Hopewell Valley defeated Ocean Township-Shore Regional, 4-3, in come-from-behind fashion Thursday night at the Jersey Shore Arena in Wall Township.
Ocean Township led 3-1 until a five-minute boarding call with just over a minute remaining in the second period opened the door for Hopewell Valley and allowed the Mercer County team to gain confidence going into the third period. Colin Hayward ultimately tied it while the Spartans were still serving the penalty before Vann Adrian-Hage scored the go-ahead goal, unassisted, with 10:01 remaining in regulation as the Bulldogs pulled out the victory.
The triumph was a sigh of relief for Hopewell Valley coach Jeff Radice, whose team won for the second time in three games to improve to 8-3-4.
“Proud of the way the team responded in the third period,” Radice said. “We never got discouraged or frustrated and kept grinding and it paid off.
“We knew the importance of this game for both teams so we knew it was going to be hard-fought,” Radice said. “It is nice when the hard work pays off at the end of the day.”
The first period belonged to Ocean Township as they out-shot the Bulldogs 12-3 to hold a 2-0 advantage on the board after 15 minutes of play. Gavin Cherella scored his sixth goal of the season, unassisted, just under four minutes after the puck dropped before freshman Kenny Maxwell lit the lamp on the power play after a pass from sophomore Scott Siranni to give Ocean a two-goal lead just 7:07 into the game.
Maxwell has been a scoring threat during his rookie campaign. The forward is second on the team in scoring with 21 points on 14 goals and 7 assists. He had five goals and a six points in his first-career game back on Nov. 30 – a 9-0 win over Edison and has been a force to reckon with ever since.
The second period started off well for Hopewell Valley as Steven Doldy scored just 32 seconds in to cut the deficit in half. Colin Hayward and Chandler Habig picked up assists on the goal that made it 2-1, but Dylan Haar quickly restored the two-goal lead for the Spartans 49 ticks later. The junior now has 16 goals and 25 points on the season – both good enough to lead the Ocean offense in both categories. Siranni picked up his second helper and Brendan Convery also drew an assist on the goal that restored Ocean’s two-goal lead.
Ocean Township held the 3-1 lead until Siranni was whistled to the box for boarding with 1:18 remaining in the period.
Adrian-Hage wasted no time taking advantage of the man-advantage scoring five seconds into the power play on assists Doldy and Joe Vafis to cut it to 3-2.
The Spartans killed off the remaining 1:13 of the period and seemed like they could finish off the carry over into the third frame, but Hayward found the twine from Cal Fleming and Nick Vaggot to knot the score up 3-3 just 2:27 in. Adrian-Hage delivered the game-winner 2:32 later.
Hayward leads the Bulldogs’ attack with 20 points on the year, while Adrian-Hage – with 17 points in his own right – scored his second of the game to lead Hopewell Valley to victory.
Sean Harrington made 13 saves for Ocean Township-Shore Regional. Harry Meredith stopped 15 in between the pipes for Hopewell Valley.
With the win, the Bulldogs of Hopewell Valley qualify for the NJSIAA Tournament for the fifth year in a row. This year they will compete in the brand-new Public C bracket, after spending the previous four seasons in Public B.
Ocean falls to 6-6-2 and still has a bit of work to do in order to qualify for the tournament. They will look to rebound on Jan. 29 when they take on Freehold Township at 5:45 at Jersey Shore Arena.
Hopewell Valley will be right back at the Jersey Shore Arena on Jan. 27 when they skate with Freehold Boro-Raritan at 8:15 p.m.
Written by Casey J. Krish / @CaseyKrish
Special to HockeyClan
Photos by Jessica Rabstein / @JRabstein
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