UNION, NJ - The Governor Livingston Highlanders boys hockey team defeated the Nutley Raiders, 5-1, in a slugfest on Friday night to advance in the Kelly Cup Tournament. With the win, Governor Livingston improved to 13-9-2 while Nutley fell to 7-13-2.
The Highlanders were led by a pair of sophomores in Carson Wahlers and Nick Papa. Wahlers posted a hat trick (three goals) to go along with one assist while Papa had 26 saves from his goalie spot. Junior Billy Alexander scored the team’s other two goals.
Saturday’s contest was an overall physical and tight checking game that was dominated by Governor Livingston. Several fights broke out on the ice as the match featured 14 penalties between the two squads. Those penalties included a little bit of everything from cross-checking to slashing and hooking.
That intensity even made its way into the stands as several verbal exchanges broke out between the fans.
Luckily, the Highlanders maintained their offensive efficiency throughout the contest.
Alexander got things rolling for the Highlanders with an early goal that was one of two Governor Livingston goals in the first period. Wahlers scored the other goal at the end of the period.
Physical play continued in the second period. The Raiders were clearly frustrated at their early deficit and inability to get the puck past Papa.
Wahlers broke the game open in the period when he outraced two Raiders up the side wall and scored top shelf for his second goal of the game to give his team a 3-0 lead.
With three minutes left in the period, Alexander essentially put the game out of reach with his second goal.
Nutley’s Gerard LaFiura’s goal at the end of the period temporarily stopped the bleeding for his team.
LaFiura’s goal injected new life into his squad as the Raiders took the game’s physicality to another level in the third period.
The Highlanders matched the Raiders’ physicality and never faltered defensively. And throw in the play of Papa, who quickly regained his composure after LaFiura’s goal, the Raiders didn’t have a chance.
Wahler’s third period hat trick proved to be the final dagger as the Highlanders hung on for hard-earned victory.
GL advances to the Kelly Cup semifinal round to play the winner of Sunday's matchup between Scotch Plains-Fanwood vs Johnson.
Editor's Note: Gov. Livingston junior Reilly Romanko contributed to this article. Reilly participates in the TAPinto Berkeley Heights intern program. To learn more about participating in the intern program please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.