BRIDGEWATER — For the seniors, for the boys, for the division title.
Ridge senior forwards Connor Villa and Liam Tormey erased a one-goal deficit with a pair of goals 55 seconds apart in the second period before Ty Eberling’s goal, assisted by Alex Konovalov and Luke Rich 1:25 into the third period, proved decisive as the defending state champions skated to a 4-2, come-from-behind victory over Pingry at Bridgewater Sports Arena.
In a battle with first place in the Skyland Division on the line, it was Pingry which struck first when Jared Kordonsky finished the play started by George Enman and Sanford Ren as the Martinsville school staked claim to a 1-0 lead 1:06 into the second period.
“After Pingry’s goal went in, we knew we couldn’t let that get in our head,” Tormey said. “We knew we needed to bear down and get back to the way we know how to play.”
Down 1-0, Matt Fabiunke set up Villa in front to tie the game at one with 2:20 left in the second period before Villa returned the favor setting up Tormey less than a minute later to give Ridge a 2-1 lead.
“We got in the offensive zone, worked the puck around, played together, got pucks to the net, bodies to the net and put it in, which is great,” Tormey said. “We have bigger goals in mind but its always nice to get first in the Skyland Conference.”
Concentrating on matching lines, Ridge coach Tim Mullin didn’t even know who scored.
“When we went down 1-0, I was like, “We might be losing this game,” feared Mullin, who guided the Red Devils to the 2017 NJSIAA Public A title last season. “Two goals in a minute? That was it — that was the game right there. It happened so fast, I was surprised as anyone. I was so busy keeping track of the line changes, I don’t even know who scored.
“Pingry is a good team, Scott (Garrow) is a good coach,” Mullin said. “I didn’t want to put our third line out there against #7 or #17. I was just concentrating on who they had out there. They were taking some long shifts but I didn’t want to get stuck. Our third line and their third line matched up pretty well.”
With the momentum on their side, Ridge carried a 2-1 lead into the second intermission. Determined to finish the game on their terms, the Red Devils extended their lead to two just 1:25 into the third when Ebeling beat Pingry goaltender Peter Papadopoulos five-hole to make it 3-1.
Pingry never stopped battling, however, and cut the deficit back to one when Eric Bush fed Matt Keller in front with 4:31 remaining in regulation to make it 3-2.
Looking for the equalizer, Pingry coach Scott Garrow called timeout with 1:35 left and the face-off deep in the Ridge zone. The ploy did not have the effect he was hoping for, however, as Konovalov added an insurance goal 31 seconds later to cap the scoring.
“We let down our guard a little bit. We can’t take any shifts off. We have to figure out how to put together three good periods against this team,” Pingry captain George Enman said. “Not that we didn’t already know, but it’s good to know that we can be in games like this. Now we just have to put the little pieces together, minimize the mistakes and come out with a win next time.”
Garrow was pleased with the way his team never quit.
“I thought we had a really good first period,” Garrow said. “We only let up four shot against. But they came out in the second period and took the game over. I thought we had our chances and played really hard. It was a relatively even game. We each had our runs and it could have gone either way.”
Pingry falls to 12-3-1 with two of its three losses coming at the hands of Ridge, which also edged them 4-1 on Jan. 19
“We take a lot of confidence from a game like this,” Garrow said. “We’re playing two freshmen on our top line, two freshmen on defense and have a sophomore goalie. We have a lot of young guys. We just need experience in big games like this. We talked about this game being for first place and treated it like a championship game. I thought we responded pretty well in a big spot. I don’t think it’s a regroup. I don’t think we were anybody’s favorites coming into the year but we’re growing as a team and trying to figure out how to win against really good teams.”
Ridge, which defeated Watchung Hills for its second NJSIAA title and first since 2008 last winter, improves 12-3-5 and sets its sights on a repeat performance.
“You never know. There are some of pretty good teams out there,” Tormey said. “No matter what happens, we’re just going to continue playing our game, put this behind us and keep looking forward to the state tournament. There are a lot of good teams in Public B.”
“Won the division. Now we see what happens,” Mullin added. “We have Seton Hall Prep Friday, Glen Rock Saturday and Summit on Tuesday — Wow!”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Pingry’s Austin Parsons gets by Ridge defenseman Matt Fabiunke as goalie Chris Ambrozy is in position to make the save. (Tom Smith/TSPImages)
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