On a Roll: Southern holds off Wall for fourth straight win
By Casey Krish - Shore Sports Network Contributor
TOMS RIVER – Sure, you win hockey games by scoring more than your opponent. If only it was that simple. Southern Regional needed more than its scoring ability to triumph on Wednesday afternoon.
The Rams also required discipline and composure.
Southern shook off a late goal seconds before the second intermission buzzer and an early third-period, five-minute major penalty to hold off Wall Township, 4-2, in a Shore Conference Central Division game at Winding River Skating Center.
It is the Rams’ fourth straight win since opening the season 0-2.
“We started the season slow, losing to Toms River South-East and Middletown South during the opening week of the season,” said first-year Southern head coach Graham Borg. “In both those games, we were competitive but ultimately unable to put the puck in the net.”
Despite the slow start to the season and a two-week layoff, the Rams feel that they have found their collective game and are ready to continue their path to March.
“It took a while to gel as a team and get our lines to mix. Now we are at that point where things are starting to click,” Borg said. “It’s disappointing that there aren’t any Shore or state playoffs to aim for, but we are just taking it a game at a time and trying to stay healthy and keep playing.”
It was safe to question how Southern would look coming out of the gates. The Rams defeated No. 10 St. Rose/Donovan Catholic/Red Bank Catholic on Tuesday afternoon and now had to take on a physical Wall team less than 24 hours later. The team had also only competed on one other instance since Jan. 22.
“You never know what to expect when your team hasn’t been able to skate for a while,” Borg said. “We knew we had to be at our best heading into Tuesday (St. Rose) and of course tonight (Wall). Of course, we want to have the kids come to the rink and have fun, but obviously, it’s even more fun when you are getting results, especially against teams of this caliber.”
Whatever question of rust might have existed was quickly expelled, as Southern came out swarming the puck and causing Wall goalie Joe Hooper to make numerous saves to keep the game scoreless.
Southern had fired eight shots on goal over the first 5:54 of the game, with Hooper needing to be at the top of his game to keep the Crimson Knights from falling into an early hole.
“I think the break might have actually helped us. We had a rough start to the season,” said junior forward Chris Laureigh. “We all came into that game (vs. St. Rose) focused and ready to play and that definitely carried over into tonight.”
The Rams finally cracked the scoreboard just 1:23 into the middle stanza when Laureigh took a shot from the left circle and the rebound came right to Parker Lech. The senior tapped home his first of the year to stake claim to a 1-0 edge.
Just 3:29 after breaking the ice, Brooks Hradek made a similar pass and this time it was Laureigh on the receiving end of the play to double the lead to 2-0.
“I got the pass from Brooks and had the right side of the net open,” Laureigh said. “I just decided to take the shot rather than making a move on the goalie and luckily it went in.”
Hradek would also find the net before the period came to a close. Lech and Laureigh got credit for the helpers on the goal.
“That line has been so big for us,” Borg said. “They have been on the ice for us In big situations so far this season and they are certainly deserving of continuing that going forward.”
The ice seemed to be tilting toward Wall’s end and it appeared as if Southern would cruise to the win, but Lucca Infozino crashed the net and tucked home a backhand shot past sprawled out goalie Trey Mattern with just 14 seconds remaining until the ice cut.
“We can’t take a shift off or have any lapses in intensity,” Borg said. “That one goal late in the second period lets them back into the game a little bit. We told them during the intermission that we can’t sit back on this two-goal lead, because once you do that is when the letdowns start happening.”
Wall had its best chance three minutes into the final period when Southern was whistled for a major penalty (hit to the head) that put the Knights on a five-minute power-play.
Anthony Campisano started the power-play off on the right foot, cutting the deficit in half with still 3:37 remaining in the man-advantage. However, that would be as close as Wall would get.
“They bang one in and make it a game again on the power play, but our penalty killers were up to the task there,” Borg said. “They had plenty of chances to tie it up even after we killed the penalty. Our defense came up big tonight and our goalie plays on his head and has a great game.”
Mattern got the start in net for Southern and made 30 saves for his first win of the season.
“Trey made some big saves for us tonight when Wall was able to make some pushes at us,” Borg said. “He was a big part of our win.”
Laureigh potted an empty-net goal to account for the final tally. Yater Henry was given an assist.
Hooper made 32 stops in the loss.
“It was all about composure when it seemed the game could get away from us,” Laureigh said. “We just had to gather ourselves and play a fundamentally sound and successful period. Kill the penalty, keep the puck in deep, and get off the ice when you are tired.”
“Yeah, it was all about our composure tonight.”
Southern 4, Wall 2
SR: Parker Lech (Chris Laureigh), 1:23
SR: Chris Laureigh (Brooks Hradek), 4:42 (SH)
SR: Brooks Hrdaek (Parker Lech, Chris Laureigh), 9:41
W: Lucca Infozino (Patrick DeMarinis, Jack Beattie), 14:46
W: Anthony Campisano (Glenn Brand), 4:27 (PP)
SR: Chris Laureigh (Yater Henry), 14:53 (EN)
SAVES – SR: Trey Mattern, 30; W: Joe Hooper, 32
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