By Brian Deakyne
RED BANK – With a short bench, the Red Bank Catholic ice hockey team needed a big game from its young players.
On Monday night, the Caseys got just that from sophomore forward Evan Hoey, who netted three goals en route to a 4-2 victory over Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School at Red Bank Armory.
Red Bank Catholic had six players missing due to junior hockey games, but Hoey picked up the slack, scoring a goal in each period – including the game-clinching tally with 1:03 left in the game.
“Positioning is a big deal and he’s got really good hands and he makes some really sweet moves out there,” Red Bank Catholic coach Ken Carlson said. “Even the guys on the bench were ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ at some of his moves. He’s a good kid, he plays hard, he had all three of our goals until the fourth came at the end of the game, but he’s been on fire, and it doesn’t matter who I put him with.”
With a 2-2 tie seemingly imminent, junior center Griffin Hurley took the puck up the right wing and dropped the pass off to Hoey to create a 3-on-2 opportunity, and Hoey slipped his wrist shot off the post and in to give the Caseys the one-goal lead.
“Hurley’s a staple. He’s a good center. He wins face-offs and does a lot of the little things,” Carlson said. “Maybe he’s not the leading scorer on the team, but he does a lot of little things, offensively and defensively, he makes a lot of good passes and gets a lot of assists. He plays it all; he plays two-way hockey. I like it.”
Red Bank Catholic took a 1-0 lead when Hoey pounded on a rebound in the first period to put the Caseys up. But Rumson fought back hard at the end of the period, collecting goals 1:01 apart from Alex Riguardi and Brian Patterson to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
That Bulldogs lead stood until Hoey added his second goal on a wraparound attempt 19 seconds into the second period.
The Caseys killed off two penalties in the second period and Rumson added a successful kill at the end of the second to enter the second intermission tied at two.
Despite back-and-forth action, neither team was able to break the tie in the final stanza until Hoey added the hat trick. Senior defensemen Kevin Stickle added an empty net goal to give Red Bank Catholic the win.
“We’re very happy,” Carlson said. “The kids are resilient. It was 2-2 going into the third, we’re short-handed – we have six guys that play in club that won’t let them play high school hockey so it’s a lot of pressure on the kids and that’s not appreciated. We’re missing six kids, we don’t even have three full lines, but we played smart hockey, especially in the third period. We had a game plan between the periods, they followed the game plan and we got a nice goal there and the icing on the cake with the long shot at the end.”
Senior goalie Michael Cosentino finished with 27 saves for Red Bank Catholic; senior Dominic Padula posted 25 saves for Rumson.
A year removed from a disappointing, sub-.500 season, Carlson said the Caseys are in a good place early into 2014.
“We’re making progress and it’s a big improvement from last year,” Carlson said. “If we get another couple of wins, we’ll be tied with last year already. The thing with this team is that we have a great attitude and the kids have really good chemistry together. They work out really well and I’m very happy with where we’re at.”