MIDDLETOWN, NJ — The Justin Solovey-Anthony Galante-Dante Balsamo line is a formidable force, but Marlboro coach Wayne Anderson rarely puts all three on the ice together at the same time because it spreads his offense too thin.
But in overtime, all cards are on the table.
Moments after Dylan Haar’s game-tying goal with 6.7 seconds remaining in regulation tied it for Ocean Township forcing sudden-death, Anderson put all his eggs in one basket and sent the Solovey-Galante-Balsamo line out to win it — and win it in fine fashion the trio did as Solovey found the back of the net four minutes into overtime, assisted by Galante and Balsamo, as third-seeded Marlboro/Holmdel edged the 14th-seeded Spartans, 4-3, in the first round of the Shore Conference Dowd Cup at Middletown Ice World.
“We knew we were going to win the game — we just didn’t know when,” an elated Solovey said after scoring the game-winner in sudden-death. “Anthony Galante made a few nice moves, made a nice pass to me and I just put it in — it was amazing.”
Galante, Balsamo and Anton Saks gave Marlboro a 3-2 lead with 1:13 remaining in regulation, but Ocean Township pulled its goalie in a desperation move to tie the game and force OT and the ploy worked as Haar connected for the second time in the game just seconds before time expired to knot the game at 3-3 and force the extra session.
“I told them after we fell behind, 3-2, that we had trailed twice and came back and I was positive we could do it again,” Ocean Township head coach Dave Smith said. “After the center-ice faceoff they had us pinned in our own zone (but) when we finally cleared the zone, we got the goalie pulled for the final push — it was certainly exhilarating.”
Battling back from 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 deficits, Ocean Township/Shore Regional/Monmouth Regional found the equalizer three times in the game, but could not seize the lead from the Mustangs, which entered the game one of only two undefeated teams remaining in the state.
“With six seconds left they took a shot from the point, a couple tips in front and it went in,” Solovey said. “We’re an offensive team, but we need to toughen up defensively.”
In overtime, both teams had chances to run away with it. But as the clock wound down in sudden-death, Anderson saw his opportunity and put his big guns on the ice together.
“Overtime — I love it — that’s why I have no hair left,” Anderson said with a laugh. “Going into overtime, we still felt we could win the game — at any point we didn’t think we couldn’t win the game — but we changed lines up in overtime, put my three horses out there on the ice together looking for some firepower and got it.”
“We have so many opportunities when we play together,” Solovey said playing alongside Galante and Balsamo. “Coach Anderson wants to even out all three lines, but when we all go out there together it’s almost an automatic goal every time.
“It took some extra time,” Justin Solovey, who laces ’em up for the Mustangs along with his two brothers Joseph and Joshua, said. “But we got it done.”
Galante struck first, giving Marlboro/Holmdel (12-0-2) its first lead of the game 5:09 into the action, assisted by Saks and Justin Solovey. The goal stood until the second period when Haar scored his first of two 2:35 into the middle frame with assists from Kenny Maxwell and Scott Sirianni.
Saks put Marlboro back in front, 2-1, when he scored an unassisted shorthanded goal 4:42 later, but once again Ocean Township battled back to tie when Maxwell found the back of the net with 4:11 to go in the second.
Looking for a spark, Anderson pulled goalie Jason Williams after two periods in favor of Dmitri Kapranov to start the third. Both Kapranov and Ocean goalie Tony Macaluso stymied the opposition for the entire third until Balsamo hit with 1:13 remaining in regulation, giving Marlboro its third lead of the game assisted by Galante and Saks.
The Spartans never relented, dug down deep and mustered another in the final seconds to force overtime but it was not to be.
“We were a bit insulted by being seeded 14th,” Smith said. “So we had a bit of a chip on our shoulder.
“Obviously, it’s a heartbreaking loss for our boys, but I told them they should be very proud of the way they prepared and even prouder of the way they performed,” Smith said. “If you have to lose a hockey game, there is no better way than to lose in overtime to a much higher seed.”
Marlboro advances to meet 11th-seeded Middletown North, which upset sixth-seeded Freehold Township in the first round.
“The game was a lot tougher than we thought. Ocean is a very good team. They gave us a lot of trouble on the forecheck,” Anderson said. “We’re happy we’re still undefeated and looking forward to our next opponent.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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