FARMINGDALE — Wall Township may be down but it’s never out as long as there’s time still left on the clock.
Trailing Manalapan by one in the late stages of the third period, Wall Township reached a new low when it kept finding itself shorthanded pressing for the equalizer. But Kyle O’Neill had been in this situation before and the senior forward knew all it takes is just one spark to light the fire.
O’Neill erased the deficit with 3:10 remaining in regulation before scoring two more times — both shorthanded in a span of 8.2 seconds — as Wall Township rallied for a 3-1 triumph over Manalapan at Howell Ice Arena in Farmingdale.
“We went from a really low, low point for our team to a really high point in a span of two or three minutes,” an elated O’Neill said. “It started when Michael Kocsis took the first penalty, which dropped our morale quite a bit. He’s a solid player so when he’s getting penalties it hurts us. We were able to kill it off but we really hit a low point when he was sent to the box again.
“With him down and out,” O’Neill said, “we picked him back up.”
Bobby Seelinger, who set up O’Neill for the game-tying goal, set his teammate up again with the team down a man as Wall Township took its first lead of the game, 2-1, with 1:05 left on the clock.
Still shorthanded, O’Neill right back to work after the ensuing faceoff and connected again for his third goal of the game with 56.8 remaining.
The three goals in a span of 2:13 seconds produced one of the fastest natural hat tricks in program history.
“The game was fast-paced with lots of back and forth,” Wall Township coach Mike Dianora said. “Pretty even first period. Logan Beattie made some big saves to keep it 0-0. We controlled the second, but there was a goal-mouth scramble that was poked in. Then, the major to Kocsis (for boarding). We put Kiewe back on defense to give us a shot and it worked.”
“When Sean Kiewe and I are out there together we dominate,” O’Neill said. “I just thought about the space we had on the shorthanded kill — it was great how we came together so quick.”
Freddie Brutto gave Manalapan a 1-0 lead 9:55 into the second period, assisted by Andrew Rutherford and Joe Mazza, but the goal stood thanks in large part to the play of Patrick McCarty (18 saves) and Beattie (16 saves) in between the pipes.
O’Neill tied it up at 1-1 off a beautiful give-and-go with Seelinger behind the net.
“I was in the corner and saw Bobby behind the net so I passed it to him,” O’Neill said. “I went around their defenseman for a give-and-go, he passed it back and I stickhandled it before lifting it upstairs.”
After the five-minute major to Kocsis put Wall back in a hole, O’Neill and Kiewe were charged with killing it off.
“The first goal was a high point, but the highest high was those two shorthanded goals,” O’Neill said. “The energy on the bench definitely took a turning point after those two goals.
“This team — we’re down but never out,” O’Neill said. “It’s never too late to score whether it’s with two minutes left or 50 seconds left. If you put in that extra effort with a little smarts you’ll get it.”
Wall Township improves to 2-1, while Manalapan stands at 1-3-1.
“I thought we did a really good job of containing their best players,” Manalapan coach Matt Inzerillo said. “Our game plan was executed perfectly throughout the game. Our forwards did an amazing job pressuring their defensemen and keeping the puck in their zone. At 1-0 late in the game, Wall took a five-minute major but we gave two minutes back with our own minor penalty. The 4-on-4 goal was a breakdown in coverage.
“Still, with three minutes left I was confident our first power play unit would break the tie but unfortunately Wall got a lucky bounce that created a breakaway and they buried it home,” Inzerillo said. “They fought hard and executed our game plan for 42 minutes. They should be proud of their effort. This loss only motivates my team and could be the start of a big run for us.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
Photos: Tom Smith/TSPsportsimages.com
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