RANDOLPH — The contest between Randolph and Summit certainly lived up to its pre-game billing.
Scott Kimiecik was stellar in halting 27 shots while Max Gaudioso delivered the game-winning goal in the second period as Randolph, No. 3 in the Hockey Night In Boston New Jersey Top 10, edged fourth-ranked Summit, 2-1, at Aspen Ice.
Randolph extended its unbeaten streak to 13 games (10-0-3) while Summit (11-1) suffered its first loss this season.
The triumph also lengthened Randolph’s winning streak over its Union County foe to eight games dating back to the 2004 season. During the 8-0 run Randolph has outscored Summit 29-5.
The margin between the two perennial public powers was so close. With each team entering the contest with an unbeaten slate, the two top public school powers squared off and delivered a fast-paced, 45-minutes of hockey that offered bruising checks, playoff-like intensity and outstanding goaltending at both ends of the ice.
And during the final minutes of a hectic third period it was Kimiecik who stood tall in the Randolph crease.
“I was able to track the puck well,” said the senior, who turned aside 11 shots in the third period, including three critical point-blank saves over the final six minutes, two off the stick of Summit’s Will Vitton.
“I felt good early on and this was one of the fastest games we’ve seen all year,” Kimiecik said. “Our defense kept the pucks to the perimeter and we had good back pressure all game. I think we’re always a team that’s known to have a shutdown D. Summit came at us hard in the third period, so in the end all I could focus on was to keep the puck out of the net. This win is huge for us.”
Indeed, Kimiecik, another in the long line of talented proteges of Randolph veteran goaltending coach Mike Valvano, made a pad save on Vitton’s shot from in close after Summit had pulled goalie Wilson Lees, who was also outstanding in making 26 saves. Perhaps his best save came two minutes earlier when he denied Tom Pryymak after a rare turnover left the Summit winger alone in the slot.
“Scott is one of the best goalies in the state that nobody knows,” said Randolph coach Rich McLaughlin. “He was able to make every save in that third period when we needed it.
“I thought we played 43 minutes of very good hockey, but Summit is a great team,” McLaughlin said. “We knew they would battle. They didn’t come into the game 11-0 by luck. They have a lot of firepower. This was our best game of the year.”
Gaudioso showed again that it pays to just go to the net when he delivered the eventual game-winner with 5:36 left in the second period, breaking free from a check just enough to jab in a shot from the slot that gave Randolph a 2-0 lead. James Mattson and Justin Harper had the assists on Gaudioso’s goal.
“It was just off a dump-in,” said the senior forward, whose goal was his second tally this winter. “I kind of slipped past their defenseman for a second and slipped the puck in. I didn’t get a good shot, it just went off my stick. It was a dribbler, but we’ll take it.
“This was a Randolph-style game. Skate hard and focus on defense,” Gaudioso said. “Coach McLaughlin told us we had to be at our best to beat Summit. They’re a good team, but Scott Kimiecik stood on his head for us.”
Summit, which was out-shot 11-4 in the first period, ramped up its game after the two-goal deficit and sliced that to
2-1 with 3:33 showing on the second period clock. Greg Moller finished off a swift rush with a wrister from the left circle as Luc Radice and Johnny Puskar each picked up an assist on the goal. It was the junior defenseman’s first goal this season.
The Hilltoppers went to shorter shifts later in the second and third period and out-shot Randolph, 24-16, over the final 30 minutes, but it was unable to deliver that second goal.
“The last 12 or 13 minutes of the third I thought we would get one,” said Summit coach Keith Nixon. “We put pucks on net, got some good rebounds, but it didn’t happen. We were confident going into the third down 2-1. Even when we were down 2-0 we weren’t rattled, but I think in the first period the adrenaline is going and we ran around a little bit.
“It was a fast pace the entire game,” Nixon added. “Arguably the two best public school teams in the state and both
goalies were outstanding. Randolph is very good at what they do. We did a good job, and now we have to get ready for our next game.”
The first period was brisk from the opening draw. Both team’s defensemen were physical and aggressively forcing the play, stepping up at their own blue lines on nearly every rush. Randolph’s transition speed was on display as well and they took the lead 3:11 into the contest when Nick Civetta buried a rebound off a wild scramble just three seconds after his team’s first power play had expired for a 1-0 advantage. J.T. Zangara and Will Zimmer were awarded the assists.
“It was a tough loss, but we’re not devastated,” Nixon said. “It was a hard-fought game, and somebody had to win.”
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
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