ROSELLE, NJ – The three-game sample has displayed encouraging spots for the Gov. Livingston hockey team.

Senior forward Ryan Erickson scored, and classmate Nick Papa turned in another strong performance in making 30 saves, but the Highlanders were doomed by a late power play goal and empty net tally when they were edged by Montclair, 3-1, on Monday evening at Warinanco Rink in Roselle.

“We started off strong,” said first-year Gov. Livingston coach Michael Criscitello. “We had good energy and gave a strong effort, but Montclair is a good club. They’re tough and skate hard and put us on our heels a bit. We took a tripping penalty late in the game and being in the box doesn’t help.”

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Erickson converted off assists from Jack Norton and Carson Wahlers with 3:42 left in the first period to give Gov. Livingston a 1-0 lead.

Montclair responded with the tying goal early in the second period and the two clubs skated through the remainder of the stanza and late into the third locked in that 1-1 contest.

But the Mounties converted on their power play opportunity, with Brett Janifer scoring the first of his two goals with the extra-man to snap the tie and give the Essex County squad a 2-1 advantage. Criscitello pulled Papa for the extra attacker but Montclair sealed it when Janifer scored into the empty net with 14 seconds left.

At the other end the Highlanders created chances, but Montclair goalie Lucas Podvey was strong in turning aside 39 shots.

One impressive aspect that Criscitello has especially liked has been the sturdy play of Papa in goal.

“He’s been very strong,” the coach said. “He’s played well in every game for us and was just need to approach the little things better and pay attention to the details. We need to come back hard and play solid defense in front of our goal. But it’s still very early in the season.”

Gov. Livingston (1-2), which finished last season with a 5-15-2 record, opened the campaign with a 3-2 victory over Scotch Plains/Fanwood on Nov. 25 as freshman forward Matt Darata made his varsity debut with two goals, including the winning tally; Wahlers had a goal and Papa finished with 18 saves.

The Highlanders were then edged by Westfield, 3-1, four days later as Papa halted 24 shots and Zach Miller had the goal.

Now a key stretch looms for Gov. Livingston as it will play three games in a four-day stretch – Summit on Friday; Watchung Hills on Saturday; and Montclair Kimberley on Monday.

“Summit is very good, so that will be a tough test for us,” said Criscitello. “But I think having that many games against some good teams gets you into more of a good stride now. We need to be a little more physical and a little better in those one-on-one board battles. It will be a busy weekend for us.”​​​​​​​