FARMINGDALE — One of the aspects of hockey is putting losses behind you. It is human nature to wallow in the taste of defeat, to remember that loss and the feelings associated with it. But there is another element to human nature, and sometimes it comes tasting so sweet. That element is revenge.
Jack Spagnuola scored twice in the second period and sophomore goaltender Ronan Hickey made 10 saves for his first shutout of the year as Rumson Fair-Haven inflicted a little revenge over Manalapan — a team that conquered them earlier in the season — at just the right time, skating to a 6-0 triumph in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament Handchen Cup at at Howell Ice Arena in Farmingdale.
When the Bulldogs, seeded ninth in the 2019 Handchen Cup, came out with an aggressive and physical approach, it was apparent the eighth-seeded Braves were in for a long night.
From the drop of the puck, Rumson-Fair Haven (9-9-1) was intent on ensuring the 5-2 loss it suffered to Manalapan back on January 14 would not happen again.
In their first meeting nearly a month ago, Andrew Rutherford hat trick in the opening 8:07 and Freddie Brutto’s pair of insurance goals in the third period sent Manalapan home with a victory. This time around, however, it was Rumson which celebrated early and often, shutting down Manalapan (9-8-3) from start to finish.
“This was one of our best games of the year,” Spagnuola said. “We were happy to beat this team that we feel like we could have beaten originally.”
“This has been a year where when we come out flat like we did in the first meeting, we lose focus for the game,” RFH head coach Anthony Matarazzo said. “We focused today on going out there and getting hard on the pucks and getting especially hard on bodies.”
In the playoff rendition of this contest, Rumson made sure right out of the gate they would be the team getting off to the quick start. The pressure was being applied straight from the onset, and the Bulldogs finally cracked the scoreboard with 5:34 remaining in the first when Andrew Schmidt found twine on a goal assisted Rowan Goldin.
The lead would remain at one through the remainder of the opening period where RFH would continue to dominate the puck possession and get countless opportunities sent at Manalapan goaltender Pat McCarty.
McCarty played admirable in defeat, stopping Samuel Catalano’s backhanded attempt alone in front of the net, as well as a slapper off the stick of defenseman Blake Lerner, which McCarty got just enough to guide it off the outside of the near post.
“We knew what we were going to see, playing them for a second time this year, their goalie played outstanding the first time so we wanted to get shots early and often,” Matarazzo said. “Good things happen when you get shots on net.”
“Manalapan went up 3-0 very early (in our first meeting),” Hickey said, “and we didn’t want to come out flat against them this time.”
From the start of the second period, Rumson Fair-Haven continued to show a divine sense of puck movement and scoring chances, however, it was early on in the second period where Manalapan got their best chance to climb back into the game.
Heading to the power play just under three minutes into the second frame, Spagnuola made sure Manalapan’s potential momentum-shifting power play was silenced, scoring a shorthanded marker to double the RFH lead. Spagnuola would cash in again minutes later on a Manalapan breakdown in front of their net, collecting the puck near the blue line and sniping home his second tally of the period as the Bulldogs turned the tables with a 3-0 lead of their own.
“We are always looking for quick starts,” Spagnuola said. “We fell down against Manalapan (the first meeting) and our comeback fell just a bit short.”
Evan Marascio ended the scoring in the final minute, scoring his fourth goal of his senior season after a set up from Lerner and Chase Dorworth to give RFH claim to a 4-0 lead through two.
Rumson would continue to grind down the Braves in the final period, including a penalty kill in the opening seconds before adding the icing to the cake with late goals by Catalano and Michael Kuras to cap the 6-0 triumph in their first postseason contest of 2019.
“The defense played great, restored some of our confidence and held it up and played great,” Hickey said following his shutout performance.
Manalapan has been playing solid fundamental hockey through the month of January and into the postseason, however, they see their seven-game undefeated streak (5-0-2) snapped. They will shift their focus to the NJSIAA state tournament beginning in two weeks.
“We knew Rumson-Fair Haven was going to come out of the gates fast, especially since the previous matchup went in our favor,” Manalapan cozach Matt Inzerillo said. “We had a really good idea what they were going to do with their forecheck and had a plan in place. However, they executed perfectly. RFH did a tremendous job winning individual battles which gave them the majority of puck possession.
“After the first goal, on a shot that was headed wide but tipped one of our defenders and went in, I still felt confident we would tie the score,” Inzerillo said. “Even after 2-0 and 3-0 I knew that if our offense could get going, we could make things interesting. In the last 10 games, we have been averaging just under six goals a game. Our goaltender, Pat McCarty, has been rock solid of late and was truly tested. Even though the score doesn’t indicate it, he was great. He gave us a legitimate chance to get back into the game. Unfortunately, that never happened. Hats off to RFH for executing their game plan perfectly. They have a ton of depth and played hard.”
Rumson Fair-Haven will celebrate this victory, albeit for a short time. They have a quick tournament turnaround and will take on top-seeded St. John Vianney on Thursday at Jersey Shore Arena. The Lancers enter the contest with a 16-1-2 mark and are considered the favorite to win the Handchen Cup for the second consecutive season.
RFH is ready to face the challenge of playing not only the heavy-favored Lancers, but also having to play the second end of a back-to-back.
One of the strengths that this RFH team has is depth, apparent by the number of personnel that has contributed to the Bulldogs regular season success to this stage in the year.
“We have used 31 varsity players this season (and) we used all four lines the duration of the season,” Matarazzo said. “Throughout the regular season we might experiment a little with some combinations but come playoff time we are ready to get going and keep it moving forward.”
“Playing again in less than 24 hours is good,” Spagnuola commented. “Everyone is hyped up and we are ready for tomorrow.”
Related: Shore Conference Tournament Preview
“We just need to hydrate and get sleep like we would every other game,” Hickey added.
“We want that game back after losing 5-3 to them (SJV) earlier in the season,” Matarazzo said, referring to a 5-3 setback to SJV on Jan. 7. “We gave up five goals on 17 shots that night. We stress that if we are going to limit their opportunities than we especially have to limit the number of these opportunities that they are successful on.
“We know (SJV goalie) Jeremy Connor very well, we had 30-plus shots game in that one, but only capitalized on three,” Matarazzo said. “They picked up a solid win over Brick Memorial in the opening round and we are hoping we can give them an even bigger challenge in the second round.”
RFH adds two late scores and takes down Manalapan 6-0 in the Handchen Cup, avenging a 5-2 loss from Jan. 14. RFH will be back in action tomorrow in the semis at SJV. @ShoreConfHockey @Hockey_Clan #RFHvsMAN #HandchenCup #NJHockey pic.twitter.com/fvBad2y9il
(8)Manalapan hosting (9)Rumson Fair-Haven in the first round of the Handchen Cup from Howell Ice. Winner gets (1)SJV tomorrow at Jersey Shore. Manalapan took this meeting 5-2 back in January. @ShoreConfHockey @Hockey_Clan #RFHvsMAN #HandchenCup #NJHockey pic.twitter.com/T0PEYZoFYD
Written by Casey J. Krish / @CaseyKrish
Special to HockeyClan
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