Major Possession Advantage, Stingy Defense Lead No. 4 Wall to Dominant Win over No. 3 Southern
STAFFORD TOWNSHIP -- Offense: check.
Face-offs: double check.
Facing a fellow top-five team when it visited undefeated Southern Regional on Saturday morning, Wall put together its most complete effort of the season to author a statement-making victory.
The Crimson Knights, ranked No. 4 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, scored a dominant 8-1 road triumph over No. 3 Southern in a marquee Shore Conference non-divisional matchup thanks to a thorough all-phases effort. Senior midfielder Matt Dollive had a game-high three goals and two assists and freshman midfielder Michael Hoarle won 10-of 12 face-offs to lead the way, while Wall's defense and senior goalie Aiden Kessler held down a potent Southern Regional offense.
Junior midfielder Connor Moore and sophomore attackman Jack Meyer each scored twice and junior attackman John McCurry had a goal and an assist. Kessler finished with seven saves in front of a strong defensive effort spearheaded by senior defenseman Charlie Sasso, junior defensemen Billy Carr and Jack Belko, junior LSM Dominick Giglio, sophomore defenseman Michael D'Amico, and senior defensive midfielder Jake Davis.
"Coming into this game we knew Southern was going to be very physical and was coming in strong, undefeated with some good wins. And they have a big senior class so they have a lot of experience," said Wall head coach Victor Rivera. "Our guys were really hungry coming in. We knew this was a big one for us."
"I think we played together really well today," Sasso said. "The two-slides were on point and everybody trusted each other to stay with their man. It starts with Mikey winning face-offs and our offense possessing the ball, which they did perfectly today. I just thought it was an all-around great team win."
Dollive got the scoring started at 7:28 and McCurry made it 2-0 when it dodged from X off a restart and found the back of the net. Moore extended the lead to 3-0 less than a minute later as the Knights had the ball for the majority of the quarter thanks to Hoarle going 4-for-4 at the face-off X. Southern had a chance to cut into Wall's lead when Sasso was flagged for a two-minute, non-releasable hit to the head with 2:34 left in the quarter, but an errant pass was scooped up by Davis and Wall was able to run out the rest of the man-down to stay on top, 3-0.
"Mikey is going great," Dollive said. "The improvement he's shown since the Manasquan game is absurd. He has the will and he's hungry, and that's how we play at Wall."
"A tale of two games," Rivera said, referencing a 9-6 loss to Manasquan earlier this season where Wall barely had possession in the opening quarter thanks to Manasquan dominating the face-off X. "Against Manasquan we couldn't win the face-offs at all, especially in the first quarter. Mikey Hoarle has been working really hard at his craft the past couple weeks, really since that game. He's young and getting experience as he goes and this was a breakout game for him. If he can keep doing what he's doing, the sky is the limit for him."
The Crimson Knights' lead grew to 4-0 when Dollive dished inside to Meyer, who was able to beat Southern goalie Tyler Sininsky at 9:41 of the second quarter. Southern got on the board at 5:34 when Ryan Sininsky buried an unassisted goal and the score remained 4-1 at halftime. Wall had a two-minute EMO of its own that spanned the final 54 seconds of the first half and into the third quarter when Southern senior defenseman Nate Committee was flagged for an illegal hit to the head, but the Rams were able to kill that penalty off, as well.
Wall eventually stretched its lead to 5-1 when Dollve found enough room to unleash a left-handed blast that singed the twine behind Sininsky at 9:29 of the third quarter. Mayer made it 6-1 when he deflected in a pass from McCurry at 7:50. He was unable to corral the pass to the crease but when the ball hit off his stick it careened past Sininsky.
"We were expecting a zone at some point and thought in man they'd struggle against us," Dollive said. "Against the zone it's all about patience. Me and John were quarterbacking the offense and trying to be patient and smart on our looks. We don't want to rush anything and make a bad pass because they have a great offense with a lot of shooters. We wanted to value the ball and make the most of every chance we got."
Wall went back to the man-up less than a minute later when Committee was again flagged for a two-minute, non-releasable penalty. The Knights were able to capitalize when Dollive worked from X and found Moore on the crease for an easy goal that pushed the lead to 7-1. Southern had an EMO with 2:07 left in the quarter but Kessler made a pair of big man-down saves to keep the score 7-1.
The final tally came early in the fourth quarter when Sininsky made an excellent save right on the doorstep, but Southern couldn't find the ground ball and Dollive was able to secure it and score into the open net to put Wall up 8-1.
Wall is now 7-1 with its only loss being that 9-6 defeat to No. 2 Manasquan in the first week of the season. The Crimson Knights are talented and experienced playing in big games after reaching the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and the NJSIAA South Group 2 sectional final last season. The returning core and the newcomers are starting to gel.
"It's great momentum," Dollive said. "Southern is a great team, well-coached, tough kids. But ever since that Squan game we've been hungry. Practice has been intense, we've been working hard, and we came out here and it all fell into place."
"Coach (Dan) O'Heney has a saying that, 'It's early but it's getting late'," Sasso said. "Everything happens in the blink of an eye and now we're halfway through the regular season and it's going to be Shore Conference (Tournament) soon. It seems like a good time to get going and I think we've really turned a corner."
No. 4 Wall 8, No. 3 Southern 1
Wall (7-1) 3 1 3 1 -- 8
Southern (6-1) 0 1 0 0 -- 1
GOALS -- W: Matt Dollive 3, Connor Moore 2, Jack Meyer 2, John McCurry; S: Ryan Sininsky
ASSISTS -- W: Matt Dollive 2, John McCurry.
SAVES -- W: Aiden Kessler 7; S: Tyler Sininsky 8
SHOTS -- Wall, 31-25
FACE-OFFS -- W: Michael Hoarle 10-for-12; S: Kurt Falk 2-for-12
EXTRA-MAN OPPORTUNITIES -- W: 1-for-5; S: 0-for-2