Birch’s Four Goals Lead Manasquan Past Red Bank Catholic
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SEA GIRT — With a lineup that features eight sophomore starters, each game is a learning experience for Manasquan. The young Warriors showed major progress in passing a big test on Saturday morning.
Sophomore attackman Jarrett Birch scored a game-high four goals to spearhead a 9-6 come-from-behind Shore Conference nondivisional victory for host Manasquan over rival Red Bank Catholic at the Army National Guard Fields. Trailing by two goals early in the third quarter, the Warriors (1-1) used a six-goal run to put the Caseys (0-1) away and secure their first victory under head coach Sean Cunningham.
The Warriors opened their season on Thursday with a 13-6 loss to Monroe, and in that contest saw a close game turn into a blowout in the second half.
“It’s always a big game to play RBC and teams of that nature in the Shore,” said Cunningham. “We were looking to clean up the mistakes. Monroe was a game where we shot ourselves in the foot repeatedly and went from being tied 5-5 halfway though the third to losing 13-6. Today was really a reversal of fortune.”
A goal late in the first half by RBC senior attackman Tim Barile snapped a 3-3 tie, and a goal by James Miele 1:48 into the third quarter gave the Caseys the first two-goal lead for either team. Red Bank Catholic held onto its two-goal edge for the next 7:56, but that’s when Manasquan began its comeback.
Birch struck with 2:16 to go in the third quarter off a feed from fellow sophomore John Moran, and just over a minute later senior midfielder Chris Klodowski drove to his right and fired a shot past RBC goalie Matt Benjamin to tie the score at five.
The Warriors then went ahead for good early in the fourth quarter. While working with a 30-second man advantage, Manasquan took a 6-5 lead when sophomore middie Patty Feldstat dished to Birch, who ripped one in at 10:52 of the fourth.
“That got us going right away, and we just kept piling it on,” Birch said of the two goals in 2:16 of the third quarter to tie the score. “Once we got the momentum we didn’t stop. That’s what we had to do against a good team.”
The insurance goals came quickly. Joe Tonkovich made it 7-5 when he scored while diving from behind the net just 90 seconds after Birch’s goal. At 5:39, Moran curled from behind the net and scored to make it 8-5. Birch’s fourth of the game came with 3:10 left, a blast from the left side that put Manasquan up by four goals.
“Jarrett is an athlete and his IQ is off the charts,” Cunningham said. “And when you combine his quickness, speed, stick skills and IQ, you have the full package. It doesn’t hurt if you’re 6-foot-3, 220-pounds, but you can also be 5-foot-7, 150-pounds. As a defenseman I always hated those guys because they just know how to stick the dagger in you, and I think he did an excellent job of that today.”
Manasquan had out-shot RBC 6-0 in the fourth quarter at that point before Caseys junior middie Brett Habich scored with 2:22 left to pull his team within three goals. That was all they would get, however, as goalie Tom Pollock and the defense shut the door to give Manasquan a solid victory against a veteran Caseys squad.
“We were very pleased with what we did at practice (Friday) and the kids responded well,” Cunningham said. “We’re a young team, so it’s a great learning experience. This is a great win for them.”
The teams alternated goals in the first quarter with Birch giving Manasquan a lead at 7:54 before Mintz sank a goal off a pass from Habich just 40 seconds later. The Warriors pulled back in front when Klodowski scored at 4:45, but Liam McArdle’s goal while falling down with 8.6 seconds left knotted the score at two.
Mintz’s second of the game 32 seconds into the second quarter put the Caseys up 3-2, but Tonkovich scored at 4:09 off a pass from Birch to tie the score at three. That was the common theme for Manasquan on Saturday: finding an answer.
“These kids are growing up quickly and they’re figuring out how to win,” Cunningham. “It’s a lot of fun to be around.”
Manasquan 9, Red Bank Catholic 6
Red Bank Catholic (0-1) 2 2 1 1 - 6
Manasquan (1-1) 2 1 2 4 - 9
GOALS - RBC: Alex Mintz 2, Tim Barile, Brett Habich, Liam McArdle, James Miele; M: Jarrett Birch 4, Joe Tonkovich 2, Chris Klodowski 2, John Moran.
ASSISTS - RBC: Alex Mintz 2, Brett Habich; M: Patty Feldstat, Jarrett Birch, John Moran.
SAVES - RBC: Matt Benjamin 4; M: Tom Pollock 4.
SHOTS: Manasquan 24-13.