WEST ORANGE, NJ — The most important goal is always the next one.
Fifty-nine seconds after Benji Peiffer gave Montclair its first lead of the game late in the second period, James Kaz struck again on the power play, accounting for the game-winning goal as the Mounties erased an early deficit en route to a 4-2 victory over West Essex-Caldwell at Codey Arena in West Orange.
“At this point of the season, we want to play our best hockey,” Montclair head coach Mark Janifer said. “You play your best hockey now or you go home.”
With four wins in its last five, Montclair (12-4-2) is playing its best hockey of the season right now, and the triumph further solidifies the Mounties standing with the NJIIHL post-season and NJSIAA tournament right around the corner.
“It was a huge win,” Eamonn Thall, who erased a 1-0 deficit with 3:26 left in the first, said. “We want to go into the playoffs with as much momentum as possible. We want to go in on a winning streak.”
But it was West Essex which struck first in this one.
Joe Namyatov wasted no time, putting the Knights on the board and striking while the ice was still hot just 20 seconds into the game assisted by Connor Hapward.
West Essex (9-9-3) played with a lead for most of the first period until Thall tied it on the power play.
“After they scored, as soon as we got the power play we said to ourselves, ‘We have to score. We have to change the momentum,'” Thall said. “I noticed their player guarding me was too far back so when I got the pass and saw the opening I just ripped it.
“It was huge — going into the second period tied instead of down 1-0 changed how we thought about the game and how we came out in the second,” Thall said. “We had a lot more confidence.”
The game remained deadlocked for most of the second frame. A couple of Montclair penalties for cross-checking and unsportsmanlike conduct afforded West Essex two chances with the man-advantage but the Knights couldn’t beat Montclair goalie Lucas Podvey.
With 2:24 to go in the middle frame, Peiffer gave the Mounties its first lead of the game. Before they could reset, Kaz buried another 59 seconds later.
“We took a couple penalties, but I managed to draw one to make it 4-on-4,” Thall said. “I think that’s when our skill really came out. We believe we’re faster and more-skilled. The open ice really opened the game up for us and we got two quick goals.”
2 goals in a minute for @MHS_Ice_Hockey, one 4 on 4 the other a PP, gives them a 3-1 lead at the end of an evenly played second period. @WestEssexHS @HockeyClan @HockeyAdvantage @NJ_Hockey #MonvsWE #NJHockey pic.twitter.com/Q7TTJg7EBJ
— tom smith (@tspimages) February 5, 2020
The two-goal flurry inside a minute sent Montclair into the second intermission with a 3-1 lead.
Brett Janifer connected with 3:45 remaining in regulation, assisted by Kaz and Cody Brennan, to increase the lead to three before Jack Santoro scored with two second left for West Essex.
“Montclair gave us trouble with their forecheck,” West Essex-Caldwell coach Marc Gregory said. “We had a hard time adjusting to get out of our own end.
“I thought we came out well and had them on their heels in the first,” Gregory said, “but the 4-on-4 in the last five minutes of the second period turned out to be the difference.”
Podvey finished with 23 saves for Montclair, while Jason Albright recorded 31 stops for West Essex.
“We didn’t have the start we would have liked to have had. They came out and jumped on us early,” Janifer said. “But we settled down in the second period were able to get a couple of skill-goals, nice passes, nice plays by individuals. That helped get us on track.”
“As a group we know that it’s always important to play your best hockey coming into February,” Podvey said. “We weren’t necessarily happy with the result against Summit (a 7-3 loss on Feb. 3). We feel we are starting to hit our stride and felt like tonight was a good rebound from that loss.”
West Essex will look to rebound against Vernon on Feb. 8. Montclair, meanwhile, will look to keep the ball rolling versus Verona-Glen Ridge on Feb. 10.
“The playoffs are tough whether its league play or the state tournament — all good teams from here,” Janifer said. “We want to play our best hockey at this point of the season and we’re building toward that.”
0-1 WE Joe Namyatov (Connor Hapward) 14:40-1st
1-1 MON Eamonn Thall (George Osterberg) 3:26-1st
2-1 MON Benji Peiffer (Michael Gibbons, Mark Rechan) 2:24-2nd
3-1 MON James Kaz (Brett Janifer, Eamonn Thall) 1:25-2nd PPG
4-1 MON Brett Janifer (Cody Brennan, James Kaz) 3:43-3rd
4-2 WE Jack Santoro (Clay Prial) :02-3rd
Shots: 34-25, Montclair; Albright, WE, 31 saves; Podvey, MON, 23 saves
Written by John Christian Hageny @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Montclair teammates Michael Gibbons (#14, left) and James Kaz (#23, right) celebrate Benji Pieffer’s goal with 2:24 to go in the second period. Kaz would score 59 seconds later in what proved to be the game-winning goal in a 4-2 victory over West Essex in a NJIIHL McInnis Division game at Codey Arena, West Orange, NJ. 2/5/20 (Tom Smith | tspimages.com)
— tom smith (@tspimages) February 5, 2020
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