HACKENSACK — Senior forward Jake Kinney has had a hard time shaking Glen Rock’s loss to Ramsey in the 2016 state finals last season. A junior at the time, Kinney was a crucial part of the Panthers’ historic season and first-ever state-final appearance and made it his mission to rewrite the history books this time around.
Top-seeded Glen Rock had its hands full with eighth-seeded Summit in the early going, but after a scoreless first period it was none other than Kinney stepping up to the plate and delivering the shorthanded goal with 1:20 left in the second frame to send the Panthers’ on its way to a 3-1 triumph in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA/New Jersey Devils Public B tournament at the Ice House in Hackensack.
“Last year was a really tough one,” said Kinney. “That loss stung and really stuck with us as we set out this year to get back to the state finals. We’re playing well and on the right path to do that. Their goalie played a great game and when we scored short-handed with a minute left in the second, that really changed the momentum and carried us strong into the third.”
Glen Rock defenseman Leo Pawlika took a holding penalty with 2:20 left in the second and after an initial save by Panthers’ goaltender Ryan McAuley, Patrick Smith blocked a shot, possessed the puck and feed an outlet pass to Kinney who took care of the rest.
The captain deked left and right before beating Summit goaltender Wilson Lees to give Glen Rock (20-3-4) a lead it would not relinquish.
“It was a big relief to score that first goal,” Kinney said. “We were fighting and playing pretty well to that point but couldn’t get anything across so that really helped change the game around. We were a little frustrated early but coach told us to just stick with it and we kept getting shots and finally were able to put a few in.”
Lees was the difference maker in the first two periods for Summit and kept the Hilltoppers alive, finishing with 29 saves in the game. Glen Rock’s high powered offense proved to be too much in the final period and the Panthers showed why they have outscored their opponents 125-58 this season.
Matthew Maselli scored on the power-play with 10:19 left in the third to give Glen Rock a 2-0 lead and assistant captain and fellow senior Peter Cassidy scored his 20th goal to close out the victory for Glen Rock with 8:23 remaining in regulation.
Summit (16-8-2) added a late goal in the third period by Owen McLaughlin to snap the shutout bid for McAuley, but it the junior goaltender stopped 17 of the 18 shots he faced to send the Panthers to their third consecutive Frozen Four.
“This was a hard fought win today and we battled all game long,” said McAuley. “When the offense started scoring that gave me confidence in net. We had to grind early, but just stick with the game plan throughout. We were very determined to get back to this point after a tough end last season and we’re a couple steps away from achieving that goal.”
Glen Rock will take on 13th-seeded Middletown North in the Public B semifinals slated Mar. 1 at the Codey Arena in West Orange. The puck drops at 6:30 p.m.
Middletown North defeated 12th-seeded Point Pleasant Boro, 4-3, in a shootout in its quarterfinal bout.
By Chris Costa/Hockey Clan