RED BANK — At no point was Red Bank Catholic trailing in the game. But at no point was its lead safe.
Zach Ruppert put Red Bank Catholic on the board 9:41 into the game but Will Catalano tied it on his shorthanded goal just over a minute into the second period before Robert Goehring’s power-play goal with 2:25 left in the frame gave RBC a lead it would not relinquish again en route to a 2-1 triumph over Rumson-Fair Haven at The Armory in Red Bank.
With three RBC players in the penalty box, Rumson had the man-advantage and even pulled its goalie in favor of an extra attacker in a tense final minute of regulation but it could not solve goaltender Ciaran McNelis, who stood tall with 22 saves.
“They had the pressure on us quite a but but our defense — Sean Carver, Brian Anderson, Kevin Jennings — they all did a great job keeping it to the outside and clearing the net,” McNelis, Red Bank Catholic’s junior goaltender, said. “It feels great. We were on a little bit of a losing skid there but we got back on our feet here with this win and we’re excited about it. We’re a resilient group.”
Twice, Red Bank Catholic converted on the power-play, but it yielded a shorthanded goal in the second period and also gave Rumson-Fair Haven ample opportunities in the third and final frame to tie it.
“Whatever they threw at us we counter-attacked,” senior defenseman Sean Carver said. “RFH is definitely a fast — they got a couple of big guys out there — but we made smart plays, got the puck out of the zone and were able to come away with a win.”
In addition to providing shutdown defense, Carver helped set up Goehring for the game-winner 12:35 into the second period when he connected with his fellow senior classmate on a pass through traffic from the point.
“The puck came out to the point — and this is happening in split seconds — but instead of taking the shot, I saw Robbie out of the corner of my eye and passed it to him and he was lucky enough to get a stick on it and put it in the back of the net,” Carver said. “It feels really good. I know a couple guys on RFH so it’s a good feeling — a really good feeling.”
Goerhing, whose deft deflection accounted for his seventh goal of the season, received player of the game honors by Red Bank Catholic coach Joe Zdeb.
“Me and Carver were talking about it pre-game: If we get the puck up top to the point, look back door,” Goehring said. ”He didn’t even have to think about. He picked his head up, saw me and put right on my tape.”
“It was senior night so this was the day to do it,” Goehring, whose older brother Todd is sixth all-time in scoring at RBC, said. “Everybody played the best they could and Ciaran made the saves when he needed to. Everybody contributed. It was a team effort tonight.”
Red Bank Catholic snaps a six-game losing streak to improve to 4-8-3 this season. It faces another formidable opponent with Seton Hall Prep next up on the docket.
Despite the loss, Rumson-Fair Haven is a respectable 6-8 this season but stands 0-for-6 against its fellow Shore A North Conference opponents.
“A lot of bad hockey. Incredible speed and hitting but a lot of penalties,” Rumson coach Anthony Matarazzo said. “We’ve been saying it all season: We know who we’re not… we’re still trying to figure out who we are.”
Will Catalano’s shorthanded goal, assisted by Trey Croddick and John Horner, gave Rumson life in the second period. It just couldn’t push another one past McNelis.
“We got a lot of momentum back in the second period, controlled the offensive zone but then in the third we started to break off and it got a little hectic,” Catalano said.
“We just broke down. Too many penalties late in the game. We just couldn’t capitalize.”
“I think we need to focus on D-zone coverage,” Catalano added “We’ll be fine in the offensive zone as long as we keep our heads straight and stay out of the box.”
At the end of the night, the game belonged to Red Bank Catholic. And Goehring, whose deflection ultimately won it, deflected all the credit toward his goalie.
“Ciaran held us up,” Goehring said. “I’m surprised he didn’t get the hat today because he deserved it. He made some saves I didn’t think were possible. We somehow pulled it off. He’s the reason we won today.”
John Christian Hageny