By Brian Deakyne
“I was hacking and hacking at it and eventually it went in,” Rotchford said. “Robinson said he hit it in, I said I hit it in, I really don’t know who got the better piece of it.”
The goal, which was credited to Rotchford, came with 3:45 remaining in overtime to lift the second-seeded Bulldogs to their first Dowd Cup final in school history, topping Red Bank Regional, 3-2 Wednesday afternoon in the semi-finals of the Dowd Cup.
RFH scored a short-handed goal in the early stages of the second period, and a goal late in the period to take a 2-1 lead over sixth-seeded Red Bank Regional, but the Bucs’ came back in the third period, sending the teams to overtime.
Rotchford’s goal was the only shot registered on RBR goalie Charlie Fox, who finished with 36 saves on the game.
“Charlie’s a great goalie. He never lets the first one in,” Rotchford said.
Rotchford took a pass from Robinson, short-handed, and after being stopped by Fox, he slipped in his own rebound inside the right post, drawing even with the Bucs with 8:44 remaining in the second period.
“Brian made a nice pass to me and I was able to finish,” Rotchford said.
Gary Cali fed Robinson later in the period, who was left alone in the slot, and he lifted the puck top-shelf, giving the Bulldogs their first lead of the game.
“They [Red Bank Regional] were coming off a good win against St. Rose and we knew it was going to be a tight battle,” Rumson-Fair Haven coach Chris McCafferty said. “They kept coming. They fought, they stuck with their gameplan it was a good game and well-matched.”
The Bucs took the early lead when Sam Marascio blasted a power play goal past Bulldogs’ goalie Dominic Padula with 4:21 left in the first period. Joe Franco looked to squeak a puck into the net from the side, and the rebound kicked out to Marascio, who put it away.
Padula stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced, but Fox faced much more pressure on the other end of the ice throughout the game.
“I told Charlie that, for the past four years, it’s been nice to know that we’ve had the better goalie every single night,” Red Bank Regional head coach Tim Hall said.
Josh Saboyu tied the game at two with 8:22 left in the game, grabbing possession of the loose puck in front of the net, and beating Padula to his right.
“I told the boys in the locker room that tonight is who we are,” Hall said. “It’s been a challenge for us to play up to our potential. RBR has traditionally not had a hockey culture, but we are building on next year.”
After a back-and-forth minute of play in overtime, Rotchford put home a net-mouth scramble after Fox appeared close to covering it.
“I was told that he didn’t have a solid glove on it, and the puck was constantly loose, so it couldn’t be whistled dead, and that’s fine with me,” Hall said.
Red Bank Regional converted on their opening power play, but couldn’t capitalize on their following three.
The Bulldogs didn’t have a single power play for the second game in a row.
Rotchford nearly added a second short-handed goal, on the same penalty kill, in the second period, but Fox turned away his breakaway attempt.
Saboyu had a breakaway attempt of his own, six minutes into the game, but he was stopped by Padula.
“Dominic has had the nickname “The Dominator” since he was 8 years old, and that’s because he makes the big saves when he has to,” McCafferty said.
The Bulldogs will take on fifth-seeded Marlboro in the Dowd Cup final on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Red Bank Armory. RFH will be looking for their first ever Dowd Cup championship and Marlboro will be hoping to repeat from last year’s championship.