MONMOUTH JUNCTION — It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish and Johnson finished in resounding fashion.
Down one in the first period, the Clark school exploded for nine goals in the second period en route to a 12-6 victory over Edison at ProSkate Ice Rink in Monmouth Junction.
The line of Tyler Mekovetz, Nick Galati and Mike DeGregorio combined for 11 goals — six for Metkovetz and five for Galati — as Johnson found its scoring touch.
Pawel Stalenyj and James Tutalo scored to give Edison/J.P. Stevens/Metuchen a 2-1 lead but the deficit only lit a fire under Johnson as the Mekovetz-Galati-DeGregorio line went to work tying the game back up at two apiece before Matt Alongi hit to give the Union County team a lead it would not relinquish.
“We always know where each other are on the ice,” Galati, who added four assists for nine points, said. “We started playing together last year and it’s been working really well. We’re always picking each other up.”
“Since last year, we’ve been playing together and have developed good chemistry,” Mekovetz, who finished with six goals and nine points, said. “And now we are starting to succeed.”
Johnson carried a slim, 3-2, lead into the first intermission but coach Bryan Klimchak was looking for more — and got it in the second frame.
“We haven’t had many practices so the team has had to bond really quick,” Klimchak said. “But the chemistry is definitely there, Tyler is great at using his open space and Nick has really good hands so it’s been evident they find each other on the ice real well.”
Galati scored four straight goals in a span of 3:08 — a power-play goal assisted by Mekovetz and Alongi, followed by three even-strength goals via the give-and-go as the Johnson line put its speed and transition game on full display in the second frame.
“That’s when we knew we needed to pick it up,” Galati, a junior, said. “Fortunately, we got a bunch of goals in the second period and took the team with us.”
“We started off a little slow in the first period,” Mekovetz, a senior, said. “But we knew we could take ’em. In the second period we brought our level up. A game like this really brings up our confidence level. Scoring those goals brought my confidence up and I think the team’s too.
The Edison/J.P. Stevens/Metuchen tri-op, which established in 2016-17, got goals from Vincent Ciampi and Jakob Cherry as part of a wild, 11-goal second period that was marred by a myriad of penalties on both sides. But the tri-op never stopped battling down 12-4 at the end of two periods of play to score two more times in the third in a valiant final effort.
“I thought it was a pretty fair game but toward the second period we let off a little bit,” Ciampi, who scored twice for Edison, said. “But we didn’t quit and brought it back in the third.”
“The chemistry between 88 (Mekovetz) and 11 (Galati) was deadly and my defensive partner and I couldn’t really stop it,” said Edison team captain Christian Osma, who scored with 5:07 remaining in regulation. “But I think we played hard. For the three years I’ve been here, this is the most-skilled team we’ve had. We just keep working hard in practice and getting better and better.”
Ciampi, a freshman, says he enjoys the team dynamic.
“It’s pretty fun — you get to meet and play with kids from all three schools,” Ciampi said. “Trying out and playing together has been great. I kind of like it. As a freshman on varsity, it’s been really cool and we’ve got a lot better this season.”
With long-time Edison coach Russ Berner out with shoulder surgery, Vinnie Mondano has taken the reigns at Edison.
“We have a coach at each school now so it definitely helps,” Mondano said. “Having three schools, getting everybody together it’s been tough keeping tabs on everyone but the team is working hard together and we’re slowly coming along.”
Edison falls to 0-4-1, while Johnson picks up some much-needed confidence and improves to 2-4-1.
Mike Wichur finished with 20 saves to post the victory in between the pipes for Johnson.
“Honestly, we’re just happy we played three full period of hockey right now,” Klimchak said. “We’re going to try and carry that over on Monday when we play West Essex.”
Galati is confident this is the spark the team needed.
“This is going to turn us around,” Galati said. “A new start for us this season and we’re going to keep winning.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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