TOMS RIVER — The score does not always show the true demeanor of a game. In a sport like hockey, a single minute off your game can dig a team into a hole that can’t be conquered.
Wall Township had two such moments on Saturday, in an otherwise highly competitive and evenly matched contest. On this night, it was Southern Regional that skated its way in a 6-1 triumph over Wall Township in the final of the 2018 Winding River Holiday Tournament at Winding River Skating Center in Toms River.
The nail in the coffin was hammered down in the final 2:07 of the game, in which Southern was able to score four times in the matter of 1:20 to break open what once was a 2-1 game. Joe Cajzer poked home what seemed to be the game sealer at 12:53 of the third period, before Chris Laureigh went off for three goals in 57 seconds during the four-goal outburst.
“I guess the goalie got a little loose there at the end,” Laureigh said about his 57-second hat trick. “Two of them were just five-hole goals that I poked through just crashing hard into the net.”
The tournament began unwelcoming to the Rams (6-1-1), who conceded a goal to Rumson-Fair Haven’s Connor Spagnuola just 2:12 into their opening quarterfinal contest back on Wednesday afternoon. Southern did anything but sulk after that goal, with freshman goaltender Trey Mattern stepping up in between the pipes and stepping aside 36 of the 37 he faced that game as the Rams snuck out a win in overtime. The Rams then cruised past Toms River North 8-1 in the semifinals.
“We all worked very hard tonight and throughout the entire tournament,” Laureigh said. “Rumson is a very good team and we got the winner in overtime. Then we went out and shut down Toms River North.”
Mattern once again stepped up as one of the heroes in the championship game, poking aside 23-of-24 and keeping Southern in the lead when Wall got dangerous looks at the cage.
Saturday’s contest came with a little bit of a sluggish start; certainly something that can be expected from two clubs that are playing their third game in the span of four days. Neither squad could muster much dangerous opportunities at the net in the first period. Both the Rams’ and Knights’ backlines excelled in keeping the puck out of the slot and along the boards.
Southern was the first to break the scoreboard in the second period. Zachary Minafo, who was the overtime hero in the 2-1 win over Rumson in the quarterfinals, was on the receiving end of a beautiful cross-crease pass from Andrew Irwin with 5:43 remaining until the intermission.
With the momentum still surging on the Southern bench, Cazjer brought it to the ice, sneaking the puck home past the Wall goaltender to give the Rams a 2-0 lead just 1:15 after breaking the ice.
“We always tell ourselves that we are going to come out hard and go flying for every puck,” Laureigh said. “That’s what we did each game and it resulted in us getting the wins.”
The Knights (5-4-0) came out firing in the third period early on, putting Southern back on their heals clinging to their 2-0 advantage.
Their potent offense could not be held mute forever, however, as Riley Haviland was finally able to crack Mattern with 5:25 to go in the third. Sean Kiewe put the moves on a defender in front of the net and left it near the crease, where Haviland banged it home.
The next few minutes belonged to Mattern, though, as the freshman goalie silenced the Wall offense that scored 11 goals in its opening two games of the tournament, and 28 in the last four contests after a rare shutout at the hands of Red Bank Catholic.
With third-leading scorer Kyle O’Neill out of action and leading scorer Michael Kocsis coming off a five-goal performance in the quarterfinals (seven total for the tournament), Southern was going to make sure that if they were beaten, it would be by the unlikely sources on Wall’s bench.
Southern worked their game to perfection, keeping the Wall forwards away from the slot, with their freshman net-minder playing with the poise of a senior when needed the most.
The Rams clung to their 2-1 lead before the goal barrage late in the third period put the result out of question.
A tournament is never won by one player, and the past week has proven that Southern Regional has multiple options and weapons available at their disposal when needed the most. Eight different Rams players accounted for 16 goals in the three games. Trey Mattern was sensational as well, ultimately saving 71-of-74 during the week-long tournament.
“It feels really great to be able to win this tournament in front of our home crowd,” Mattern said. “The M.V.P. award feels really good.”
Once the clock struck zero, the celebrating was on. Call it a late Christmas gift for this group trying to make a name for themselves after a disappointing four-win campaign just a season ago.
This may not be the trophy that clubs aspire to grab when they discuss their aspirations in preseason meetings, but none-the-less these Rams are champions. The jubilation was evident for a program that will add yet another piece of hardware to the halls in Manahawkin.
1st – Southern Regional
2nd – Wall Township
3rd – Toms River North / Jackson Memorial (tie)
4th – Toms River North / Jackson Memorial (tie)
5th – St. Rose
6th – Rumson–Fair Haven
7th – Jackson Liberty
8th – Toms River South-East
Winding River Holiday Tournament Scores and Recaps
GAME 1: (7) Toms River North – 6 vs (2) Jackson Liberty – 2
Seventh-seeded Toms River North took down second-seeded Jackson Liberty behind a five-point effort from sophomore Cole Schneider. Schneider had a goal and four assists while Johnny Green had two scores for the Mariners. Matt Crupi had three points and Justin Ervelli had two. Corey Finnegan was terrific in net, pushing aside 40 of 42 shots. Michael Joyce also scored for North. Nick LaBianca and Joe
Guerra had the goals for Liberty.
GAME 2: (6) Southern Regional – 2 vs (3) Rumson Fair-Haven – 1 (OT)
Sixth-seeded Southern Regional defeated third-seeded Rumson Fair-Haven 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinal round. Zach Minafo ended the game 5:52 into the extended period to send the Rams into the semifinal. Connor Spagnuola opened the scoring just minutes into the game for Rumson while Chris Larureigh hit for Southern in the middle period. Trey Mattern pushed aside 37 shots in net for Southern.
GAME 3: (4) Jackson Memorial – 9 vs (5) St. Rose – 8 (OT)
Fourth-seeded Jackson Memorial stopped the bleeding from a third period rally from fifth-seeded St. Rose to survive in the quarterfinal round. The Jaguars held a 7-5 lead entering the third period and led by as much as four late in the opening period. Nick Swain counted for seven of the Jaguars goals, including the game-winner 37 seconds into the overtime period. Luke Satkowski scored the other two goals for Jackson. Sean Grant scored four goals and added an assist while Shane Force had three points and a pair of goals. Seamus Fitzpatrick and Tim Regan also scored for the Roses. George Hinds and Kevin Lalley each had three assists for Jackson Memorial.
GAME 4: (1) Wall Township – 6 vs (8) Toms River Southeast – 1
Top-seeded and defending champion Wall Township got five goals from Mike Kocsis to cruise to a 6-1 win over eighth-seeded Toms River South-East in the quarterfinals. Sean Kiewe had a goal and an assist in the win while Robby Curran had a pair of assists. Joey Hooper made 19 stops in net for Wall. Chris Dineen had the goal for South-East and Mark Bish made 39 saves in the losing effort.
GAME 5: CONSOLATION (3) Rumson Fair – Haven – 6 vs (2) Jackson Liberty – 5
GAME 6: SEMIFINAL (6) Southern Regional – 8 vs (7) Toms River North – 1
Southern Regional knocked off Toms River North 8-1 behind a four-point effort from Andrew Irwin and three points from Josh Irwin. Both deposited two scores. Yater Henry added a goal and assist. Zachary Minafo had a goal and two helpers to follow up his golden goal effort in the tournament opener. William DiStefano and Jeffrey Leonard also scored for the Rams while Cory Van Den Berg had the lone mark for
GAME 7: CONSOLATION (5) St. Rose – 12 vs (8) Toms River Southeast – 3
GAME 8: SEMIFINAL (1) Wall Township – 5 vs (4) Jackson Memorial – 1
Coming off huge scoring nights in the quarterfinals, Jackson Memorial’s Nick Swain (7 goals) and Wall’s Mike Kocsis (5 goals) took to the ice to battle it out in the semifinals. When it was all said and done, Wall came out on top 5-1. Kocsis had two goals and an assist while Sean Kiewe added two helpers. Swain tied the game in the second period sending it to the intermission tied at 1-1, but Wall exploded for four goals in the span of three minutes late in the third. Riley Haviland, Jack Beatie and Patrick Demarinis scored for the Knights. Logan Beattie made 25 saves in net.
GAME 9: 7TH-PLACE (2) Jackson Liberty – 10 vs (8) Toms River Southeast – 0
GAME 10: 5TH-PLACE (5) St. Rose – 6 vs (3) Rumson Fair – Haven – 5
GAME 11: 3RD-PLACE (7) TRN – 3 vs (4) Jackson Memorial – 3
GAME 12: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (6) Southern Regional – 6 vs (1) Wall Township – 1
Written by Casey J. Krish / @CaseyKrish
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