LIVINGSTON, NJ — Even before the Livingston High School ice hockey team made it to Monday's McInnis Cup semifinal round, the season could have been considered a success.
The mere fact that the Lancers have been able to take the ice 11 times this winter—when so many hockey programs have had to deal with shortened or even canceled seasons because of the particularly acute effect COVID-19 has on this sport—put them in elite company.
On top of that, they've been playing notably consistent hockey, as they did in a 3-1 victory over Verona Friday night in the McInnis quarterfinals.
"I give a lot of credit to our families and our players," said Livingston head coach Dave Conklin. "We have really been trying to live in our own little bubble and stay away from the risks that are out there. Everyone's really done a good job with that. You also have to be lucky, by the teams you are playing against not coming down with any cases, either. We have been very fortunate."
But more than luck has been involved in the difficult time teams have had scoring against Livingston (7-2-2), which has allowed 16 goals in 11 games this season.
"We are a relatively young team, as it is, and we work hard defensively," said Conklin. "Our rolling four defensemen, they have been fabulous at limiting the amount of shots, and the shots our opponents are getting are not coming from the best chances or the best spots on the ice."
Junior Jace Dockx, sophomore Brett Conklin (Dave's son), junior Andrew Qian and freshman Ryan Zales have been staunch defenders in the back, the coach said.
"And Zach Turbin has been amazing this year as a goalie," he said of his junior netminder. "He’s there to stop it. Every team, you build from the back end out. Zach Turbin in my opinion has been the top goalie in the league."
Turbin's save percentage is an otherworldly .942. Sophomore Justinas Sanders has also been solid in goal when he's had the chance to play there.
Friday night, Livingston killed off two penalties in the first period to keep the game scoreless against Verona.
"Verona had two power plays in the first period. We do a good job with the penalty kill," said Conklin. "Your goalie has to be your best player on the penalty kill. We did a really good job keeping the shots from the outside. We are big and strong back there and are able to clear guys out. You want to stay out of the penalty box obviously, but it was good to kill off both of those early."
Senior Michael Mumm (15 points) and junior Austin Vecchio (14 points) have led Livingston on the attack.
"MIchael Mumm, he is a senior and one of our top guys," Conklin said. "Injuries as a freshman and sophomore cost him large chunks of time, but he had a good junior year, and he has been very well this year. He plays on the wing. Austin Vecchio, a junior, had a good year as sophomore and has stepped up to be one of our leaders and top scorers."
Vecchio, who leads Livingston with 10 goals, scored two goals in the 3-1 victory over Verona.
Junior Danny Grossbard and senior Lenny Kanchik each have nine points this season. Senior forward Cade Prendergast has notched three goals and three assists. Senior Tyler Schultz, who has four assists, and his sophomore brother Dillon Schultz each have five points.
Monday's semifinal round against West Essex can be viewed live below at 6:30 p.m.
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