LIVINGSTON, NJ - The final game between the Livingston Lancers and the Nutley Raiders in the regular season came down to the wire late in the third period, where Nutley was able to add the game-winning goal with 3:46 remaining. Later, the Raiders added another goal on an empty netter to increase the final score to 3-1.
Both teams knew coming in that they would have to bring their A game onto the ice. The A game usually consists of being physical, quick, aware and smart. While Livingston played their hearts out, it wasn't enough to beat Nutley, ranked 19th in the state.
The Lancers came out determined and with great intensity. The first period saw lots of changed possessions and quick shots that were saved by both goalies.
Senior defenseman and assistant captain Jonny Garfinkel came out firing shots from all angles. Where he had plenty of chances, however, he was constantly denied by Nutley's goalie Alec Astorga.
In the second period, Nutley's Will Faro was put in the penalty box with 12:31 to go in the second period. The powerplay almost got ugly when Nutley was on the breakaway shorthanded, but Livingston's Brian Lilien made a pad save moving to his left, sticking his legs out wide and stopping the puck from going through.
But instead of holding it for a faceoff, Lilien played the puck to Garfinkel, and they brought it down the ice. A few shots were taken until Garfinkel was finally able to find Mike Koval down the left side, where he found the back of the net to give Livingston the 1-0 lead. Koval was able to squeeze it in tight space that was between Astorga and the left post.
In the second period, Nutley was finally able to capitalize on a loose puck around the net. Livingston tried to clear it, as the puck continued to get deflected in the air, but Nutley's Richie LaFuria pounced on the puck a got it through Lilien, top shelf to even the score at one.
In the third period, the intensity began to rise as both teams were looking for a big win. With slick saves from Livingston's Lilien, and Nutley's Astorga, it wasn't until 3:46 left in the game that fans saw the scoreboard change.
Ryan Demgard of Nutley hopped on a puck in front of him that was trying to be cleared out of the zone. While it was out of the zone, Livingston had trouble getting back on defense. Ben Arden quickly skated down the ice trying to get even with Demgard, and dove in front of Demgard to stop him on the breakaway. However, when Arden dove, he only took out Demgard, not the puck. The puck continued to roll while Arden and Demgard slid down the ice, into Lilien. The puck somehow found the net and it would later be the game-winning goal.
Nutley scored an empty netter to seal the game at 3-1. Lilien still isn't sure how the game-winning goal actually happened.
"It was a bang-bang play," Lilien explained after saving 34 of Nutley's 36 shots. "I might have got the first save."
"We came in determined," junior Cole Friedfertig said. "We really wanted to win this game and we played our hearts out. I think we played a really good game."
While they can always take positives out of this game, the Lancers will never be satisfied with a loss. They haven't been out-shot in many games this season, however, this time they were beat 38-27 in shots on goal.
Nutley has now increased their record to 14-1-3, while Livingston stands at 12-4-2.
"We want to win out and win every game we can," Cole Friedfertig said. "We want the best possible way to win the State Championship."
On Wednesday, the Lancers will be facing Pascack Valley at the Codey Arena at South Mountain; a team they lost to last year while playing away from home.