WAYNE — It would be right to assume it wasn’t just another two points in the standings.
In a rare twist of fate, the hockey gods saw fit to pit Delbarton and Don Bosco Prep in a season-opening tilt and rematch of the last two state finals.
Still stewing over back-to-back losses to Delbarton — New Jersey’s 13-time and defending NJSIAA champions — Don Bosco Prep let loose eight months of frustration as T.J. Schweighardt scored twice, defenseman-turned-forward Mark Garfinkel delivered the game-winning goal while goalie Max Schwarz turned aside 23-of-24 shots en route to a 3-1 triumph and a little slice of revenge in the 2018-19 NJSIAA season opener at The Ice Vault in Wayne.
Schweighardt broke the ice on the power play 3:17 into the game and Garfinkel added an all-too important insurance goal just over seven minutes later in the opening frame as Don Bosco Prep took it to its bitter Gordon Conference rival employing a strong puck-possession game anchored by its defense to turn the tables this time around.
“My old coach used to say, ‘Look at it like a newspaper — a new one comes out every day,'” Schweighardt said. “It pissed us off, losing the last couple of years, but that was last year’s newspaper — this is this year.”
Schweighardt ignited the offense stepping up into the offensive play and poking one home, five-hole, just three minutes into the action and put a cap on the evening ripping a drop pass from teammate Liam McLinskey with 5:17 remaining in the second to seal the win.
“I just told Schwarzy stop the puck and we’ll do the rest,” Schweighardt said with a laugh. “He stopped the puck, I put a couple in the back of the net and we won — it was great.”
“We talked about it before the game — Gordon Conference game in our building — two points — obviously extremely important,” Don Bosco Prep coach Greg Toskos said.
“You look at how some of our young guys played that didn’t get a lot of ice time last year — Damien Carfagna, Michael Rubin, Jake Howard, Jake Geraci — freshmen last year, sophomores this year who played a big role,” Toskos said. “Mark Garfinkel — a three-year defenseman — we put him up front and he scores the game-winning goal? Michael Forgione with the beautiful forecheck that creates the turnover? These are guys that played their role, understood their role and did whatever it takes for the team. How awesome is that?”
After Garfinkel sent Don Bosco Prep into the first intermission with a two-goal lead, Delbarton cut the deficit in half when James Falivene finished what Michael Balzarotti started 5:54 into the second frame to make it a 2-1 game.
“We came out a little slow, but definitely picked it up in the second and third,” Falivene said. “We kept our feet moving and got pucks to the net… They’re a good team over there.”
Delbarton (0-1) battled hard but had trouble sustaining a persistent attack in the offensive zone. Three minor penalties also prevented the defending champs from generating any type of consistency.
“It took us a little while to get our legs underneath us. By the time we did it was too late,” long-time Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel said. “There was a good pace to the game but their puck-possession time was much better than ours. Their defense hurt us with two goals and for the most part it was a good hockey game.”
It was early in the third period of 3-1 game, however, when Schwarz came up with the save of the game. With Delbarton pushing the envelope, the senior netminder stood tall with a stellar shoulder save after coming out and challenging Balzarotti at the top of the key. It was a big stop that helped Don Bosco Prep (1-0) maintain momentum.
“Ever since we lost in states to Delbarton I’ve been dreaming of playing them and beating them,” Schwarz said. “It feels so good to finally beat them. The best part of hockey is every season it resets.”
“Schwarzy did this last year,” Toskos said. “If you look at his stats from last year against Delbarton, CBA and St. Augustine — top teams — we know he can do it, coming up with the timely saves when we needed it. He really did in the third, he shut ’em down and shut the door for us.”
“They’re really good — really good — and I don’t think we’re really good right now,” Shatel added. “They were very clean with the puck. Maybe we’ll get there but for opening night it was a good game. We just didn’t get the second one we needed.”
“Looking forward we need quicker starts,” Falivene said. “It will definitely be a challenge for us, we have a young team but we’re looking forward to taking them under our wing and work for it.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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