Hurley's Goal 26 Seconds into Overtime Wins it for Caseys
By Mike Ready
RED BANK – Red Bank Catholic junior forward Griffin Hurley’s fifth goal of the season, 24 seconds into overtime, handed the top-seeded Caseys a 2-1 victory over fourth-seeded Point Pleasant Boro sending them into the finals of the inaugural Shore Conference Hockey Tournament.
Casey junior defenseman Matt Chinnici worked the puck deep into their offensive zone, where junior forward Todd Goehring picked it up. Goehring then clanged a shot off the post to set the play in motion.
“I came down the middle and my wing Todd Goehring put the puck in front trying to sneak one in,” Hurley said. “I happened to be in the right spot at the right time. Max (Weber) was in front digging and I just got to the puck and poked it in.”
“This is the biggest goal of my career; such a great feeling,” Hurley added. “Words can’t describe it, it’s so good knowing that it was my goal, and the team depended on me. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The Thursday afternoon contest, played at the Red Bank Armory was a very entertaining game with end-to-end action, highlighted by superb goal tending by both net minders.
Point Boro goalie Nate Bissey was magnificent in goal using his glove and pads instinctively to turn away 41 shots by the Caseys, with at least half of them coming from point-blank range.
“It seemed like we had at least sixty shots on goal,” Red Bank Catholic coach Ken Carlson said. “Their goal tender played terrific, we had some good opportunities in front that he made incredible saves on. They’re a very good team, a disciplined team that played well in front of the net.”
Senior goalkeeper Michael Cosentino had 29 saves for the Caseys and matched Bissey save-for-save in a brilliant performance. He has allowed only five goals in three Shore Conference Tournament games to this point.
“Cos was great, Cos was tremendous,“ Carlson said. “Cos has stolen games for us this year and he continued to make outstanding stops today for us. I couldn’t have expected anything more from him this year than he’s given us.”
Point Boro boasts three of the top scorers in the Shore Conference in junior Owen Harrington (23 goals, 33 assists for 56 points) and seniors Steven Kovaleski (27-33-60) and Chris McDermott (28-24-52), but the Caseys defense, led by Chinnici, and seniors Stephen Flego and Kevin Stickle shut them down holding them to one assist by Harrington.
“All three of those guys played very well,” Carlson said. “They did a great job back there getting the puck out of the zone and creating shots; we played a very good defensive game.”
Point Boro had a goal disallowed at 11:08 of the first period after Kovaleski’s pass from behind the net found Herrington stationed just outside the crease who then lifted the puck past Cosentino for the apparent goal. However, the referee had simultaneously whistled the play dead when the goal post was knocked loose off its base.
Stickel got the Caseys on the board first at 9:53 of the first period, blasting a high-rising wrist shot from the point that found its way through traffic in front of the crease and over the left shoulder of a screened out Bissey for a 1-0 lead.
At the 7:50 mark of the first, Kovaleski had a breakaway and what a appeared to be a free path to the goal, but Flego came out of nowhere to catch Kovaleski and knock the puck away before he could attempt a shot.
Flego was called for a penalty on the play, but the Caseys killed penalty to preserve the 1-0 lead. Hurley had a chance for a short-handed goal but Bissey made a nice glove save for the stop.
With both teams now back at even strength, Herrington centered a pass from behind the net to junior Lance Nelson just outside the crease and Nelson lifted the puck over Cosentino’s right shoulder to knot the game at one apiece at 5:37 of the first.
The period ended tied at one with the Caseys holding a 9-8 advantage in shots on goal, but the game was played pretty much even up to this point.
The second period remained scoreless, but Red Bank Catholic seemed to take control of the game except for a flurry of Panther shots toward the end of the period. The Caseys outshot the Panthers 18-11 in the period but couldn’t get anything past the near flawless Bissey.
Seconds into the third period, Stickle had Bissey moving in the wrong direction but was wide right on an open net missing on what was one of the few Bissey misplays on the night.
Bissey stopped Goehring all alone out in front with another stellar stop at the 7:00 mark and frustrated him again at 5:15 as Goehring tried to push one by him. The Panthers countered with a couple shots on goal but time was winding down and becoming a factor.
The Caseys had the man advantage for two minutes at 4:59 with a chance to put the game away but came up empty handed as the Panthers back checked and sent the puck up ice flawlessly to kill of the penalty.
Red Bank Catholic continued to pressure the Panthers but couldn’t get anything past Bissey as he thwarted one Casey attack after another and the two teams headed to overtime and Hurley’s heroics.
The Caseys outshot the Panthers 43-30 for the game.
“We just had to stick to our game plan,” Carlson said. “We kept getting pucks to the net and eventually we knew it was going to pay off for us.”
The Caseys (18-1-3), ranked No.19 in the state and No. 2 in the shore, will move on to face sixth-seeded Howell in the Shore Conference finals, Saturday night at the Middletown Ice World. The first puck will be dropped at 7:00 p.m.
“We’re going to come out hard for Howell,” Hurley said. “We’ll continue to play our game and come out as hard as we did today.”
Meanwhile, the Panthers (16-3-2), ranked twentieth in the state and third in the shore, will prepare for the first round in the NJSIAA Public B bracket. The Panthers, seeded No.8 will face No.25-seeded Ramapo 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Ocean Ice Palace. The No.8 seed the Panthers were designated is the highest seed the program has received in its 11-year history.