NEWARK — It is a victory for Newark East Side every time they step on the ice — regardless of the outcome.
Down one in the late stages of the third period, coach Keith Veltre called timeout in an effort to settle his team down. Newark East Side had erased a deficit against Parsippany before, but let its second-period lead slip away.
“During the timeout, we just reminded our kids to keep it simple,” Veltre, in his 16th season, said. “Get shots to the net and look for a rebound.”
As the seconds ticked away, the ploy worked to perfection as Luis Martinez broke in off the set play and fired one home, top-corner with 2:00 remaining in regulation for his second goal of the game en route to a 3-3 tie with Parsippany at The RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark.
“Our coach was very descriptive with what we had to do during the timeout,” Martinez, the team leader in goals with three, said. “Honestly, we just followed his instructions. When we listen to coach it always works out.”
Martinez’ goal in the waning moments of the third period capped off a riveting back and forth affair that saw three lead changes and chances for both teams to run away with it if not for the play of both goaltenders in between the pipes.
Matthew Villacis stood tall with 23 saves for Newark East Side, which got goals from Martinez, Peter Garcia and Kevin Fernandez while Justin Wellman turned aside 15 shots for Parsippany, which got goals from Nick Sibilia and Frank Baccaro before David Zislinkis capitalized on a similar play after a timeout to take a brief 3-2 advantage.
Sibilia struck first for Parsippany, breaking the ice 11:17 into the game, banging home a rebound off the initial shot from John Gasparro. The Morris County team took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but Fernandez’s power-play goal 1:14 into the second period tied it. Newark East Side took its first lead of the game just over 10 minutes later when Garcia finished the play started by Francisco Henriques and Ty’ree Reeves, taking a 2-1 advantage into the second intermission.
“We came out to a slow start in the first period, but after the five-minute break in between periods we started to play like a unit,” Fernandez said. “The goal wasn’t anything pretty, just a deflection, nothing too jazzy, but it was very important, especially for the morale of this team. We were down and that goal got us back in it and we kept pushing ourselves.”
Parsippany went back to work in the third period when senior defenseman Frank Baccaro saw an opening and stepped up into the play before unleashing a twisted wrister from the slot to make it a 2-2 game 4:13 into the final frame.
“I was just trying to get something going, a little rush to get anything going — it was a lucky play,” Baccaro, the team captain, said. “I chipped the puck past one of their forwards, got in behind them and took the shot. We only have 14 kids on the team, 13 skaters, so we get tired easily, but I didn’t let that stop us. This team has a lot of heart.”
Both teams exchanged power play opportunities later in the third before another one was presented to Parsippany with just under five minutes remaining. Just as Veltre took pause to settle his troops in the final moments, Parsippany coach Anthony Egidio also seized the initiative and called timeout to draw up a set play.
With the draw deep in the Newark East Side zone, the faceoff was executed to perfection as Jake Weiss and Patrick Lanigan controlled the play before finding a streaking Zislinkis left all alone in the slot putting Parsippany back in front for the second time in the game, 3-2, with 4:27 left.
“The whole plan was for me to sneak in,” Zislinkis said. “We set up the umbrella, they worked it over, Lanigan saw me back door and I put it in. When the pass came, they weren’t looking down low. (Newark East Side) came in swinging, but it was a great power play 100 percent.”
“That was our best power play we’ve had all season,” Egidio said. “We only have 13 guys so the biggest thing was to get those guys a little bit of rest. With the system we have in place and how we want to move the puck and who we want to get open in the slot, I just drew it up so they could see it again… just like in practice, we were able to do it again.”
After Zislikis put his Parsippany-Parsippany Hills co-op (1-2-1) back in front, Martinez picked his time to shine.
“I don’t really like to rely on individual skill a lot but I found myself alone,” Martinez described his game-tying goal with 2:00 on the clock. “When I took possession of the puck, there was a defender in the corner and another was trying to press me from the left side. I went between them, saw the top left corner was completely open, took the shot and went for it.”
“It was a hard-fought game,” Egidio added. “Newark East Side is obviously a well-coached team with much stronger players. A couple of mental mistakes led to their goal at the end, but mistakes we’re going to clean up as we get better and better every day.”
Newark East Side is 0-1-2 but every game played is a win for the revitalized inner-city program that began in 1973.
“It was amazing,” Martinez said. “The rink, the benches were full with great support… I’m so happy just to be a part of this team.”
“I think we could have come home with the ‘W,’ Fernandez said.” We just have to keep working hard. If we do, sooner or later we’ll get there and start winning some games.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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