WEST ORANGE — The Livingston-Montclair Kimberley rivalry is a storied one. With five McInnis Cups amongst them, the two Essex County powers are contenders for the title every season. The rivalry is bitter and there certainly is no love lost between the two schools.
Deadlocked after one period of play, Livingston broke through with four goals in the second period — three in a span of 3:22 — to build a four-goal lead after two before fending off a vigorous comeback attempt from MKA in the third en route to a 6-4 triumph in the semifinals of the McInnis Cup at Codey Arena in West Orange.
Max Solomon snapped a 1-1 tie 8:45 into the second period and Chase Friedfertig, Eric Frieman and Ronan Tattersall each found the back of the net over the final four minutes of the frame as Livingston established a 5-1 lead after two.
Montclair Kimberley never stopped battling and closed its deficit to two in the third on a pair of goals from Matt Buckley and a goal from Zach Schaller, but Livingston went into lockdown defensively to close it out thanks to the play of goaltender Matt Delseni in between the pipes and a solid defensive corps in front of him.
“I think our team can play with any team in the state when we have the momentum and we showed it out there today,” junior Chase Friedfertig, who led the way with a goal and three assists, said. “I think our top two lines can really compete with anyone.
“When we put the pressure on, there isn’t a team that can beat us,” Friedfertig said. “I thought we played real strong. We’re real good at getting shots to the net and applying pressure. We just can’t let teams get under our skin.”
Livingston coach Dave Conklin liked the way his team kept its head in a wild, penalty-filled third period. Conklin was also pleased to get goals from five different players, including two from Tattersall and another from Steve Orciuoli to get the scoring started in the first.
“They were doing a good job defensively, blocking shots, keeping us to the outside, but we were able to use our speed and strong together a few quality shots,” Conklin, in his 11th season at Livingston, said. “Their two defensemen were on the ice quite a bit and I think they got a little worn down toward the end of the second.”
Despite being down four after two, Montclair Kimberley never relented and came back with a vengeance in the third. Buckley and Schaller scored 1:11 apart to make it a 5-3 game with 3:42 remaining in regulation.
“We have heart. No matter what the score is, we’re going to keep on playing. I’m proud of my guys,” MKA senior Gus Wallach said. “I think we were doing some good things. They got a couple bounces, we made a couple mistakes and that’s how it happens.
“It’s been a struggle but I’m really happy to have spent my senior year with these guys,” Wallach said.
Montclair Kimberley is 7-8-4 under first-year coach Tim Cook.
“We made some mistakes and they took advantage of it but I thought we outworked them the entire game,” Cook said. “We were physical, had a couple breakaways to tie it up but we didn’t bury it. They did and deserve to win.”
Livingston, the top-seed in the tournament, improves to 16-4-3 and awaits the winner of 2-Summit/6-Verona-Glen Ridge in the final of the McInnis Cup set for February 18 at Codey Arena. It is in search of its second cup and first since 2013.
“A lot of intensity on both sides,” Frieman, who picked up a goal and an assist in the win for Livingston, said. “They came out aggressive, but we came out focused, ready to go and came out on top. We talked in the locker room, said we were the better team, outworked them and showed them we were the better team.
“It feels amazing, scoring a goal, hearing the crowd go wild. It feels great,” Frieman said. We’re looking toward the finals and going all the way.”
Conklin says Livingston has the talent, it just needs to keep its composure in the face of adversity.
“We have to play our game. Toward the end of the third period there was a lot of nonsense,” Conklin said. “We don’t need to get involved in that. We have to stay away from that and play a complete game. Our focus is to do our job and continue to play our style of hockey.”
John Christian Hageny
Lead Writer — Hockey Clan
Buffalo Sabres Team Writer — The Hockey Writers