MIDDLETOWN — Freehold Township and Middletown North took to the ice Tuesday night at Middletown Ice World looking to prove that they belong in the conversation of the elite public programs in the Shore Conference this season.
They say a two-goal lead is the most difficult to hold. Senior Tyler Sanborn buried a huge insurance goal early in the third period, stymieing a Middletown North outburst, and the tally provided the Freehold Township Patriots (4-0-0) with a key 3-2 victory over their rivals a little over a week into the season.
A 3-2 triumph over Middletown North (1-1-0) gives Freehold Township the early edge in the Shore Conference A-North Division standings.
Both squads came into the night after excellent opening weeks, and being undefeated, with Freehold winning all three of their opening week contests over St. Rose, Mountain Lakes and Jackson Memorial with offensive outbursts in each. Middletown North opened their campaign with an emotional win over cross-town rivals Middletown South, and a 10-0 triumph of Lacey.
On Tuesday night, it would be Freehold’s defense that stepped up and saved the day, as the backline and senior net-minder Michael Ottone kept Middletown North’s potent offense in check for most of the night.
“My game doesn’t change at all,” Ottone said. “Regardless of the score or what is happening in the game, my job out there is to stop the puck.”
Fresh out of the gate, it appeared Freehold Township would once again find it simplistic to put the puck in the net, finding the score-sheet twice in the opening period to take a 2-0 lead after the first.
Freshman Michael Sullo deposited his third goal of his high school career in just his fourth game at 5:01. An assist was given to Colin Sullo on the goal.
The Freehold blue-line was thin with injuries, but the Patriots defense certainly stood tall in the opening minutes, as Middletown North was held without a shot until eight minutes into the game.
Senior forward Evan McNamara added to the lead with 1:34 remaining until the first intermission from Tyler DesRochers and Colin Sullo, who picked up his second assist of the period.
The first period belonged to Freehold Township on the scoreboard, but it also belonged to the Patriots in the physical department as well. They dominated along the boards and came up with some open ice hits. Their fast and aggressive play did not allow the Lions to break out of their own zone and forced them to quickly get the puck off their sticks; the perfect formula for creating turnovers and offensive zone chances.
“We always try and get the pucks deep,” Sanborn said. “Always fore-check hard and lay the body; when you lay the body you usually can create turnovers.”
Middletown North used the break to their benefit, coming out firing to open the second period. Ottone stood strong, facing an onslaught of shots after only needing to steer aside five in the opening frame.
A slashing penalty to Middletown’s Jared Kern put Freehold in a position to create some breathing room, but the only penalty kill that the Lions were faced with on the night was successful.
Dan Quiles cut the Middletown North deficit in half with just under three minutes until the ice cut. The goal, assisted by line mates John Miranda and Thomas Stone, came moments after Michael Sullo hit the cross-bar, coming within inches of giving the Patriots a 3-0 lead.
The goal lit a fire under the Lions that rejuvenated both the players and the crowd. The final 2:58 saw Middletown put immense pressure on Ottone and the Freehold defense, but when the dust settled, the Patriots were able to get to the intermission still in front, 2-1.
The Lions came out of the locker room and immediately going right back to work. The Patriots did a fine job of keeping Middletown North’s leading scorer, Chris Repmann off the score-sheet for most of the night, but he, along with Quiles and senior Anthony Tavares, were provided with numerous chances in close on Ottone.
“We always need to have the right mental attitude and come ready to play,” Sanborn said. “It got a little scary there (late second, early third period), but the boys stayed focused and we were able to keep it rolling.”
The Patriots created some breathing room with 11:06 remaining. Senior Anthony Altini flung a pass from the boards in front where Sanborn poked it home to put Freehold on top 3-1.
“We came out and were dominating in the first period, and although we faced adversity there in the second, we didn’t let them get to us,” Ottone said. “We didn’t let the negative thoughts get to our heads at any point.”
Middletown North responded 1:26 later, when Repmann tried a wrap-around, but the puck was poked away to Tavares, who was waiting in front of the net to deposit the Lion’s second goal.
Trailing 3-2, the Middletown North offense continued to apply the pressure, trying desperately to find an equalizer and steal at least a tie in this contest. To no avail, the Lions saw the clock hit triple zeroes, and suffered their first loss of the season.
“We have one of the best defenses in the state,” Ottone said. “It was just a regular day for them; keeping them along the boards, no shots from the slot, and not allowing them to get shots through traffic.”
“We were pretty comfortable the first few games, getting out to comfortable leads, but against this team we couldn’t do that,” Ottone added. “We had to play tight-nit and perfect tonight.”
Middletown North will look to rebound Friday Dec. 7 at 6:30 when they host CBA at Middletown Ice World.
Freehold Township has little time to celebrate the win. They hit the ice Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 8:40 p.m. against cross-town rival Freehold Boro/Raritan/Colts Neck at Middletown Ice World.
Tyler Sanborn goal puts Freehold Township up 3-1 early in the third period pic.twitter.com/JGZB982BrW
Handshake line after Freehold Township and Middletown North pic.twitter.com/y22ku6Cpv2
Getting ready to start here @MIDDSportsComp for @FTHSHockey vs @MiddNorthPuck @JCCSPORTS @ShoreConfHockey @shoreconfythhcy @NJ_Hockey @HockeyAdvantage @CaseyKrish @icebergsport pic.twitter.com/wYVh8Kzx0G
Written by Casey J. Krish / @CaseyKrish
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Freehold Township’s goalie Mike Ottone makes the kick save during the Freehold Township vs. Middletown North Shore Conference Hockey Game at Middletown Sports Complex, Middletown, NJ. (Tom Smith/TSPsportsimages.com)
HockeyClan continues to upgrade its apps to benefit their growing hockey community.
Want to write about hockey? Join the HockeyClan community! While you are here visiting Rate Rinks! You can rate every rink you have ever been to based on the most important criteria. Interested in doing your own Player’s Blog? Send your hockey story to us at firstname.lastname@example.org