MIDDLETOWN – “Nothing special,” was the phrase used by goaltender Dmitrii Kapranov to describe his game-saving stop in the final 10 seconds of a Friday evening meeting between the Marlboro-Holmdel hockey cooperative and Shore Conference Northern Division foe Middletown North.
Those who witnessed the closing moments of this rivalry bout might disagree.
With the Mustangs (5-2-2) clinging to 3-2 lead, Kapranov redirected an off-angle shot away from the crease and into the low slot, where a desperation chance was lasered toward the lower left corner of the net. Sliding and sprawling across the paint, the junior booted the puck aside to preserve the win.
Kapranov exploded out of the crease in celebration, raising his right glove toward the roof of the Middletown Sports Complex arena, before launching himself into the nearby boards nearby, where he was congratulated by teammates.
“It was pretty special. He is a special player. I’ll just come out and say it, we have the best goaltending in the entire state,” first year Mustangs coach Ben Bugge said. “If Dmitri plays (NCAA) Division I hockey one day, I would not be surprised. He’s that good, and any night we have him in the net, we have a chance to win.”
Kapranov’s final save of the night was his 21st of the game, and helped improved the Mustangs record to 4-0-2 in their last six outings, despite producing just nine shots on goal against the Lions.
“No team at any level of hockey can win if their goalie is not playing well, that’s a fact. I just try to focus on giving my team a chance to win.” said Kapranov, who has registered a .944 save percentage and a 1.67 goals against average in his club’s last six games. “We had nine shots tonight, but they were quality shots. And three goals was enough to win because we played great defense, and have been playing great defense all season,”
Just 90 seconds into the third period Kapranov came up big again, blocking down a rising wrist shot and diving to his stick side to steer away a scoring chance off the rebound.
Just over a minute later, Middletown North cut into the Mustangs two-goal lead when an Anthony Dilorenzo shot created another second-chance opportunity that was hammered home by Connor North.
The Mustangs received the eventual game-winning goal with under four minutes to play in the second period, when Sam Scharf delivered his second of the season by way of a Jason Hasko assist.
Hasko’s first of two helpers came at the six-minute mark of the opening period, when Zachary Robinson redirected the sophomore’s wrist shot past Lions keeper Justin Dickinson, who made nine saves.
Less than a minute into the middle frame, John Spallin notched his first of the season and extended the Mustangs lead to two goals, when the junior chased down a lofted pass through the neutral zone by Ethan Gelman and beat Dickinson through the pads on a breakaway.
The Lions lit the lamp less than three minutes later when a shot by John Miranda kicked off the chest of Kapranov and onto the stick of Thomas Baron, who fired into an open net to make it a 2-1 game.
The Mustangs are back at it on Monday, Feb. 22 when they’ll meet Rumson-Fair Haven for the second time in two weeks. After carrying a two-goal lead into the third period, the Marlboro-Holmdel cooperative settled for a 2-2 tie with the Bulldogs on Feb. 9.
“This is a new Mustangs team. This is what we preach and what we believe, and now we’re proving it. Historically, we’ve never played this tough a schedule with this many good teams, and we’re not only skating with these teams, we’re beating them,” Bugge said. “We know we have great players, we know we have a great team that’s buying in, we just have to keep it rolling.”