By Jim Hintelmann
MIDDLETOWN – Middletown High School North’s hockey team picked up two impressive wins Friday and Monday in two entirely different ways.
On Friday the Lions routed rival Middletown South, 8-1, in the annual Mayor’s Cup at the new Middletown Ice World before a standing room only crowd of 1,500. The win enabled the Lions to share the A Division North Public School championship with Freehold Township. Christian Brothers Academy won the overall A North title.
It was a completely different result from the first game that the two teams played in December when North scored a 4-2 win during the first high school game at the new rink.
And it was a different story on Monday at the Red Bank Armory Ice Complex as North rallied from a 3-0 deficit to edge out Rumson-Fair Haven Regional Bulldogs, 8-6, on Scott Huber’s game-winning goal with a minute remaining.
“I was a little bit nervous going into the South game,” North coach Matt Clemente said, “but we executed very well. We came out and got two power-play goals and two shorthanded. Our defense was outstanding. We’ve found our stride now and spread our scoring out a little bit.
“We’ve won six in a row and are getting ready for the Shore Conference and state tournaments,” Clemente said.
Against South, the Lions set the tone right from the start with sophomore Khristian Acosta scoring a shorthanded goal just 30 seconds into the game. He followed that up with another goal a minute later and assisted on the third, scored by John Dinnocenzo.
The Lions increased the lead to 6-0 before South’s Nick Malvasi scored the lone goal for the Eagles in the second period.
“They came out ready to play,” said South coach Stan Gutt, whose team is in a bit of a rebuilding year. “We’ve been in every game this season until tonight. We’re really young and play six or seven freshmen. We have only six seniors. It was a tough game but you have to play through it.”
Huber won the Luke Nesbihal Award, voted as the game’s Most Valuable Player.
“It’s a great feeling to win the MVP,” Huber said, “but I didn’t think I did that much individually. It’s all about the team. It’s great to beat your crosstown rival and now we are looking ahead to the postseason.”
North had a scare late in the game when Thomas Terranova hit the wall and suffered a slight concussion. He will have to miss two weeks, but Clemente expects him back.
“He was our second leading scorer,” he said, “but he should be OK.”
Although coming away with a win, it was a completely different game Monday night against Rumson with the Lions falling behind 3-0 and then 4-1 before rallying to win it on Huber’s tie-breaking goal.
“We didn’t have two of our top scorers, but we scored eight goals and that was a big accomplishment,” Clemente said. “I have to give credit to the guys.
“Our goalie (Hunter Dillon) has been playing well until tonight,” the North coach said. “He had allowed just three goals in the last five games, but the team picked him up tonight.”
Rumson’s Brandon Bann tied the game at 6-6 before Huber’s goal won it. Acosta got an empty netter with a second left for the final goal.
“It was on a breakaway,” Huber said about his game-winning goal. “I cut to the middle and shot it between the goalie’s legs. I was a little nervous when we were down 3-0. I knew that we could come back.”
Rumson received a standout game from freshman Connor Deverin, who scored the hat trick.
“It was my third hat trick of the season,” said Deverin, who has 18 goals for the Bulldogs. “I’ve been playing hockey since I was 4 years old.”
“We’re improving,” Rumson coach Tony Nemati said, “but there are some areas that we have to work on.”
The two teams played again Thursday, Feb. 13, after press time, in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament. The game could be postponed until Friday, if inclement weather, expected Thursday, interferes.