MORRIS TWP. – On a night when the Madison hockey community was celebrating Senior Night at Mennen Area, it was a junior goaltender and a senior forward that made sure the celebration continued long after the final buzzer sounded.
Keaton Tom topped 45 of 46 shots between the pipes for the Dodgers and senior Sean Hoover broke a 1-1 deadlock late in the third period with what turned out to be the game-winning goal as the Dodgers snapped a four-game losing streak and skated off with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Montville.
The victory improved Madison’s record to 7-9-1 as it inched closer to the .500 mark and a potential berth in the state tournament.
“This was a huge win for states and we really wanted it for the seniors,” said Tom, who stopped 23 of 24 shots he faced in the second period. “Once we got through the second period only one goal down, we knew we had to finish off in the third for the seniors.”
Following a scoreless opening period, the Halvorsen Division-leading Mustangs grabbed the lead at 3:57 of the second when Brendan Perretta took a feed from Owen O’Hara in the low slot and fired a quick show past Tom. The goal came moments after Montville had successfully killed off a Dodgers’ power-play in the opening minute.
Tom was outstanding in keeping his team in the game during an extended span om the second in which the Mustangs enjoyed a 5-on-3 skating advantage following three successive minor penalties whistled on the Dodgers. The Mustangs held a 24-8 shot advantage in the period.
Madison got the equalizer at 3:13 of the third period when Cormac McNamara ripped slap shot past Montville netminder Adrian Prelich (24 saves) off an assist from defenseman Matty Gero, who was the Dodgers’ top defenseman all evening.
Then is was time for Tom to shine once again as he made a huge right pad stop on the Mustangs’ Joe Nuzzi midway through the period to keep the game deadlocked.
The Dodgers failed to convert on their third power-play chance of the game before Hoover drove to the net, found a loose puck in the slot, and shoveled it under Prelich to give his team its first lead of the game with just 3:00 remaining.
From there, the Dodgers held on as the Mustangs pressed for tying goal, pulling Prelich for the extra attacker with 1:43 remaining. They ended the game with a 6-on-4 skating advantage after a late Madison penalty, but simply could not find a way to get the puck past Tom.
“We were just trying to keep it simple and get pucks to the net and play within our system,” said Madison head coach Dave Hansen, who lost 14 seniors to graduation from last year’s championship squad. “This was a nice win to pull out for states and especially for the seniors.”