WEST ORANGE — Goals at the beginning or end of a period can serve as a catalyst to jump-start a team or a pitfall very difficult to dig out of.
Jack Williams’ nifty breakaway finish with 13.8 seconds left in the second period snapped the tie and gave Millburn the spark it was looking for but it was his second of the game just 15 seconds into the start of the third which fueled the fire in a 4-1 triumph over Verona-Glen Ridge in a season-opening tilt for both teams at Codey Arena in West Orange.
“I’m just realizing that now — wow!” Williams said with a laugh describing his game-winning goal. “I didn’t realize there was that much time. I just looked where (the goalie) was and made the right move. I got a nice bounce, was just in the right spot at the right time.”
Williams’ first goal of the game gave Millburn, the defending Kelly Cup champions, a 2-1 lead at the end of two periods, but more importantly all the momentum heading into the third and final frame.
Fifteen seconds into the third, Williams struck again.
“I felt like we had the momentum going into the third period coming off a goal right after that,” Williams, a senior, said. “We just tried to do the same thing — get it in their zone and get to work. It’s always great to start the year 1-0.”
Max Sudnow opened the scoring with an assist from Brian Kologlu just 1:39 into the game but Verona-Glen Ridge came right back 1:57 later when Jarrod Keating scored an unassisted goal to tie it at 1-1. After Williams connected again to begin the third period, Millburn kept the pressure on and added an insurance goal from Kologlu with 3:29 left to ice it for the Millers.
Eli Nadell made 19 saves for Millburn (1-0), while his counterpart at the other end of the ice, Brian Kostas, stood tall with 36 saves — many of the spectacular variety — to keep Verona-Glen Ridge (0-1) in it for most of the game.
“The shift at the end of a period and the first shift of a new period are the biggest moments in hockey,” Verona-Glen Ridge coach Ken Lilien said. “Shifts at the end of periods, shifts after goals — we need to be more dialed in. We just made two mistakes and fell asleep for 45 seconds.”
“After the third goal, we started to quit,” Verona sophomore Vincent Eremita said. “We could have come back. It should have been so much closer but we gave up. We just have to keep fighting and don’t give up.”
Williams, along with Spencer Brown, Charles Palmer, Samuel Charlat and Matt Riskin, helped Millburn capture its first cup in school history behind a remarkable 120-goal season in 2017-18. But with Brown and Palmer graduated, much of the scoring load falls on the shoulders of Williams. Secondary scoring from Kologlu, Sudrow and Charlat helped balance the scales Wednesday night.
“It was a relief to see the puck go in the net,” Kologlu, who finished with a goal and an assist, said. “It felt good to get an assist earlier but to put the puck in the net put us over the edge. I’m just trying to get pucks to my teammates. We want to repeat what we did last year. We just have to keep grinding.”
“It’s definitely nice. Maybe I don’t have my best game, but now I can trust other kids to be there to help us out, put some in the net,” Williams said. “Definitely, good — very good. We have the opportunity to have another great year.”
“Their goalie played fantastic but for these boys to not give up was huge for us,” Millburn coach Brandon Doria, who won two Gordon Cups as a player with Seton Hall Prep in 1997 and 1998, said. “We started off quick but settled back. The boys were moving, but they weren’t moving with a purpose until Jack stepped up. To score a goal in the last 20 seconds of the second period then the first 20 seconds of the third with no ice cut was a big momentum shift.
“We’ve got some new guys stepping up,” Doria added. “Brian moving up to forward after playing D last season… Matt Riskin and Ryan Potechin had some chances tonight and the third line of Ethan Ostroff, Andy Fresen and Ben Hayum were all getting chances — that’s what we need — everybody to step up because we did lose a lot of offense.”
To repeat as Kelly Cup champions, it all starts and ends with Eli in between the pipes, the third Nadell goalie to patrol the goal crease for Millburn.
“We’re excited to get back on top,” Nadell said. “It feels good, but we have a tough schedule ahead of us. Beating a skilled team like Verona really gets us going. It was a team effort. We’re excited to play.”
Verona-Glen Ridge will look to regroup when it takes on Oratory Prep on Friday.
“We’re a young group. They got the jump on us in the first period but I liked our response to make it 1-1,” Lilien said. “We were a little on our heels but between periods we made an adjustment and I thought the second period was pretty even. We were in the game. We just fell asleep for 45 seconds. It’s tough to overcome that against the defending champs. I think we’re close.”
Cool move by South Mountain Arena this year as each team will have use of the @NJDevils old locker room 3 times on the season. @VGRHockey coming out for the puck drop like the pros. pic.twitter.com/7gl3YFLq9u
— Verona Athletics (@VeronaAthletics) November 28, 2018
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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