March 3, 2003
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Ridgewood's worst two periods followed by one of its best

Monday, March 3, 2003

By Jim McConville Staff Writer

HACKENSACK - Trailing 3-2 after two periods, the Ridgewood ice hockey team went to the locker room knowing that it had played what may have been its worst two periods in quite some time. The Maroons also knew they had one precious period to keep their season alive.

Whether it was the tenuous circumstances or some words of wisdom from head coach Joe Michalski, or a combination of both, the Maroons came out energized and scored twice in the first 50 seconds of the third period on the way to a five-goal outburst and a 7-3 win over Jefferson in the opening round of the state tournament.

The victory sends the 21st-seeded Maroons into the second round on Wednesday against 12th-seeded Clifton (12-6-6) out of the Central Conference Red Division. The game is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. start at Floyd Hall Arena in Montclair.

"For the first time all season, I felt we were short on effort in the first two periods," Michalski said after his team's come-from-behind win. "This was three games in five nights, including the overtime win (in the Northern Conference White Division semis against West Milford) which just killed us.

"It took a lot out of us, and we had no legs against Fair Lawn (a 3-0 title game loss on Friday night). The first two periods of that game was some of the best hockey you'll see, but we just got worn down, and we were very disappointed. We had a little bit of a hangover from that, but we came out in the third period and did what we had to do."

It began with the two seniors who have been so instrumental in Ridgewood's season, Russ Grodin and Mike Cozza. Grodin put a nice pass right on Cozza's stick in front of Falcon goalie Rhody Gramando and he beat him cleanly for his 19th goal of the season 32 seconds into the period.

Just 18 seconds later, it was Cozza making the sharp pass in front, this time to Jesse Graham, who finished off the play with his second goal of the game and 18th of the year, giving Ridgewood (15-9-1) a 4-3 lead.

The Maroons, owning all the momentum, added three more goals with Frank Lazzaro taking a Grodin feed and blasting a bullet from the right circle that Gramando had no chance on for his fourth of the year and second in two games at 3:29 of the third.

Sam Graham's shot from the right point rebounded to Grodin, who knocked in his 13th of the season at the 6:36 mark, and they finished up with an empty-netter, as Sam Graham unselfishly passed to Brian Peacock on a 2 on 1, and he tapped in his 12th of the campaign. Tom Ryder also had an assist on the score.

The Falcons (11-10-3), from the Haas Division of the Morris County League, came in as the 44th and last seed in the state tournament, but they hardly played like it early on. They opened the scoring at 3:11 of the first, with Scott Allemand putting one past Mike Narvaez off a scramble in front. Daniel Walker and Chris Katana picked up the assists.

Ridgewood came back to tie at 4:18, with the first line doing the damage. Jesse Graham got the power play goal, converting out of a pile in front, with Peacock and Sam Graham recording the assists.

Jefferson regained the lead on a power play goal of its own with a little bit of luck. Robert Mihok's dump-in shot went on goal, and Narvaez appeared to make the stop, only to have the puck skitter between the pads and over the goal line at 10:04. Gramando was credited with the assist on the goal.

Still stunned, the Maroons fell behind 3-1 at 12:17, as Theodore Battaglia went from left to right in front of Narvaez, taking a pass from Tim Herr and lifting on over the goalie as he fell backwards.

The Maroons got an important score from a momentum standpoint with 54 seconds left in the first period, as Peacock came down the right side and passed in front to Sam Graham, who beat Gramando low for his 10th of the year.

"Amazingly, the third period was our best defensive period," Michalski remarked, "and we get 22 shots on goal and five goals. Everything with this team generates from defense."

The Maroons have had to go without defenseman Pat Ryder, who is out for the season after surgery on his knee to repair a torn medial meniscus. Michalski added that, "we've missed Pat on defense, but we've gotten good efforts from guys who don't get called on a lot. That's why we're still playing."

Facing Clifton means trying to dent Mustang goalie Jason Zuck, considered by many to be one of the premier goalies in the state.

"If we play defense, we'll get offensive chances," Michalski noted. "I think it will be a good game."

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