton extended its winning streak to five games with an impressive 4-0 decision over Princeton Day School at Aspen Ice.
Delbarton, No. 1 in the Hockey Night In Boston New Jersey preseason poll, improved to 5-1 while Princeton Day, which entered the contest with a three-game winning streak, dropped to 3-2.
“Our line definitely has some great chemistry together,” said Balzarotti, a senior captain, in referring to James Falivene and Max Williams. “We know where each other are even if we can’t see each other. It’s a good combination and all of us can bury it, which we did today.”
It was Balzarotti who gave the Green Wave a 1-0 lead with the eventual game-winning goal 3:03 into the first period on his team’s third shot on goal.
Williams outmuscled a Princeton Day defenseman in the corner and worked the puck back to J.P. Nolan at the right point, and he whistled a shot on net that was redirected by Balzarotti.
“We won a draw to the wall in their end and Max won the one-on-one battle for the puck,” said Balzarotti of his fifth goal of the season. “It was a good, low shot to the net and I got pretty lucky because I got a piece of it and it went into the net. We’ll take them anyway we can get them.”
After killing off a Princeton Day power play Falivene, seconds after he was denied by goalie Jeremy Siegal (21 saves), was left alone in the slot and snapped in his eighth goal on assists from Balzarotti and Williams to extend the lead to 2-0.
“At 1-0 we had some good shifts and then we created some chances on that power play but were unable to convert,” said Princeton Day coach Scott Bertoli, the former Princeton University four-year standout who helped the Tigers win the 1998 ECAC championship. “Then we blew coverage on their second goal and all of a sudden it’s 2-0. Delbarton is a very disciplined team that presents a lot of challenges and we just got outworked and couldn’t match their intensity.
“Their first line is pretty good, too. They were all over the scoresheet.”
J.R. Cagnassola, a junior, extended the lead to 3-0 when he delivered a snap shot from between the dots at 5:39 of the third.
Williams provided Delbarton with a four-goal cushion when he banged home the rebound of an initial shot by Balzarotti at 10:15 of the second. It was more than enough for the Green Wave, who outshot Princeton Day, 21-14, overall.
Delbarton closed down the ice even more from then on.
“We definitely try to play defense first,” said the 5-10, 175-pound Balzarotti. “Good defense leads to good offense. Shutting down the other team is so important, especially with some good skaters like they have. All three of our lines were getting pucks deep, playing physical hockey and getting a good cycle game going. All five guys on the ice were able to contribute and allowed us to get sustained zone time in their end and tire them out. And Brett Cleaves had another strong game in goal.”
Last year it was the Panthers earning a 1-0 victory after Delbarton fashioned a 1-0 victory of its own two years ago.
Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel has come to expect the all-around performance from his club – and No. 1 line.
“They demonstrated some very good hockey and we’re fortunate they’ve been clicking,” Shatel said. “We rely on them and all three of them have really turned into good players, especially on defense. I thought our work ethic was real good today. We’ve been getting a little better each game.”
After a season-opening loss to Don Bosco Prep, Delbarton has won five straight games. Through six games thus far Delbarton has outscored its opponents by a 27-5 margin with three shutouts.
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
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