NJS.com Staff Writer
HACKENSACK - With a 12-day break between games, the Pascack Valley ice hockey team was bound to have a bit of rust on the blades. The Indians didn't have the crispness they usually do, and Glen Rock came out and played what may have been its best overall game of the season to boot.
While the Indians struggled, they did not fall prey to the upset bug, as Andrew Redvanly scored twice and assisted on two others in leading Valley to a 5-2 win that pushed them a step closer to the Northern Conference Blue division title.
With a 9-0 division record (and an 11-2-2 overall mark), PV has 18 points, putting them four up on second place Mahwah (7-3 in the division) with a game in hand and three to play. A win in any of those three games (Indian Hills, Demarest or a season-ender against the Tunderbirds) would clinch the regular season championship as well as a promotion to the White Division for next season.
"You could see the effects of the layoff in our game," head coach Bruce Palmieri said, "but what I liked was that we didn't panic and just stayed the course. Earlier in the season, we would have turned frustration into bad penalties, but we were much smarter. That is a key thing we need to remember as we go further into the season now."
The opportunity for panic came early, as Redvanly had put the Indians up 2:31 into the game with an unassisted goal off a rush down the left side. The Panthers got a tying goal at 4:56, as Brian Hook found Davis Fusco with a pass at the right post that he poked home.
Where in the past this would be the point where Valley might have taken a penalty, it was the Rockers instead who ended up with a man in the box, and the Indians made them pay for it with the go-ahead goal at 9:46. Redvanly made a cross ice pass from the left board to Mike Finamore, standing at the right post, and he one-timed the pass just under GR goalie Josh Edsell for the 2-1 advantage.
Just 2:02 later, Valley went up 3-1 thanks to another nice pass from Redvanly, as he again went cross ice from left to right. This time, he found Mike Hodgman sitting to the right of Edsell at the post, and he hesitated a split second before depositing the goal under the pads.
Glen Rock looked to be back in the game at the 4:04 mark of the second period, as Chris Scerbo knocked a shot off the right post, with Phil Cazaban corralling the rebound pushing it past Eric Levin to make it 3-2 with a power play goal. Again at a crossroads, PV made a superb play, as Hodgman got the puck off the faceoff and passed to Redvanly, who rocketed a bullet past a stunned Edsell just seven seconds after the Panthers' score to make it 4-2.
"That was a killer," Glen Rock head coach Jon Schwartz said, "but overall, we played a strong three periods against a very good team, and it was probably the best three periods we've played all season and maybe even the last two years.
"We're one of just a handful of Group 1 schools playing hockey, and we are going up against much bigger programs than ours, and the kids know the deal but they are playing hard. Tonight, they played as a team, and that was a great sign."
Edsell, a freshman, had a strong game in goal despite seeing five go past him, as he made 30 saves, with a number of them thwarting the Indians. He stopped three clean breakaways and had at least six other quality saves. The only "soft" goal came in the final period, as Justin Lilli surprised him on the power play with a shot from outside the blue line along the right boards that beat him high on the glove side.
"Josh has had a knack of playing his best against the better teams," Schwartz said, "and he has been very consistent all season. He faces a ton of shots every game, and he's really done a fine job."
For Palmieri, it was nice to get the troops back on the ice, and it was a step towards the team's goal of winning the division. The Indians won the post-season Cup title last year, and the defense of the crown is the next step.
"We wanted to win the division and the cup," Palmieri explained, "and then we want to make a statement in the state tournament. We feel that, if we continue to play smart hockey, keep our guys out of the penalty box and play disciplined hockey, we can accomplish two or three rounds (in the states)."
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