UNION, NJ- Cranford High School junior co-captain Ryan Faraone scored two goals and junior Ethan Otani added one of his own 11 seconds apart from each other in the third period to lift the Cougars over the Governor Livingston Highlanders by a final score of 5-2 at Union Sports Arena in Union.
When the game started, the Cougars would take initial control of the first period. With Highlanders sophomore Jacob Miller in the box for a tripping penalty, the Cougars went on the power play and struck first.
Junior Ryan Malko scored his team-leading 9th goal in front of the net alone at 7:05 of the first period to give Cranford the early 1-0 lead.
Governor Livingston fought back finding good looks as the second period got underway. Junior Billy Alexander tied the game at 6:53 of the second period with his 9th goal of the season, with the assist going to junior Ryan Monroy.
The Highlanders threw all the chances they had on net, but Cranford junior goaltender Joe Risko kept the puck out of the net, keeping it a 1-1 tie heading into the second intermission, setting the stage for the final 15 minutes of action.
Governor Livingston struck early in the third period, as junior Kyle Wahlers tallied his fifth goal of the season, assisted by his brother, sophomore Carson Wahlers at 2:33 of the period to give the Highlanders a 2-1 lead. It didn’t take long for the Cougars to quickly respond.
Faraone tied the game 2-2 with his fifth goal of the season at 4:36 of the second period. The two teams produced major chances to try and take the lead, but no goals were scored.
Faraone gave his team the 3-2 lead with 5:01 left in the third period, with his second goal of the game (sixth of season, unassisted) beating Governor Livingston sophomore goaltender Nick Papa to put his team out in front in the later stages of the game.
“It was good that we didn’t give up, our team wasn’t going to give it up,” Faraone said. “We struggled earlier on in the beginning of the season. Lately, we’ve been playing better. In the beginning of the season, whenever we were losing, we’d get down on ourselves, but now we’re picking each other up and we’re playing together.
The Cougars would strike again just a short time later, as Otani scored the insurance goal to spoil the great night for the Governor Livingston seniors.
The Highlanders couldn’t get another goal on the board and pulled Papa for an extra skater, hoping to add extra pressure and get back in the game. Cranford junior Liam Lysaght sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 17 seconds left, securing the victory for his team.
Cranford junior goaltender Joe Risko made 24 saves off 26 shots in the victory for his team.
For Governor Livingston, Papa made 19 saves off 21 shots for his team in the loss.
“They came out playing the third [period] hard and we did too and we made a couple of mistakes," said Cranford head coach Rich Hurley. "They got the goal, but our guys didn’t give up, they kept working hard. We hung in there. After the first five minutes, we started to get better in the game and started to get into the flow of it and we were able to outplay them for the last ten minutes and we were fortunate enough to get the two goals.”
The Cranford Cougars (7-7-2) play their next game at home Monday night against Princeton High School at 6:30 p.m.