WEST ORANGE — After a down season, Verona-Glen Ridge was bumped to the Kelly Division this winter but the 2016 McInnis Cup champs are always up for a game against Essex County rival Livingston.
In a heated rivalry renewed, both teams added more fuel to the fire with a combined 60 minutes in penalties — 15 minors and three misconducts — but the constant miss-matches did little opening up the ice for either team as Livingston and Verona-Glen Ridge skated to a gritty, 1-1, tie at South Mountain, Codey Arena in West Orange.
Jake Kuhn broke the ice just 1:02 into the action to give Verona-Glen Ridge a 1-0 lead but Livingston stormed back in the second and tied it at one when Greg Rocheville scored with 7:11 on the clock. It would be the one and only time each goaltender let one slip by as Verona’s Colin Gilmore and Livingston’s Matt Delseni each proved up to task turning aside 23 shots apiece in the game.
“It’s a big rivalry — and heated,” Verona senior defenseman Anton Martino said. “It was a battle. We were going at it back and forth, up and down the ice but at the end it was a tie. It was a real good game. We just needed to get more men to the front of the net and battle harder for rebounds. They were there. They kept popping out. We just need to battle harder.”
“It wasn’t the first time and probably won’t be the last time it happens this season either,” Livingston senior Greg Rocheville said. “I think it was pretty ridiculous. A lot of the calls were pretty questionable. We just need to learn how to play around it and not let these refs get in the way of us winning games.”
Verona was hit with six minors, while Livingston, which had as many as three players in the penalty box at one time, was hit with nine minors and three 10-minute misconducts in the penalty-riddled affair.
“I’m thrilled with my team’s effort tonight but we’re not satisfied. We didn’t come here to tie Livingston, we came here to win,” Verona coach Ken Lilien said.
“I don’t think Livingston took us seriously but in our locker room before the game, we knew we could play with them,” Lilien, in his fifth season, said. “It was kind of a choppy game with all the penalties so there was no real flow, but my guys responded, taking hits to make plays, blocking shots in the third period, I’m really proud of this group.”
Livingston coach Dave Conklin was equally as infuriated with the product on the ice and kept his locker room door closed long after the final buzzer sounded.
“It’s disappointing. We certainly don’t want to tie games but it’s really hard to get any momentum going when you have 12 penalties in the game,” Conklin, in his 11th season behind the bench, said. “We have to learn from it and work harder so we don’t put ourselves in the same situation.”
Kuhn wasted no time in seizing the opportunity for Verona, burying his own rebound just over a minute into the game.
“Chandler (Otterbein) sent me a nice pass coming down the wing and just went hard to the net,” Kuhn said. “I hit it once and hit it again and put it in.
“Since my freshman year, it’s definitely been a battle. There’s no friendliness on the ice and it’s been a hard-hitting, physical game every time,” the junior said. “We just have to keep our cool. We have to stay out of the box. But I love it. I love playing them. I love the physicalness of it that you have to get up for every time.”
After yielding a goal to Kuhn, Livingston goalie Matt Delseni settled in just fine.
“After that early goal, I told myself mentally I can’t let up anymore,” Delseni said. “We dig ourselves a hole and get behind when that happens.
“Some of the penalties were ridiculous,” the senior goalie said. “It’s hard not to get frustrated out there and lose your temper, you just have to stay mentally tough.”
Rocheville’s first goal of the season, assisted by Chase Friedfertig with 7:11 remaining in the second period, tied the game at one.
“Chase came out of the corner and I was wide open in the slot and I got a nice shot off right on the ice,” Rocheville said. “With the screen in front it went right through.”
All tied at 1-1 after two, Livingston never stopped attacking. Friedfertig got loose on a partial breakaway 4:28 into the third but fired high and wide. Dylan Foley, camped out behind the net, fed Friedfertig again in the slot four minutes later but Gilmore was there to keep the door closed.
“Our teams definitely got at it a lot more than previous games,” Gilmore said. “My D did a great job of keeping the shots to the outside. We knew Chase (Friedfertig) was going to be an issue but they did a great job pushing him out and letting me see the shots from the outside.”
With the tie, Verona-Glen Ridge stands 2-1-3. Livingston is 1-1-2.
“We have a rivalry against everyone we play,” Conklin added. “I don’t care what the score says as long as we get into the locker room and can look at each other and say we gave the effort. Unfortunately, the first four games of the season I can’t say that.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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