MORRIS TWP. – If the first meeting of the season between Park Regional and Mountain Lakes was indeed a preview of what may evolve into the Haas Cup final in late February, then Morris County hockey fans are in for a treat.
The battle of the top two teams in the MCSSIHL’s Haas/Charette Division ended in a 4-4 tie and featured both a shorthanded goal and a power play goal by the Lakers, the latter of which came under some scrutiny for a non-goalie interference call late in the second period, a penalty shot call early in the third that was reversed, a tie-breaking goal by Park’s Tyler Cross with just 1:27 remaining, and the game-tying goal by Mountain Lakes’ Caz Kotsen with just 38 seconds left and the net empty for an extra attacker.
The final buzzer finally allowed all parties involved to exhale.
“It certainly wasn’t boring, that’s for sure,” said Park Regional head coach Tom Levis. “It had a little bit of everything. It was disappointing for us the way it ended. We had a chance to get the puck out of our zone and didn’t do it and they (Mountain Lakes) took advantage. I liked our game a lot 5-on-5 but we gave them a shorthanded goal and a power-play goal. We have a clean up our game a bit and do a better job of preventing shots.”
Park Regional sophomore goaltender A.J. Schauder was indeed busy, turning aside 34 of 38 shots. He was especially sharp in the third period, halting the first 14 shots he faced before Kotsen’s redirection got past him in the final minute.
“A.J. played extremely well for us tonight,” Levis said.
After the teams exchanged goals in the opening period, Park Regional grabbed the lead at 4:42 of the second when defenseman Ed Karpinski stepped up on a 3-on-2 rush and first a wrist shot past Lakers’ goaltender Ben Polizzi (20 saves).
But Mountain Lakes pulled even on a goal by Aiden Reidy with 4:52 remaining in the second period and proceeded to grab its first lead of the game at 13:35 when defenseman Griffin O’Shaughnessy netted a power-play goal. It appeared Schauder may have been interfered with prior to the puck entering the net, but the non-call allowed the Lakers to carry a 3-2 lead into the final period.
Park Regional senior defenseman Mike DeRosa tied the game once again at 5:40 of the third when he scored off a solo rush up the ice.
Park then took the lead with just 1:27 left when Cross scored his second goal of the game on a breakaway. But Kotsen’s goal with 38 seconds left knotted the game for the fourth and final time as the teams look forward to their next regular-season meeting on January 28.
“It was type of game we expected,” said Park’s DeRosa. “The next time we play them we’re going to have to do a better job taking the body and limiting shots. It’s disappointing not coming away with a win but I’m proud of the way we battled back.”