HACKENSACK - After an 11-1 win over Hackensack the previous night, Paramus ice hockey head coach Vince Nardo was not pleased with the way his team played. He felt that, despite the lopsided score, his team was sloppy and did not give its best.
Fast forward 24 hours to Friday night, and it was a different Paramus team that went out and won the Ice House Christmas Tournament with a 7-2 defeat of rival Paramus Catholic. The Spartans defended their Ice House title of a year ago and won the holiday tournament for the third time in four years.
In the third place game, Kinnelon (4-0-2) got two goals each from Justin Lindsay and Ryan Lauritsen as they eased to a 10-3 win over River Dell (1-7). Dan Colucci and Chris Ciao each had a goal and two assists, while Gary Grebowitz, Darell Garangelo, Paul Giubardo and Pat Smith each scored once for the Colts, who beat Paramus Catholic 3-1 on Thursday but lost the tiebreaker in the pool play between PC and Pascack Valley (all three were 1-1) based on goals allowed. Jason McDermott, Joe McFadden and Jeff Leon scored for the Golden Hawks.
It was a case of early and often that all but determined the game, as Paramus scored 38 seconds into the game and held a 3-0 lead 7:548 into the first period. The Spartans extended the advantage to 5-0 early in the second and cruised home.
"This is probably the strongest overall team we've had," Nardo commented. "Everybody is contributing. Where in the past it was a Mike Williams or the Scholtz brothers who carried us, now we're getting it from everyone. When we're on, we're on."
They were definitely on against a Paladin team that did not bring its best game to the finals. It showed on the first goal, when the defense got caught a bit up ice. Rich Galgano sent a pass out of the Paramus zone to Joel Miller at the Paladin blue line, and he came in alone on PC goalie Chris Ceransky and beat him cleanly.
Justin Sicari made it 2-0 as he put home a cross ice pass just to the right of the goal for his second goal of the season, with assists from Bryan Smith and Anthony Massari. Freshman Marc Palestina then got the third Spartan goal, his second of the year, as he picked up a loose puck in the Paramus Catholic zone and wristed on past Ceransky from in front. John Rizer and David Magarro were credited with assists.
Galgano then scored the next two Paramus goals, the first coming when his shot from behind the net hit Ceransky's skate and trickled over the line. Miller got an assist at 11:48 of the first, then he scored on the power play 1:44 into the second period. Tom Schmelzer and Sicari had shots saved by Ceransky, but Galgano pounced on the second rebound for his sixth goal of the season.
"I like to rush the puck when I get the opportunity," Galgano said, "and it doesn't happen every game, but tonight it was there."
Paramus Catholic (2-7-1) broke the shutout when Eric Morin took a clearing pass from Mike Aitken that eluded a Spartan skater and came in alone on goalie Denny Wirth, poking one low and under the pads at the 2:50 mark for his fourth of the year.
Miller got that one back at 8:52, converting assists from Galgano and Scott McNerney. He tapped it in off a crossing pass for his 10th goal of the season to give Paramus a comfortable 6-1 lead after two periods. The score came against Nick Mauriello, who replaced Ceransky in goal with 9:37 to go in the second period.
The teams traded goals in the third period, with PC's Jared Canastrale scoring his first of the year off an assist from Jesse Phillips and Smith notching his ninth of the season on nice passes from McNerney and Miller that set him up alone in front of the net.
"It's a big thing," Nardo said of the three wins over the holidays. "Rich (Galgano) is playing great. He's turning into a solid two-way player and he's scoring more than he has in the previous three years. The first line (Miller, Smith and McNerney) is playing great as well, averaging like six points a game.
"With the third line being two freshman and a sophomore, and a junior in goal who is a first-year varsity player, we had a lot of things up in the air at the beginning of the season, but we're 7-2-1 and its coming together."
The Spartans owned a 36-19 edge in shots, with Ceransky saving 12 and Mauriello 17. Wirth turned aside 18 Paladin shots. Paramus was 1 for 2 on the power play, while PC went 0 for 3.
The attention now turns to the Northern Conference Red Division, where Paramus is in a fight with Pope John and Don Bosco for the regular season title. The Spartans tied Pope John 3-3 and lost 3-2 in back-to-back games earlier this year, and they lost a 3-1 game to the Ironmen two weeks ago.
"We started off 4-0 and then we struggled a little bit against Pope John and Don Bosco," Galgano added, "but hopefully we'll get a chance to play them (Pope John) again in the post season and we still get Bosco one more time."
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