ROSELLE, NJ- The Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders varsity ice hockey team had a night filled with many accomplishments. First up was a Senior Night Ceremony honoring their 2019 senior players prior to the Wednesday night game against the Bayonne High School Bees at Warinanco Park in Roselle.
Captains Matt Along and Jason Applini, alternate captain Tyler Mekovetz, along with Mike Alongi, Jaysen Rossilli andTommy Gesior were honored in a pregame ceremony for their years of hard work and dedication in the Johnson ice hockey program.
Despite the tough season the team has had, they earned the praise of their coaches for all the hard work over the years.
“This group of seniors always come on game day ready to work and ready to grind it out, regardless of the outcome,” Johnson head coach Bryan Klimchak said. “They’re always leaving it out on the ice. You never have to question whether or not they’re going to put the puck in the back of the net.”
“They want to pick each other up when they’re falling down,” he added.
For the players, they describe their time with the program as making memories and friendships as the years went by.
“It was fun,” Rossilli said. “It was quite the experience and I learned a lot.”
“We’re a really tight-knit team and consider ourselves family here,” Gesior said. “We just love playing with each other day-in and day-out. It all becomes part of the sequence. I’m definitely going to miss it. I know the other seniors will.”
As for the game, the Crusaders overcame an early 4-2 deficit, receiving a shorthanded goal from Matt Alongi and six goals from junior Nick Galati, countering six goals from Bayonne’s Billy Parsley to outlast the Bees 9-6 in a high-scoring match.
The Crusaders and Raiders played a tight and fast-moving first period, with the teams skating hard, but the chances weren’t coming at a quick pace. The Crusaders got on the board with a goal from Mekovetz at 5:25 of the first period, giving his team a 1-0 lead. Bayonne would quickly respond and then take the lead after two goals from Billy Parsley to go ahead 2-1.
Johnson quickly answered with the game-tying goal from Nick Galati just 16 seconds later as the teams went into the first intermission tied at 2-2.
Parsley would be the only source for his team on offense and scoring, scoring two goals to give his team a 4-2 lead, the scores in the second period coming at 2:32 and 6:42. Trailing by two goals, Johnson would be ready to get back into position in the game.
Galati’s second goal of the night cut the Bayonne lead to 4-3 just 27 seconds later. Later in the period, while on the power play, the Crusaders got another score. Mekovetz tied the game at 4-4 with a power-play goal at 12:01 of the second period.
Some highlights for Mekovetz this season include recording his 100th career point on December 5 against Cranford and scoring his 100th career goal on January 14th, also coming against Cranford in the Union County Cup First Round.
“This season was one of a kind,” Mekovetz said. “We fought through some games. We keep pushing, no matter what. We always stick it to the end. For my 100th goal and 100th point, it was really a team effort. I just want to thank everybody on the team.”
Shortly after the game-tying score, Johnson found themselves on the penalty kill following an interference penalty being assessed to Jason Applin. Matt Alongi found himself with the puck and a chance to speed on net. He fired away while in alone on a breakaway and cashed in.
His go-ahead shorthanded goal came at 13:50 of the second period, giving Johnson a 5-4 lead as the teams went into the second intermission.
“That was amazing,” Matt Alongi said of his shorthanded goal. “We were down most of the game, came back and then we were down again. To score that goal to give us the lead was really great.”
As the third period began, Galati powered the Crusaders by scoring the first two goals of the third period for his team and in the process, accomplished a milestone. His fourth goal of the evening (second of the third period) was his 100th career point, with Johnson now ahead 7-4.
The goals came at 0:21 and 3:24 of the period. He was presented with a poster after the game.
“It was the perfect time for it to happen,” Galati said. “All season, I’ve been looking forward to it. That was my goal, to get my 100 [career] points. All the seniors played good tonight and they carried through and helped me get my points.”
Bayonne wasn’t ready to concede, and Parsley kept his team’s chance alive. He scored his fifth and sixth goals of the evening coming 44 seconds apart, making it 7-6 Johnson with 4:43 left in the third period.
Needing a cushion to their lead, Galati came through, making it 8-6 Johnson with his fifth goal coming with 2:43 left in the third period. His sixth goal came on an empty-net goal at 13:42 of the third period, capping an offensive slugfest for the win.
With a win on Senior Night in the books, some of the seniors reflected upon their years with the program.
“It’s been great between freshman year and the seniors then [2016 seniors] to the seniors and freshmen [Class of 2022] now,” Applin said. “We’ve all grown as a family and consider ourselves a family. That’s our motto. It’s just great to have everyone here.”
“It’s meant a lot playing with some of the closest friends I have,” Mike Alongi said. “We all grew up together and it’s a great experience to do well in some seasons and come out with some big wins.”
The Johnson Crusaders (4-11-1) return to action to play against West Essex HS next Wednesday night at Warinanco Park at 6:45 p.m.
The Bayonne Bees (5-11-1) will return home to take on Newark East Side HS Friday night at 7:15 p.m.