MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ - No matter how you look at it, it was a historic night for the Chatham boys ice hockey team and senior goalie Jennifer Olnowich.
Up until there was 2:42 left in the game, Olnowich appeared on the way to earning the win as the first girl to play varsity ice hockey for the boys team at Chatham. It was history in the making.
Aidan Niceberg, however, put his own mark on the game when he scored two goals in a 90-second span, the second with 1:12 showing, to pull the Dodgers even in the 3-3 season-opening tie played Saturday night at Mennen Sports Arena.
"I think we stopped playing a little at the end and it cost us," Olnowich, who ended with 22 saves, said. "It was fun to play for my school. That was really exciting for me and all my friends were there, which was nice. I would have liked to have won. I think I played well. There is always some you think back on that you could have stopped. I'll just keep working, so I can get a shutout next time."
The Dodgers had taken a 1-0 lead in the opening period on Cormac McNamara's breakaway goal. Chatham's offense came to life late in the second period when Will White put away a pass from Tim Triano for the Cougars' first goal of the season (see below) with 3:57 left in the period.
Will White scores the first goal of the season for Chatham
Tommy Sennett followed with a hard angle shot from side off a pass from Ryan Mancino that staked the Cougar to a 2-1 edge with 1:28 showing.
Spencer Spagnuolo then converted a pass from Ryan Sordillo with half a second left in the second for a 3-1 Chatham lead.
"I thought we played a good game with some minor breakdowns here or there," Chatham coach Brendon Herr said. "We called timeout there (with a 3-2 lead) and tried to draw up some responsibilities for 6 on 5. We have to look at the film, but somewhere it broke down where the guy was standing there by himself. With a group of new faces like this, trying replace 14 seniors, it's hard to get on the same page with just three weeks of the preseason.
"I thought our goaltending was really good. She made some key saves at key times. We just have to try and simplify our game, especially with a 3-1 lead in the third. She's played with most of them during the club season. They rallied around her."
The tie felt like a loss for Chatham since it had built a 3-1 lead and held Madison without a goal during the Dodgers' two-man advantage in the second period. But the Cougars were unable to capitalize on a five-minute power play of its own, also in the second.
"Definitely not what we were looking for there," senior captain Dan Mahoney said of the tie. "The effort was there, but our play kind of changed in the third. We needed to do things like get the puck out quickly, things we just didn't do. They capitalized on it.
"I think (Olnowich) had a good game. First period she had two breakaways, one went in, one didn't. She had 25 shots and only let three in. That's a good percentage."
Jen Olnowich makes the glove save for Chatham
Jen Olnowich defends the goal for Chatham during Madison's two-man advantage power play