RANDOLPH — The rust on the skates of Randolph was evident in the first period after playing in its first game in eight days. The Rams last match-up back on Dec. 9 against Mendham was cancelled due to broken glass in warm-ups and the eight-time state champions were clearly not in sync in the early going against Westfield on Wednesday.
Westfield seized the advantage and took a one-goal lead into the first intermission on a goal by Bryce Dannevig, but Randolph, No. 1 in the Hockey Advantage Public Schools Top 10, looked like a different team the rest of the way with goals from Adam Redgate, Zach Vino and Will Zimmer as it wore down the opposition by winning the physical battles en route to a 3-2 victory night at Aspen Ice Arena.
After Dannevig put the Blue Devils up 1-0 2:34 into the game, Redgate, the Rams’ assistant captain, evened the score at 1-1 in the second period with his power-play with 6:56 remaining for Randolph. The goal came moments after the Rams had a goal called off for interference just a minute earlier.
That momentum carried into the third as Vino gave the home team its first lead of the game just 1:02 into the final frame to up 2-1 before Zimmer extended it with the eventual game-winner 2:17 later to keep Randolph an undefeated 3-0-1 on the season.
“This was a game that was won by hard work,” said Vino. “We didn’t play that well and it was not our best game. It was tough work that gave us the win.
“There was a little rust in the first period after not playing in a while, but the boys were able to get it together and we were able to wear them out down low in the third,” the senior said.
Randolph out-shot Westfield, 30-19, while winning the physical battles down low that Vino eluded to. Even so, Westfield never stopped attacking and just 31 seconds after Zimmer put the team up by two with a much-needed insurance goal with 3:09 remaining in regulation, Matthew Rittendale cut the deficit to one off an assist from Andrew Johnson-Milstein with 2:38 on the clock to make it a 3-2 game.
“We changed our game plan after the first period and played like a much different team the rest of the way, Zimmer, Randolph’s senior captain, said. “We started playing the body in the second period and got our momentum back and coach (Rich McLaughlin) kept telling us to play the body in the third.”
On what proved to be the game-winning goal, Zimmer parked his big frame in front of the net and was able to deflect a pass home from Redgate to beat a very good Westfield goaltender CJ Duffy, who finished with 27 saves.
“We brought that intensity into the third period and good things kept happening,” Zimmer said. “First period wasn’t our period and going forward we want to get off to quicker starts. We have to play start to finish 100 percent.”
Randolph looked to have sealed it with just over three minutes left, but just as they have done all season Westfield refused to quit.
The Blue Devils made things interesting as Rittendale scored his first goal of the season to cut the deficit to one. Westfield (4-1-1) pulled their goalie on the next whistle, but could not find the equalizer to suffer their first defeat of the season.
Randolph, which received 17 saves from goalie Scott Kimiecik, will look to stay unbeaten when they take on fellow MCSSIHL Mennen Division foe Morristown on Friday night. As for veteran head coach Rich McLaughlin, he inches closer to career-victory number 400, standing just two wins shy with Wednesday’s triumph.
“We had to wake up. We came out very flat today,” McLaughlin said. “They are a very good team and they came ready for us and we were not ready early. When we were able to tie it up heading into the third that kind of got our confidence going.
“We started to wear them down a little bit in the third and played four very effective lines,” McLaughlin added. “By being able to play four solid lines, that will continuously wear teams down. I told them heading into the third they have to play harder and go into another gear and they did that.”
Written by Chris Costa/HockeyClan.com
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