BRICK, NJ — Still perfect.
Manasquan-Point Pleasant Beach received a pair of goals from Matt Franzoni and a stout defensive effort on the back line to remain undefeated, doubling up Point Pleasant Boro-Manchester, 4-2, Friday night at The Ocean Ice Palace in Brick.
Franzoni gave Manasquan, the 2018 Dowd Cup Champions, the lead twice throughout the evening, the second of which put the Warriors ahead for good with 5:36 remaining in the third.
“They are a very good team, and they surprise a lot of people by playing very well,” Franzoni, the New Jersey Devils’ Shore Conference Player of the Month for December, said. “We had to find a way to get the win.”
“It was a very close at first, but we just kept battling throughout,” Franzoni said. “We applied a lot of pressure in the second period and put a nice one in and got the win.”
Point Pleasant Boro came into the contest with only 11 players on the active roster and were visually outnumbered in terms of manpower. Despite the disadvantage in terms of the number of bodies on the bench, the grit and determination to knock off New Jersey’s lone remaining perfect team from their perch was there.
“It’s tough playing 15-minute periods at the high school level, and that team deserves a whole lot of credit,” Manasquan head coach Adam Houli said about the effort Point Boro brought to the rink. “They work really hard. We talked about not taking them lightly.”
The first chance of the game came off the stick of Franzoni, but Point Boro goaltender John Meyer made a spectacular save sticking out his glove on a back-hand shot to keep Manasquan off the board. Following the momentum grabbing save, the Panthers cracked the scoreboard first, staking claim to the early 1-0 lead with 9:23 remaining in the first period when Will Herrington sniped a shot into an opening to put an early spark into the home crowd. Ryan McCabe was credited with an assist on the opening goal.
Ryan Scott made sure that the air was taken out of the rink as soon as possible.
Liam Farrington skated the puck down the left boards and sauced a back-handed pass in front of the net that Scott was able to tip past Meyer and tie the score at 1-1 just 1:14 after falling behind.
The teams hit the first intermission deadlocked after Point Boro killed a penalty in the waning moments of the first period.
Both teams traded opportunities throughout the early minutes of the second period. Meyer once again survived a fury of shots off Manasquan sticks to keep the game tied at one.
Point Pleasant Boro came within inches of taking a 2-1 lead, but Gilbilisco who only faced 13 shots throughout the contest, came up with some big saves in the middle frame as well, making a nice shoulder save to keep the Panthers from regaining the lead. As play continued, Franzoni recorded his first tally of the contest, taking the puck in front of the net and dragging it across the top of the goal crease and into the upper corner of the net on the same sequence. His twin brother, Mike Franzoni was given an assist on the play that gave Manasquan a 2-1 lead.
Manasquan had a few chances in the waning moments of the second period but were unable to convert any of the opportunities and extend the advantage.
Point Pleasant Boro took a hit late in the second frame when, Herrington, who gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead, went down late in the second period. After being down for several seconds, Herrington was able to skate to the bench under his own power, however, he did not return to the Point Boro bench to start the third period.
The loss of Herrington was a huge blow to a team with only 11 players in the lineup, but despite their limited numbers Manasquan knew not to take the small group lightly.
“We just kept pushing pucks north and move as quick as possible,” Houli said. “We want to make the other team have to always be skating as hard as possible and have to play a physical game and take hits.”
Despite only firing three shots in the third period, the Panthers made the most of them. With 9:24 remaining, Point Boro called a timeout to set up for a 5-on-3 power play for 1:19. The timeout worked as Eddie Coyne silhouetted around his defender and fired a shot through traffic that found the twine to tie the score with 8:48 to play. Tyler Griffin assisted on the power-play goal.
Fortunately for Manasquan, they were able to kill off the second end of the man-advantage and keep the score knotted up at 2-2.
“They had a very big 5-on-3 goal, but we made sure to keep settle and overall sustain pressure,” Houli said. “The message at that point was to hold each other accountable. On the bench we knew we were facing a little adversity. We took two very undisciplined penalties and had to rally around it.”
Matt Franzoni picked his team up again with his second tally of the night, sniping a shot over the blocker and into the top corner of the net from just beside the left circle with 5:36 left to give Manasquan a lead it would not relinquish.
“I slipped around a few guys there in the corner and ripped it up high and cellied hard,” Franzoni, with 21 goals and 32 points on the season, said.
“Even when Point Boro tied the game nobody got down,” Houli said. They never slouched or felt sorry for themselves. They rallied around each other and got the goal back. That is what happens when you have a good team.”
Point Pleasant Boro (11-3-1) was given another 5-on-3 power play for 38 seconds with 2:48 remaining, but this time the defense was able to clamp down and escape win the victory. Meyer was stellar for Point Pleasant Boro in the contest, turning aside 32 of the 35 shots that came his way.
Michael Farinacci added an empty-net goal with 13 seconds remaining for Manasquan — the only perfect team in the state at 11-0. Montclair Kimberley Academy and St. John Vianney have yet to taste defeat as well, but each has a pair of ties on their record this season.
Written by Casey J. Krish / @CaseyKrish
Special to HockeyClan
Photos: Tom Smith/TSPSportsImages.com
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