ROSELLE, NJ- The Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders varsity ice hockey team honored their 2018 senior players prior to their game Wednesday night against the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Raiders at Warinanco Park in Roselle.
Co-captains Mike Adamowitz and goaltender Karol Wieczorek, along with Dylan Bohm, Dan Zatko, Brenner Gull, Dylan Ringwood were honored in a pregame ceremony for their years of hard work and dedication to the Johnson ice hockey program.
Klimchak was in his second season as head coach of the Johnson ice hockey team when the senior players began their high school careers.
“It’s absolutely incredible. Coach Klimchak especially, has really turned the program around,” Adamowitz said. “He’s really turned it around and to be a part of that turnaround is really special to me. To see the success we’ve been able to create means a lot.”
For the players, they describe their time with the program as making memories and friendships as the years went by.
“It’s meant a lot to me,” Ringwood said. “I played four years here and have been playing hockey my whole life. These guys are like my brothers. I created a lot of memories and had a lot of fun over the years.”
“I picked up hockey as a freshman. I never played a single game in my life and the team welcomed me with open arms,” Zatko said. “I really learned a lot from Coach Klimchak and grew as a player and as a person because of ice hockey.”
As for the game, despite a valiant effort, the Crusaders tied the game at 2-2 with 2:42 left in the third period but allowed the game-winning goal 18 seconds later, losing to the Raiders by a final score of 4-2.
The Crusaders and Raiders played a tight first period, with the teams skating hard, but the chances weren’t coming at a quick pace. The Raiders got on the board with a goal from senior Jonny Scheer at 13:19 of the first period, giving his team a 1-0 lead that they held at the first intermission.
In the second period, Johnson got a power play, with Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s Jack Hosmer in the penalty box for a high-sticking penalty.
Johnson got the set-up needed and cashed in for the game-tying, power play goal 19 seconds into the man-advantage from sophomore Nick Galati, tying the game 1-1 at 4:37 of the second period. The goal was assisted by junior Jason Applin.
The Crusaders, who struggled in two prior losses to the Raiders, found themselves with a chance to finally win.
“To play with a great group of guys and to fight hard against a good team, it feels pretty good to be out here,” Bohm said.
“I’ve really enjoyed this later part of the season,” Gull said. “It feels like we’re coming together and it’s something special to see, how the teams we played maybe a month ago, we couldn’t hold up against, but now we’re putting up offense, it’s sweet to watch.”
The Crusaders found themselves back on the penalty kill with Ringwood sitting for a two-minute interference penalty.
The Raiders cashed in, with Will White scoring the power play goal to give his team a 2-1 lead with 27 seconds left in the second period, as the Raiders took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood maintained a 2-1 lead for much of the third period, but with 3:49 left in the third period, Johnson had an opportunity to tie the game, after a penalty to the Raiders’ David Lenart.
Junior Tyler Mekovetz tied the game at 2-2 with a power play goal with 2:42 left. The fortunes instantly changed, with Miller scoring his second goal of the game 18 seconds later to give the Raiders a 3-2 lead. They sealed the deal with an empty-net goal, making the score 4-2.
Despite the loss, the Johnson seniors also expressed hope the underclassmen continue to lead the team the way they did for the new players that go through the program.
“I hope they follow the footsteps we led them on and lead by example and hopefully, they do the same thing to the other upcoming freshmen,” Wieczorek said.
The Johnson Crusaders (5-10-1) return to action on the road Friday afternoon when they will play at South Brunswick HS at 3:30 p.m.
The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders (13-2-6) will return to action when they travel to play at Watchung Hills HS Monday night at 5:45 p.m.