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WALL TOWNSHIP – For the second straight night, goals were not coming easy for Middletown South thanks to some stiff competition from Manasquan and goaltender Conall Dougherty.

The emphasis from Eagles head coach Andrew Rosenbloom is what you might expect: get the puck deep, find ways to get shots to the net, crowd the crease, work hard in the corners, et cetera, et cetera. Middletown South did all those things, but as the game’s defining moment proved, sometimes a team just needs its star players to do their thing.

Junior forward Nate Block gathered the puck deep in his own end with 10 seconds left in the game and Manasquan clinging to a one-goal lead. There wasn’t time for much of anything so Block took the only viable option available, weaving his way through the Manasquan defense, dangling around the final defender and scoring the game-tying goal with 4.6 seconds on the clock to give Middletown South, ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, a thrilling and improbable 2-2 tie with No. 5 Manasquan on Wednesday night at Jersey Shore Arena.

“As soon as I saw it coming down I knew I was going to have to pick it up and skate because if I would have made a pass it would have slowed us down and we wouldn’t have been able to do anything with it,” Block said. “I knew I had to rush and I can’t believe I put that in. It was crazy.”

“You’re hoping there’s a stoppage so you can set something up but there wasn’t one in the last two and half minutes,” Rosenbloom said. “If there’s anybody you want with the puck there (he’s one of them). He just went right through everyone right to the net. He’s a special player.”

Block’s goal made it a literal role reversal from Tuesday night when Manasquan’s Braden Ryan scored with 12.9 seconds left as the Warriors rallied for a 3-3 tie. Two nights, two games, two ties on goals in the final 15 seconds.

“I just said to the guys after the game, ‘When have you ever seen something like that on back-to-back nights between the same two teams?’,” Rosenbloom said. “It’s two good hockey teams evenly match and both games were a battle where nothing came easy for either team.”

Block and Andreas Forand had Middletown South’s goals while junior goalie Jack Collings made 23 saves. Ryan had another goal for Manasquan, his third in two games, off a setup from Mike Farinacci to give Manasquan a 2-1 lead with 3:46 left in the second period. Vin Ferraro had Manasquan’s first goal, a power-play tally early in the first period. Dougherty was strong in goal, turning aside 29 shots.

Middletown South made a strong push in the third period, particularly in the first five minutes of the period, but couldn’t get one past Dougherty.

“It was annoying,” Block said. “We had so many chances to put one in; I almost had a breakaway that bounced over my stick twice. There were just so many tiny missed opportunities we had so it felt nice to finally get one of them in, especially at the end there.”

 

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