MONTCLAIR, NJ - Every time that Montclair Kimberley Academy would make a move, Livingston ice hockey team would be right there to strike back.
That was the case for the first 14 minutes of the McInnis Cup semi-final battle on Wednesday night at Clary Anderson Arena.
The Lancers were tied with the Cougars at three, but Brendan Pepe would slip a shot by Livingston goalie Brian Lilien and instead of going into the first intermission tied, the Lancers were down 4-3.
And that would be a foreshadowing of things to come in the next two periods, especially the second. Livingston just could not put the pressure on goal like the Cougars who outshot the Lancers, 43-17 in the first two periods.
"He did a real nice job and has been playing well," said Livingston head coach Dave Conklin about Lilien who came back at the start of February after missing a month after suffering a torn hamstring.
Livingston would fall 9-3 in the Cup semi-finals and drop to 12-10-2 on the season.
Conklin was hoping to get a game in before the Public A state opener when they travel to Pascack Valley. Livingston is the 20th seed and the Indians are the 14th seed. The Lancers had faced Pascack Valley earlier in the season, falling 6-2 to the Indians. Conklin though believes his team will have a good shot of defeating Pascack Valley and moving to the next round.
Offensively against MKA on Wednesday, Tal Finberg led the way for Livingston with a goal and two assists. Along with Finberg, Lancers received goals from Seth Crockett and Adam Lanel. Lanel's goal knotted the score at three.
“He’s (Finberg) been playing real well and he plays his best when he gets other players involved,” said Conklin about the sophomore forward who has 15 goals and seven assists on the season.
Livingston's defense though just could not keep up with the likes of MKA's Mark Bowen and Eddie Haracz. Bowen notched a hat trick in the Cup battle.
The result was that Livingston found itself down 7-3 after 30 minutes.
While the Lancers played even in the third period, MKA took advantage of their chances with a pair of goals.
Coming into the contest Livingston knew they would have to bring their best. Not only had the Lancers lost to MKA the two times before, 6-2 and 4-2, but the Cougars were also rated one of the top teams in the state.
Conklin said that he talked to his team about starting out fast unlike the first two games against MKA where the Cougars jumped out to big leads. "We always talk about getting off to a good start," said Conklin who felt that his team gave its best. "I tell my team that I look for them to put a good effort and I think that they gave that tonight.”
After Montclair Kimberley scored a quick goal which Conklin called a bad goal in the first minute of the game, Finberg took advantage of a Cougars miscue just outside the Livingston blue line and skated down the ice and flipped a shot by Cougars goalie Ike Osbun to tie the game at one, five minutes into the game.
After MKA took a 2-1 lead three minutes later, Finberg fed Crockett who slipped it by Osbun to tie the game at two with six minutes remaining in the period.
After the Cougars Haracz knocked in a rebound with his body by Lilien for a 3-2 MKA lead, Finberg again helped the Lancers get the equalizer by feeding Lanel who shot it by Osbun and tied the game at three with four minutes remaining in the period.
With the remaining seconds tick off in the first period, Livingston looked like they were going into the first intermission with a tie but Pepe knocked a shot by Lilien and also put a wound in the Lancers confidence as Livingston was down 4-3 heading into the second period.
In the second period the Lancers could not take advantage of the remaining portion of a power play, but MKA would score three minutes into the second period for a 5-3 lead and Livingston would not get any closer.