MONTCLAIR, NJ — Oscar Worob admitted that there was slight pregame concern that Montclair Kimberley had not played in three weeks.
So, the senior forward hit the ice and helped make sure that there was little rust as he finished with two goals to help the Cougars secure a 3-0 victory over Gov. Livingston in a McInnis Division battle on Wednesday at Clary Anderson Arena in Montclair.
Benji Peiffer also scored, David Chen collected three assists and Sebastian Burns stopped all 20 shots he faced as Montclair Kimberley extended its unbeaten streak to eight games in improving to 7-0-1. The last victory came on Dec. 14 in a 10-4 verdict over Livingston.
It marked the second victory for the Cougars over Gov. Livingston (6-8) this winter. The Essex County squad rallied from a two-goal deficit to down Gov. Livingston, 3-2, on Dec. 10. The two clubs battled to a pair of 4-4 ties last season.
“We tried to shake most of that inaction off as a team,” said Worob, who collected his seventh and eighth goals on the season. “We had some good practices the last few days and got back into it. We wanted a fast start. A game is a lot easier to play when you have a fast start so we wanted to get the lead early and try and wear them down. The chemistry was there.”
Worob delivered the opening goal when he whipped in a cross-slot feed from Chen from the left circle just 3:49 after the opening faceoff to give Montclair Kimberley a 1-0 lead.
Chen initiated the second goal for his club after he intercepted an errant pass high slot in his own zone and broke up ice quickly with Peiffer. The elusive Chen, a sophomore, slid a pass to Peiffer, again in the left slot, for a scoring shot with 4:30 left in the first and a 2-0 lead.
“I guess my play-making has been better than my scoring this year, but I have good linemates,” Chen said. “The first period was huge and we came out and got that first goal, which is always big. Playing from in front is always easier than trying to catch up. We played pretty well.”
So did Gov. Livingston, which despite the setback, controlled much of the play through the final two periods.
The Highlanders came out in the second more engaged, moved the puck more briskly out of their end, controlled the boards, and were more physical.
Burns was called on to deny a choice opportunity by Gov. Livingston defenseman Cole Wahlers early in the second period. The Highlanders went to shorter shifts and fired eight shots on Burns in the second, but Worob connected for his second goal, with Chen assisting, on wrist shot from the top of the right circle with 4:59 left in the second.
The tally gave Montclair Kimberley its three-goal cushion.
“Getting that two-goal lead in the first was huge,” said Montclair Kimberley coach Tim Cook. “We talked before the game about are we going to be rusty or are we going to be loose? We didn’t want to be all over the ice so getting that cushion in the first definitely gave us that positive vibe we needed.
“We got lucky with some posts and with Burns making some big saves in the third period. Gov. Livingston is a strong team. They dominated us in the third and they were better than us in the third. We got lucky a little in the end.”
Facing that three-goal deficit, the Highlanders just shrugged it off and came out in the third and delivered an intense, up-tempo final 15 minutes.
Burns was called on to make 12 saves, which included big stops on shots by Carson Wahlers, Matt Darata and Mat Katz. Those chances didn’t include the posts that Carson Wahlers and his twin brother, Cole, who each hit iron on breakaways less than two minutes apart midway through the third.
“We knew coming into the third that we still had a whole lot of time to play and grind, “Carson Wahlers said. “I think that showed. We needed to pinch more and take more chances because we needed to come back. It should have been a closer game.”
At the other end Gov. Livingston goalie Nick Papa also turned in a stellar performance in making 19 saves, including 12 in the third. Papa provided perhaps the game’s best save when he slid across to make a reaching glove save on a point-blank shot by Cole Privitere, who was stationed near the right post with 4:12 showing.
There is little rest for either club as Montclair Kimberley will turn around and play host to McInnis rival Summit on Thursday, while Gov. Livingston will skate against Westfield on Friday.
“When MKA scored that second goal we told our guys it’s just got to be about getting that first goal for us,” said Gov. Livingston coach Michael Criscitello. “We told them to just rally, keep working hard and work for that first goal. Their third goal in the second didn’t help us. We put ourselves in a whole we couldn’t get out of and their goalie stood on his head in the third. We had opportunities in the second and third. The puck wasn’t bouncing our way tonight.”
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
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