CLARK, NJ - Arthur L. Johnson High School freshman Evan Parenti and sophomore Eric Bretz each recorded a hat trick as the Crusaders won the first round matchup of the Union County Tournament over the Governor Livingston High School Highlanders by a final score of 11-5 Friday afternoon.
The victory is the eighth in a row for the Crusaders, whose offense and strong play has carried them throughout the streak.
“What’s impressed me the most is how we’ve been able to share the ball on offense,” Johnson head coach Lou Van Bergen said. “One game, it might be more attack, the next, more midfield-orientated. Also, our defense has improved by communicating more and working as a team.”
“Our goalie, Josh Hill, has bailed us out more than a few games too,” Van Bergen added. “The winning team usually does the small things that lead to more possessions and more scoring chances. The biggest two things we’ve been better at in that category are turning the ball over less and getting more ground balls.”
From the start of the game, the Crusaders were in full control, keeping the ball in the Highlanders’ zone for almost the entire quarter. Bretz struck just 12 seconds into the game to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead. He would strike again with his second goal of the game at the 1:32-mark of the first quarter, making it a 2-0 Johnson lead.
The Crusaders also got goals in the first quarter from Parenti at the 6:58 mark, senior and co-captain Brett Roessle at the 7:51 mark and from junior Mike Bruno at the 10:29 mark of the first quarter. When the first quarter came to an end, Johnson held a commanding lead over Governor Livingston by a score of 5-0.
Governor Livingston registered just three shots on goal in the quarter, compared to Johnson’s converting five goals on 13 shots.
Highlanders senior Will Nicholson banked home a shot at the 5:58 mark of the second quarter to put GL on the board. The Crusaders immediately responded with Parenti recording his second goal of the game, giving Johnson a 6-1 lead.
The score remained 6-1 Johnson, as the teams went into halftime.
“I think we’re moving the ball well,” Roessle said of the Crusaders’ offense. “No one’s being selfish and [we’re all] working it. When it’s not there, work it back around and just keep playing with it until it’s there.”
Sophomore Brandon Hund tallied his 21st goal of the season at the 2:36 mark of the third quarter to make the Johnson lead at 7-1.
The Highlanders got two goals in the quarter from Nicholson (second goal of the game) at the 2:52 mark of the third quarter and from sophomore Andrew Rittman at the 3:54 mark of the third quarter to cut the lead to 7-3 with his first goal of the season.
Nicholson now has 13 goals on the season for the Highlanders.
The Crusaders continued their hot streak, getting two more goals in the third quarter.
Bretz completed the hat trick at the 11:37 mark of the third quarter. Bruno struck for his second goal of the game just 18 seconds later, making the Johnson lead 9-3 following the third quarter.
“It builds us momentum since we’ve won our last eight and we’re on a roll,” Bruno said. “We’re practicing hard and everybody’s playing together.”
Parenti completed his hat trick with his third goal at the 1:48 mark of the fourth quarter to put Johnson ahead by a score of 10-3.
“We just keep playing hard, came up with the ball fast and everyone contributed, so it works out well,” Parenti said.
The Highlanders would sustain pressure on the Crusaders, eventually scoring two goals more goals. With ALJ’s Roessle sitting for a one-minute slashing penalty, the Highlanders had a chance on special teams.
They capitalized with Nicholson’s second goal of the game, a man-up goal, making it a 10-4 game with 9:08 left to go in the fourth quarter. They would get another goal one minute later from sophomore Andrew Cahill, with 8:06 left as the Crusaders’ lead was down to 10-5.
The Crusaders would get one more goal from senior Nick Fischetti, his 14th of the season with 7:16 left as the Crusaders closed the door to secure their eighth straight win.
In total, the Crusaders had 26 shots on goal, while the Highlanders had 21 shots on net.
Despite the loss, Governor Livingston is looking ahead to their remaining regular season games, feeling proud of the effort they put in as the game went on.
“You’ve got to get off to a fast start in this game,” Governor Livingston head coach Chet Parlavecchio said. “Johnson’s a very, very good team, a well-coached team. They came out and executed in the first quarter. After the first quarter, I thought we played really hard. We never stopped playing. We battled and I’m very proud of our team’s effort.”
The Johnson Crusaders (10-3) advance to the Union County Tournament quarterfinals, where they will travel to take on New Providence HS Monday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., a rematch from last year in the same round.
“We just have to play better offensively and be more consistent,” Bretz said of the last time Johnson played New Providence. That game ended in an 11-5 loss on April 1. “We can’t give up the easy goals on defense, but our goalie’s playing outstanding.”
The Governor Livingston Highlanders (3-5) will travel to play Parsippany HS on the road Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.