FARMINGDALE — In the highest scoring game of the 2017-18 NJSIAA high school hockey season in New Jersey, Jackson Liberty’s top line of Nick LaBianca, Zach D’Andrea and Joey Granza combined for 10 goals and 23 points as the Lions defeated the Brick Township Dragons by a score of 13-6 on Sunday at Howell Ice Arena in Farmingdale.
The 19 combined goals are the most in the state this season, three more than the Don Bosco Prep-St. Augustine, 11-5, game and four more than the High Point-Gill St. Bernard’s, 12-3, tilt from earlier this season.
Each team seemed eager to start lighting the lamp in their first game of the season as the opening period saw eight goals, including five in a span of 4:14, which saw Jackson Liberty hold a 5-3 edge at the end of one period of play.
Brick would connect early in the second period on the power play, but the 5-4 deficit was as close as the Dragons would get for the remainder of the contest. Led by LaBianca’s six goals and two assists, as well as Granza’s three goals and five assists, Liberty would score four straight goals to put the game away. Liberty also got a goal from Zach D’Andrea, Joey Crouchman and Matt Wojcik. D’Andrea would also add four helpers to bring his points total to five.
Brendan Sheerin steered away 18 shots to record his first victory of the year for Jackson Liberty, which improves to 1-0.
Noah Reiss recorded a hat trick in a losing cause for Brick, which begins a new era under first-year coach James Murphy. Zach Rozell connected twice and Justin Iannarone also scored on a man-advantage for Brick, which received 20 saves from goaltender Billy Kleissler.
After 54 years, 729 wins and six state championships, long-time coach Bob Auriemma announced his retirement in a career that began in 1962 this summer.
Both sides had been waiting over a week to kick-off the season and Jackson Liberty made sure they got off to a
fast start. D’Andrea connected just under three minutes into the game and Granza followed up seconds later to stake an early 2-0 Lions lead.
Zach Rozell would begin what would become a flurry of goals after he sliced the deficit in half for the Dragons, but that would only last for 10 seconds after LaBianca found the twine again. Rozell once again beat the Liberty goalie to make it a 3-2 game before Joey Crouchman would score the final goal of the sequence. When it was all over, Jackson Liberty held a 4-2 lead with 8:05 remaining in the first period.
Noah Reiss would score his first goal of the night when the puck found his stick where he was waiting below the left circle. Granza put an end to the high-scoring period when his shot deflected in as the buzzer sounded. It was deemed a good goal.
Brick Township seemed to find momentum to start the second period after Iannarone scored to cut the Lions lead to one. Jackson Liberty would score the next four, including three by LaBianca to push the lead to 9-4. Reiss struck with his second of the game right before the period concluded to make it 9-5 at the second intermission.
Jackson Liberty would score four unanswered goals to start the third period, which included Wojcik collecting his first tally of the season. Reiss concluded the scoring with 14 seconds left to notch a hat trick.
The 13 goals was something Jackson Liberty head coach Kyle Weise knew his team was capable of, but he still saw areas his Lions team needs to improve.
“Six goals (by Brick Township) is the issue — we need to tighten that up,” Weise said. “You want to get started on the right foot. A win is a win no matter how they come. Waiting a week seemed like a long time — and it showed as we were a little bit loose — but we have more games coming up this week.”
The game marked the first time in over five decades someone other than Hall of Fame Head Coach Bob Auriemma was the man behind the bench for the Dragons. Murphy says he feels comfortable taking over the role that Auriemma held for over half a century. He gained some experience last season as the head man while Auriemma was out with illness.
“He did a lot to help me out last year,” Murphy said of his predecessor. Murphy also gave a lot of credit to his assistant coaches while getting used to the new position.
Jackson Liberty (1-0) will now head to Warinanco Sports Center in Roselle to take on Westfield on December 6 at
8:45. Brick Township (0-1) will have yet another week off before their next contest on December 10 at 4:30 against
St. Rose/Donovan Catholic at Howell Ice Arena.
Written by Casey J. Krish / @CaseyKrish
Special to HockeyClan
Photos by Jessica Rabstein / @JRabstein
Main Image: Jackson Liberty and Brick Township on the face-off at Howell Ice Arena in Farmingdale on December 3, 2017. (Jessica Rabstein/HockeyClan)
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