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BARNEGAT — A young Manasquan team continues to grow, and all along the way keeps finding different ways to win.

On Wednesday the Warriors, ranked No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, did it with defense in a 7-4 Shore Conference Class B South victory over No. 9 Barnegat, stifling a dangerous Bengals offense to move one step closer to a division title.

Sophomore goalie Tom Pollock made 14 saves and the defensive foursome of sophomores Kyle LeBlanc, Edmund Mallett and Chip Sarnasi, plus senior Conor Gleason held the Bengals to just one goal in each quarter. They held Rutgers recruit J.J. McKenna off the scoresheet and standout midfielder Ricky Gerena to just a goal and an assist.

“Today was a defensive win,” said Manasquan head coach Sean Cunningham. “They have some kids that can play; McKenna is legit and they have some other offensive weapons that are slick and can move the ball and shoot. Tommy was on today and that was huge for us.”

Pollock, who is one of nine sophomore starters for the Warriors (9-2, 3-0) saved his best for last. He stopped five shots in the fourth quarter when Barnegat (3-2, 1-1) was furiously trying to rally from a four-goal deficit.

“If Tommy happens to have an off game I think we get shelled,” Cunningham said. “Fortunately for us that hasn’t happened all season, and he’s been very reliable. Today was just a step above and the defense followed suit and took care of business.”

“We knew their guys and just wanted to lock them off and keep the shots to the outside so I would have a good chance to save them,” Pollock said.

Senior midfielder Chris Klodowski and sophomore attackman Joe Tonkovich each scored twice to pace Manasquan’s offense while sophomore attackmen John Moran and Jarrett Birch and sophomore midfielder Pat Felstedt each had a goal and an assist.

“We just wanted to win,” Klodowski said. “We just wanted to work harder than them, see what they have and kill them at it.”

Junior attackman Ryan Reynolds led Barnegat with a goal and two assists while Gerena had a goal and an assist. Tristian Potts and sophomore defenseman Hunter Narozniak also scored for the Bengals while Kyle Kessinger made 11 saves.

Felstedt staked Manasquan to a quick 1-0 lead with a goal 1:20 into the game before the Bengals tied it on an extra-man opportunity midway through the first quarter. Although a defenseman, Narozniak plays on the man-up unit and scored by ripping a shot past Pollock off a feed from Reynolds at 6:27. The Warriors pulled in front 2-1 just under a minute later when Moran capitalized on a Barnegat miscue deep in its own end and shoveled a ground ball into the yawning cage.

The Warriors struck early once again to begin the second quarter when Klodowski found the back of the net off a pass from Moran at 10:52. The Bengals answered, however, when Reynolds made a great pass across the crease to Potts, who buried it at 9:11 to make it 3-2.

The score would stay that way until another early-quarter goal by Manasquan to begin the second half. The Warriors had 45 seconds of EMO time carry over from the second quarter, and although they did not score on the man-advantage, they held possession and extended their lead to 4-2 when Klodowski blasted one past Kessinger from just inside the restraining line at 11:12. Then at 8:14, Felstedt set up Tonkovich just in front of the crease to push the Warriors’ lead to 5-2.

“That three-goal cushion early in the second half was a nice amount of breathing room,” Cunningham said. “You say, ‘OK, we have some leeway to work if there’s a mistake.”

There weren’t many errors for Manasquan throughout the game, though. Reynolds cut the Bengals' deficit to 5-3 with a goal off a pass from Gerena at 2:12, but Manasquan pushed the lead to 7-3 with an unassisted goal by Birch at 9:26 of the fourth quarter and another by Tonkovich off a dish from Birch at 6:46.

The signature defensive sequence came just after Tonkovich’s goal when the Warriors were called for a 30-second penalty and a two-minute, non-releasable penalty simultaneously at 6:18. The man-down unit, led by senior Craig Miller, kept the Bengals off the scoreboard and preserved Manasquan’s four-goal advantage.

“That’s awesome showing that our defense can play with whoever and play under pressure,” Klodowski said.

Gerena scored with 1:38 to play, but that would be all the Bengals would get as the Warriors held on for a crucial divisional victory.

The next and potentially last major hurdle to the division title for Manasquan comes on Saturday against rival Wall.

“It’s a good divisional win and a tough win, and now we’re looking forward to Saturday and our rivalry game with Wall.”

 

BOX SCORE

No. 5 Manasquan 7, No. 9 Barnegat 4

Manasquan (9-2, 3-0) 2 1 2 2 — 7

Barnegat (3-2, 1-1)     1 1 1 1 — 4

GOALS - M: Chris Klodowski 2, Joe Tonkovich 2, Jarrett Birch, John Moran, Pat Felstedt; B: Ricky Gerena, Ryan Reynolds, Tristian Potts, Hunter Narozniak.

ASSISTS - M: Jarrett Birch, Pat Felstedt, John Moran: B: Ryan Reynolds 2, Ricky Gerena.

SAVES - M: Tom Pollock 14; B: Kyle Kessinger 11.

SHOTS - Barnegat 26-25.