LIVINGSTON, NJ — The Livingston ice hockey team proved that the third time is a charm after a 1-0 victory over Montclair on Monday sent the Lancers onto the McInnis Cup Finals.
Livingston’s victory is even sweeter due to two failed attempts to beat Montclair in matches earlier this season that yielded ties of 0-0 and 1-1.
“They are always tough games against Montclair,” said Livingston head coach David Conklin. “They are very good team, they are very well coached—it’s always a battle.”
Livingston battled throughout the contest, but controlled the tempo of the game when at full strength.
After a number of chances whistled wide of the net, the Lancers received a fortuitous bounce after a wrist shot from Max Solomon hit the Montclair goaltender in his shoulder and squirted free into the empty net with 5:16 left in the second period. Solomon’s goal was his second point in the three games against Montclair.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” said Conklin. “Their goalie played really well. He had a lot of really nice saves and we were fortunate to get one by him.”
Having a one-goal lead was all Livingston needed, as standout goaltender Matt Delseni was superb in closing the door on any thoughts of a Mounties comeback. Delseni finished the contest with 14 saves, none bigger than a stick save with less than a minute to go in the contest to prevent overtime.
“I actually got it with my paddle,” said Delseni. “Making a save like that feels amazing, especially with 20 seconds left.”
The Livingston defense was phenomenal for the contest, making up for what was an undisciplined team at times. The Lancers defense managed to kill off nine minutes of power-play time, including a game-changing five-minute major, which encompassed two separate periods, but yielded no results for Montclair.
“We shouldn’t have had nine minutes of penalties in the first place, but my defense helped me out a lot blocking shots on those penalties,” said Delseni.
The Lancers improve to 14-4-5 and 7-1-1 in their last nine games. Livingston will now have a date in the McInnis Cup Championship on Friday against the winner of the matchup between top-seeded Summit and Westfield.
“We played them both twice,” said Conklin. “We need to come out and play our game and capitalize when we have our opportunities and limit their chances, I think if we do that we’ll be in good shape.”