ROSELLE, NJ — Gov. Livingston coach Michael Criscitello knows what kind of effort can deliver his club plenty of hockey bliss.
“We know when we play physical and we play fast good things are going to happen,” said the Highlanders’ bench boss.
Well, that tone was on display throughout much of the 45 minutes of an ice battle on Wednesday – along with a potent player play component.
Carson Wahlers finished with two power play goals and an assist, Zach Miller collected a power play goal and added a pair of assists and Jake Plattman knocked in his first varsity goal to help lift Gov. Livingston to a 4-1 victory over Howell at at the Warinanco Skating Center in Roselle.
The Highlanders moved to within two games of the .500 mark in improving to 8-10.
“We tried to emphasize red line deep today,” Criscitello noted of the imposing game he received from his forwards. “We wanted to implement our fore-check and play the body. Good things usually come from that.”
From the opening face-off it was apparent Gov. Livingston was playing with an edge, finishing its checks with gusto, especially in the offensive zone against Howell’s defensemen.
It’s proficiency with the man-advantage was apparent as well as Miller, a senior forward, slammed home a rebound of an initial shot from Carson Wahlers with 6:20 left in the first period to erase a 1-0 deficit.
For Howell (6-9-2), the opening period could not have commenced in better fashion.
Bernard Vitale picked up a loose puck and fired a 20-foot wrister from between the circles that eluded Gov. Livingston goalie Nick Papa (21 saves) 2:54 into the contest. It was the Rebels’ first shot on goal.
The first ended in a 1-1 tie, much of the credit going to Howell goalie Dan McEvoy, who was busy in turning aside 16 of 17 shots in the opening 15 minutes. McEvoy, who sported a .942 save-percentage coming in, finished with 38 saves.
But the critical point of this contest came in the second period after a Howell player was whistled for a five-minute major and 10-minute misconduct for a hit from behind.
Eight seconds later Carson Wahlers, a senior forward, took a couple of strides inside the Howell blue line and whipped a wrist shot through traffic for the go-ahead power play goal with 7:28 left in the second.
Skating with a five-on-three advantage seconds later after a minor penalty against Howell, Carson Wahlers extended the Gov. Livingston lead to 3-1 after he redirected a shot past McEvoy with 5:02 on the clock. Dave Skotarczak and Cole Wahlers, Carson’s twin brother, picked up assists on the goal.
“We were controlling most of the first period so we felt good going into the second,” said Carson Wahlers, who was also a force on face-offs along with Miller for Gov. Livingston. “That long power play was a big chance for us. I just shot the puck and there were a lot of guys in front and I don’t think the goalie even saw it. This is a big lift for us. We are heading into an important stretch and this was a great effort today.”
Howell wasn’t finished, though, and had an opportunity to close the gap when it was handed a power play 3:20 into the third period facing that 3-1 deficit. But Papa made a couple of key pad saves during the penalty and the chance to cut into the Highlanders’ lead was thwarted.
“The game goes on,” said Howell coach Bill Dailey. “We had a chance in the third with the power play. We’ve come back before. We just wanted to settle down, get the puck on net and play some Howell hockey. Gov. Livingston came out hitting a lot more than we thought. But the difference-maker in the game was their power play. If you give up three power play goals you’re probably not going to win much. We had to kill off too many penalty minutes.
“Dan McEvoy has been our wall this year in goal. We usually can rally around him and build on his saves, but not today.”
With the third period clock fading away Plattman broke down ice with Miller on a two-on-one. Miller saucered a nice feed to Plattman breaking down the slot, and the senior finished it off with a deflection for his first varsity goal and a 4-1 lead.
“It was a great play and pass by Zach and I just put my stick out and it went in,” said Plattman. “It meant so much to me. I think our power play was huge and really boosted our confidence.We were really trying to put together a full 45-minute game and I think we did that today. We were physical and had great teamwork. We definitely played the body more than we have any game this season.”
Criscitello, whose club will skate against Scotch Plains/Fanwood on Sunday, was pleased with the efficiency of his power play unit.
“One of our points of emphasis there was working and winning those battles in front of the net,” Criscitello said. “We caused some chaos and it worked. Carson Wahlers and Zach Miller are just strong guys in all three zones and having them down the middle of the ice is always going to help us be more successful. And Jake Plattman is a real leader on this team and a key player. The lads really skated hard.”
Related: MKA Downs Gov. Livingston
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
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