By Brian Deakyne
WAYNE – Following Sunday night’s loss to top-seeded Ramsey in the NJSIAA Public ‘B’ quarterfinals, supporters of Red Bank Regional didn’t leave Ice Vault.
Despite the 25-seeded Bucs getting knocked off by the Rams, 4-0, and being outplayed throughout the game, family, friends, and fellow students didn’t want to leave. They wanted to celebrate.
Certainly, it was a disappointing ending to a fiery playoff run for Red Bank, but it was history. For the first time in the 11-year history of the program, the Bucs had won a state playoff game. Not only that, Red Bank upset eighth-seeded Glen Rock and ninth-seeded Indian Hills to earn its way into the quarterfinal.
That, alone, is impressive for a program that has only finished over .500 just once.
“It’s a huge success for RBR hockey as I told the seniors and the team; they have established something for RBR hockey,” Red Bank Regional head coach Tim Hall said. “There is history now.
“In the last two years for this group, they’ve won a Shore Conference game, they’ve won two rounds of state playoffs – the first time RBR’s ever won in the state playoffs – these are things that no one else can ever do. They will forever be the first team that did that.”
Red Bank entered Sunday’s game with the intention of keeping its miracle season alive, but Ramsey was quick to show that there’s still a big difference between perennial North Jersey powers and low-level Shore Conference hockey.
The Rams out-shot the Bucs, 47-12, and cruised to the win. Had it not been for senior goalie A.J. Ostrander, who finished with 43 saves, it would have been a much more lopsided score.
“I think it was the quarterfinals, the one-seed in states, it got kind of bigger,” Hall said. “When it was the eight or the nine seed, I think we were able to say, ‘these guys aren’t so good.’ But, I think the one-seed kind of shook them up a bit and they did. They came out a little slower, a little less aggressive, and you’ve got to give credit to those guys. They play good hockey. They skate hard – so yeah, our guys didn’t have the same aggressiveness that they had in the first two rounds and Ramsey did have that aggressiveness.”
Trailing 2-0 in the second period, Red Bank’s mountain got much taller to climb when senior defensemen Josh Suboyu was disqualified for receiving a fighting major midway through the period. After a delayed offsides call against Ramsey, Suboyu got tangled up with a Rams’ forward, and he eventually fell to the ice, going punch-for-punch with Ramsey junior forward Chris Butryn, who was also disqualified.
But, even with Suboyu, a lethal playmaker, out, Red Bank held its own and wasn’t completely out of the game until late in the third period.
“I said to the boys at the end of the first period and the end of the second period, the shots were 30-5 and it was 2-0. I felt like, with the exception of Josh’s situation, the first two periods I felt pretty good,” Hall said. “Yeah, we got out-shot like crazy and for sure, they totally controlled play, but the guys were there and we had a couple of moments where it was like, boy, one more pass — those couple moments where it could have been a one-goal game. At the end of the second period, it’s like, this isn’t bad.”
Throughout the course of the season, Red Bank got better and better, setting the stage for its first state playoffs appearance in seven years. Even after finishing in last place in B-North and missing the Handchen Cup, the Bucs still made a more-than-impressive run through the Public ‘B’ tournament.
“It was a tough way to finish, but as I tried to communicate to the boys in the locker room, you can’t be greedy,” Hall said. “You come into this thing as a 25-seed having to petition to get in and now you want to act [sore] that you lost in the quarterfinals to the one-seed. That’s not how it looks to me.”
At the bare minimum, the bar has been set for the future in Red Bank ice hockey. Now, as Hall said, players will want to do this sort of thing again.
“For sure, with losing nine seniors, it’s going to be a hell of a rebuilding year for us and I don’t have any illusions about where we’re going to be next year as a team, but it kind of establishes a beach head,” he said.
“So now, these freshman and sophomores are going to be able to say to the guys coming in, ‘OK, we’ve been there and we want to get back there.’ It advances the horizon for us. Where our horizon used to be, ‘let’s see what we can do in the Shore,’ is now, ‘Let’s go get in the states. That was fun, we knocked some teams off so why don’t we go do it again.’”