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TOMS RIVER – Poised with the puck, aggressive on the forecheck, positionally sound in their own zone; when Central Regional is going right, that is the kind of game the Golden Eagles will display on a daily basis. Through four games, they’ve played their brand of hockey and the scoreboard has reflected their efforts.

Junior forward Mark Anthony Competello scored twice and senior goalie Nick Bilinski made 26 saves as the Golden Eagles shut out rival Toms River East/South, 3-0, in a Shore Conference South Division game on Wednesday afternoon at Winding River Skating Center. Senior center Trevor Coltenback added a goal, his fifth of the season, and Central continued its great start to the season to improve to 4-0.

“With the shortened season and the shortened amount of time, we’ve tried to get on the ice as much as we can and work on positioning in all three zones and our forecheck,” said Central head coach Joe Pelliccio. “We pound that into them. We just try to stay consistent no matter what is going on.”

“We come out playing hard every single game, forecheck and the backcheck,” Competello said. “Both lines, the defense, Nick, all played very well today.”

Although Central has scored 22 goals through its first four games, the Golden Eagles are not a flashy team. Their success has been more about a lack of glaring weaknesses than overwhelming strengths, and that is a product of tenacious and relentless work and playing smart hockey. A great example of that came late in the first period when senior defenseman Brady Steller was called for a five-minute major for boarding. Toms River East generated some chances, but Central kept the Raiders from getting any high-quality opportunities. The penalty kill was simple and efficient and went by without a goal allowed.

“We don’t try to do too much,” Competello. “It was a very good kill. We just got the puck out when we had the chance, didn’t try to dangle at the blue line or anything like that.”

In all, Central’s penalty killers were a perfect 3-for-3, thwarting Toms River East’s best chances to crack the scoreboard. The Golden Eagles were certainly the better team 5-on-5 and generated many second-chance opportunities due to a strong forecheck and defensemen making smart and timely choices of when to pinch.

The first goal of the game came from good work along the boards. Both Mark Anthony Competello and Dom Competello battled for the puck before sophomore Dom Wiatrowski came in to support the play. As a Toms River East player gained control of the loose puck, Wiatrowski disrupted his possession enough for the puck to pop free to Competello at the right face-off dot. There was a sliver of room on the short side above the shoulder of Toms River East goalie Dominick McKeon but Competello was able to hit the mark with a perfect shot, giving Central a 1-0 lead at 4:07 of the first period.

Early in the second period after killing off the remaining 19 seconds of the five-minute major, Central had consecutive shifts where they dominated the offensive zone. Only several key saves from McKeon kept it a one-goal game. The Golden Eagles’ advantage would soon grow to 2-0, however. Bilinski made two big saves before Coltenback was able to gain possession around his own blue line. Moving with speed through the neutral zone, a brief odd-man rush developed that allowed Coltenback to enter the zone without being pressured. He elected to shoot and his wrist shot beat McKeon low to the blocker side at 4:31 of the second period. Central took that 2-0 lead into the second intermission.

Toms River East went to work on another power-play early in the third period but Central’s penalty-kill unit was up to the task again. Bilinski made his best save of the game when he slid to his right to stop a one-timer. Central’s defense did a good job keeping Toms River East’s chances to the outside, but when the Golden Eagles needed a big save Bilinski came through.

“He came in as a freshman and has been our starter since he was a sophomore,” Pelliccio said. “We go as Nicky goes and we’re blessed to have him.”

Competello then put the game away with an empty-net goal with 2:43 left in the game.

In 2021, just stepping on the ice is a victory in itself. There are currently nine Shore Conference programs shut down because of COVID-19 exposure and more who have lost games because of their opponents’ inability to compete. And because there will be no NJSIAA state tournaments and no Shore Conference cup championships, the only tangible reward area teams can shoot for is to win their division. The Golden Eagles have certainly put themselves in a position to do just that, but they won’t look that far ahead.

“Just like the old sayings, we’re thinking about the next period, the next game,” Pelliccio said. “Head down, doing what you’re supposed to, playing a certain way. If we do that, the goals and the wins will take care of themselves.”


Box Score

Central 3, Toms River East/Toms River South 0 

Central (4-0, 3-0)1113
Toms River East (2-2, 1-2)0000



First Period

CR – Mark Anthony Competello, 4:17


Second Period

CR – Trevor Coltenback, 4:31


Third Period

CR – Mark Anthony Competello, 12:17 (EN)


SAVES – CR: Nick Bilinski, 26; TRE/S: Dominick McKeon, 24; Aryalis Markland, 9.

SHOTS: Central, 35-26

POWER-PLAY: Central, 0-1; TRE, 0-3.


Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights. 



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