BRICK — Usually, one of the keys to being a successful hockey team is to have an ample amount of bodies in the lineup. After all, the physical toll that the game has on a player can sometimes lead to injuries at which the numbers game can prove vital to any club.
Point Pleasant Boro does not have the luxury of a full roster, but they are a prime example of what can happen when you have a group of skilled players who can all fulfill their role perfectly. The Panthers have just 13 players listed on their roster, 11 of whom were active against Rumson-Fair Haven Friday night.
But Point Pleasant Boro got what it needed from what it had as Aidan Zielaznicki turned in a hat trick and Ryan McCabe added a pair of goals to down a talented Rumson Fair-Haven squad 6-2 Friday night at the Ocean Ice Palace in Brick.
“We are an older team,” Point Pleasant Boro head coach Steve Plancey said following the win. “Of the 13 in the locker room, seven are seniors and their experience does show, whether it’s defenseman Tyler Griffen, goalie John Meyer or our captain Will Herrington — they all keep their composure and poise.
“Play in between the whistles,” Plancey said, “nothing after.”
Rumson Fair-Haven entered the contest off of back-to-back victories over Middletown South and Red Bank Regional, and a win tonight would have matched their 2017-2018 win total of five before entering the holiday break. Rumson Fair-Haven seemed to be the team that showed up to play fresh out of the gate, too, dominating puck possession and getting a few decent looks at the net.
But Point Pleasant Boro goaltender John Meyer brought his competitive nature straight out of the locker room, stopping the few shots that were sent his way while his squad seemed to find their legs — and find their legs they did.
The Panthers survived the onslaught and broke the ice when Brett Nelson and Jason Andreyev set up Matt Buccino with 3:37 into the opening frame. The goal from Buccino was his first of the season.
“Every game it is somebody different stepping up for us,” Plancey explained. “Tonight it was someone like Buccino, who might not be a regular on the scoresheet, but he is a very smart player who will do anything you ask of him on the ice.”
“Our goal is to come out hot. Since we don’t have the numbers, we want to get by them early and continue to grind them down the rest of the game,” Zielaznicki said.
The lead was doubled just 1:11 later when Zielaznicki intercepted a break out in the offensive zone and skated up and fired a shot past the Rumson goalie to give Point Pleasant Boro the 2-0 lead just under five minutes in.
The lead ballooned to three near the end of the first period, when a puck thrown on net from Eddie Coyne deflected off Zielaznicki’s stick and into the goal for his second goal just six minutes after his first.
“We know that we need to go out there and start out our games fast and hard,” McCabe stated.
“We were moving the puck very well,” Zielaznicki stated. “Everyone was flowing and we got some bounces that helped us put the puck in the net when we needed to.”
The beginning of the second period proved to show just how fast momentum can change in hockey.
Sam Catalano connected for his sixth of the season, but the goal was quickly erased when McCabe regained the three-goal lead less than a minute later. Max Nicholson deposited the final Rumson goal of the night, cleaning up a loose puck in front of the net and trimmed the deficit to two once again. Ryan Croddick, Jack Whitelaw, Braiden Spagnuola and Christian Danielczyk were all credited with assists
on the Bulldogs’ goals.
Rumson continued to battle and made their best push in the latter stages of the second period, but Meyer and the defense was there to preserve the 4-2 lead heading into the locker rooms after the second period.
McCabe quickly made good use of the fresh ice and thwarted any momentum Rumson had on his second goal of the night just six ticks into the final period.
“Coach always states the importance of the first few minutes and shifts of a period dictate the way a game goes,” McCabe said about his early tally. “That goal off the post was big for us and got the game moving along.
“We come out and practice our breakouts and plays every week,” McCabe added. “Tonight we were really able to put that into effect.”
“It was a huge momentum changer,” Plancey said of McCabe’s quick strike. “It was a two-goal game for most of the way, and overall it was a well-paced game. We handled our mental toughness quite well, and once we got that goal we continued to play our type of game.”
Zielaznicki put the final entry on the scoresheet, finding the back of the net with 75 seconds to play. The goal gave Zielaznicki his second hat trick of his high school career, with the first coming January 19, 2017 against Brick Township.
Meyer finished with 22 saves on the night and now holds a .964 save percentage on the year, turning aside 108 of the 112 shots he’s seen this season.
The win puts the Panthers at 5-1-0 on the season as they get set to take the ice next week in the Protec Holiday Tournament. The Panthers have ridden excellent goaltending from Meyer and the defense to this point allowing just 10 pucks to enter their net this season good enough for a 1.67 team goals-against average so far this season.
“Eddie Coyne and Tyler Griifen are great on the back end — they never come off the ice,” Plancey added. “Not only are we down numbers-wise, but we have lost a lot of man games with injuries.”
But the Panthers just keep on rolling.
Written by Casey J. Krish / @CaseyKrish
Special to HockeyClan
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