NJS.com Staff Writer
HACKENSACK - Coming into its game with Ramapo on Tuesday night, the Ridgewood ice hockey team knew it would have to do some things differently if it had any chance of winning. The Maroons rolled the dice with their lines and the gamble paid off.
When Jesse Graham scored with 1.6 seconds left on the clock, Ridgewood had its most significant win in the past two years, handing the previously undefeated Raiders a 3-2 loss in a Northern Conference - White matchup. When the teams played earlier in the season (a 4-3 Ramapo win), the Maroons played a very physical game. This time around, they played a little more conservatively, relying on a forechecking and poke-checking game to disrupt the Raider offensive charge.
The ploy worked very well, as Ramapo never got into any kind of flow in the game, and even though the Maroons saw a 2-0 lead go by the boards, Ridgewood (6-5 overall, 4-3 in the division) was able to put together a last shot to win the game.
Maroon head coach Joe Michalski took another calculated risk in the final seconds, as he broke up his lines and put out his three best shooters up front, and "they made me look like a genius," he said.
He moved Graham onto a front line with Russ Grodin and Mike Cozza, and the trio combined for the winning score. Cozza began the play by keeping the puck in the offensive zone at the blue line on the left boards. He passed cross ice to Grodin, who was unmarked on the right side. Grodin then passed to Graham as he cut in front of the net, and the sophomore cleanly beat Ramapo goalie Dan Kraines from right in front for his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
"That's a tremendous win for us," Michalski added. "Ramapo (11-1-2 overall and a division-leading 5-1-2) is the king of the hill and to be able to knock them off is an important step for our team."
In some ways, the loss takes a little pressure off of the Raiders, at least in head coach Don Quarles' mind. "The last thing you really want to do is go into the playoffs undefeated. That's the kiss of death," he said.
"Ridgewood played a great game, and they never let us get into any kind of rhythm," he added. "We didn't play our "A" game, but that doesn't take away from Ridgewood. They absolutely deserved to win the game."
Using a very defensive posture that saw forwards backchecking as well as pokechecking, Ridgewood kept breaking up Ramapo rushes in center ice, and freshman goalie Mike Narvaez, making his third start of the season, saw very few strong shots on goal. He did make 20 saves, and was most impressive in a second period 5 on 3 Ramapo power play when he stopped four quality shots as Ridgewood killed off the penalty.
The Maroons also killed a penalty that was called with 3:46 to go in the game, and they were so effective at the pokecheck that Ramapo didn't get a shot on goal on that final man advantage.
The power play was much kinder to the Maroons, who scored on both of their man advantage chances in the game. The first came at 6:43 of the second period and it broke a scoreless tie. Pat Ryder sent Sam Graham into the zone on the right side, and Graham found Brian Peacock charging in from the left side. The soph notched his seventh goal if the year on a low shot to Kraines' stick side.
They took a 2-0 lead with three seconds remaining in the second power play chance, as Dan Layfield moved the puck to Jesse Graham. He found his brother in front and slotted his fourth of the season at 10:47 of the middle stanza.
The Maroons may have been caught napping a bit after that goal, as Robbie Rosenhaus won the faceoff to Matti Makela, who threw the puck into the Ridgewood zone. Shawn Lugo pounced on the loose puck in front of Narvaez and beat him with a quick wrist shot for his 19th goal of the season just 12 seconds after the second Maroon goal.
Ramapo was able to tie the game with 3:49 left on one of the few opportunities they had to move the puck in the offensive zone. Kaream Eraiba moved a pass from down low to Matt Corbin at the top of the left circle. His slap shot beat Kraines (13 saves) to the glove side for his third goal of the season.
Ridgewood goes right back at it on Wednesday night with a 7:15 encounter with Fair Lawn, and Michalski noted that, "they are another strong team in the division, and if we are going to make any kind of run, we have to continue what we did tonight, and that is play a full 45 minutes of solid hockey."
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