December 18, 2002
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Goals come in bunches for Mahwah

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

By Rich Barton Staff Writer

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Mahwah goalie Ken Minassian stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced as the T-Birds improved to 4-1 on the season.

HACKENSACK - Holding a slim 2-1 lead late in the second period in its contest with Glen Rock, Mahwah needed an offensive spark as the Panthers began to take back the momentum. But the spark they got would be more like a lightning bolt that put the Glen Rock defense into a state of shock.

Mahwah put the game away by scoring on four consecutive shots spanning the end of the second and the beginning of the third period in cruising to a 7-1 triumph.

The game did not start off as well though for the Thunderbirds, as Glen Rock took it to their foe with a physical style of play. They were in the Mahwah zone for most of the period, drawing penalties and creating quality scoring chances.

The Panthers finally broke through the stingy Mahwah defense and forged a 1-0 lead on a slap-shot from the point by Pat Scerbo off of a cross-ice feed from Connor Cassin with 2:13 remaining in the period. Glen Rock seemed to have intensity and momentum on its side. But in hockey, that can change in seconds…and it did.

Off of the face-off following the Scerbo goal, Mahwah winger Dom Puzio stole the puck, raced in alone, and beat Josh Edsell to knot the score at one just seven seconds after the Panthers took the lead.

Glen Rock's Cosimo Tattoli took over in net for Josh Edsell in the third period.

"The first period was one of the best we played all year, especially defensively," said Glen Rock head coach Jon Schwartz. "We had a lot of scoring chances, a lot of shots. I thought for the better part of two periods we played even up with them. But then the wheels came off."

Mahwah took the lead for good midway through the second when Tim Gerber drew a defender and hit Laurence Eng in the slot, who tucked it past Edsell.

Glen Rock picked up its play offensively behind right winger Jay Larkin. Larkin, who was the Panthers' most consistent offensive threat all night, had two quality scoring chances to score in a three-minute span after Eng's goal.

He would first use his speed to skate around two defenders and get a good shot off, but Ken Minassian was there to make the save. Minassian foiled Larkin once again minutes later on a 2-on-1 breakaway.

Mahwah's Nick Bassing carrying the puck out of the back.

Then Eng took advantage of a miscommunication on the defensive end, took a pass behind the net from Puzio and, when no Panther came to play the puck, he wrapped one around in front and scored easily to make it 3-1 with 3:06 remaining in the third.

The flurry continued just 55 seconds later when Dan Tejada skated along the boards on the right side of the ice and threw a shot on net from just inside the blue line. The puck knuckled its way just under the waffle of Edsell and into the side netting for a more comfortable 4-1 lead after two periods.

"You have to continue to put pressure on the puck and we fell into their style of play a little bit," said Eng. "We have great goaltending and a great defense. Our lines just have to do the job. Although we got it done tonight, we have to start much stronger than we did. The momentum shift was huge for us. If we can come out strong and stay away from the chippy penalties, we should have a good season."

The most defining moment of the game came early in the third period. Forward Nat Probert and defenseman Mike Donohue were diligent in keeping the puck in the Mahwah zone for nearly two minutes. But despite getting off three of its six shots in the period during that stretch, Glen Rock couldn't slide any of them past the rock-solid Minassian.

Mahwah's Steve Taub setting up shop in the offensive zone.

A Glen Rock goalie change could not stop the onslaught of the Thunderbirds. They continued to fly up and down the ice in the third period and countered Glen Rock's flurry with one of their own. The Thunderbirds found the back of the net and put the game away on their first two shots of the third period.

Dave Tippner got things going with a blast from the point and Wes Roener followed with a wrister from the slot to put Mahwah up 6-1. Tim Gerber added a late short-handed goal for the T-Birds.

"The good thing tonight was that we were strong defensively and turned it on when we were in some trouble," said Mahwah head coach Sean Devine. "While we killed off a bunch of penalties, we were taking stupid ones. We were fortunate that Ken (Minassian) and the defense bailed us out until we got going offensively. Right now though for the most part, we're playing great. As long as we can get more shots on net than our opponents, we're pretty confident about our chances of winning."

Despite outshooting Glen Rock by only a single shot, 18-17, Mahwah improved to 4-1 on the season behind a bevy of steady offensive performers. Stern defense from Jay Pollack, Nick Benning, and Minassian (16 saves) were also main contributors in the win.

Connor Cassin had the assist on Glen Rock's lone goal.

Glen Rock dropped to 2-4 on the young season, but the future does look bright for the Panthers. In their second year of existence, they have already matched their win total from all of last season.

"I don't have a single complaint about how hard we work," said Schwartz. "We work our butts off every day, but we still have to cut down on our silly mistakes. They seem to pile up and it's tough to get them back. Mahwah is a good team and you have to capitalize on the opportunities you get."

"To put it frankly, when you go 0-for-7 on the power-play, you're not going to win too many hockey games," Schwartz added. "We just needed to get more shots on the power-play and that goes with winning face-offs, which we didn't do tonight. We'll bounce back right away though. This is a team of strong, coachable kids who are willing to work and you can't ask for more than that as a coach."

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