MIDDLETOWN – One of the most skilled players in the Shore Conference, and a top play maker in the state, Nate Block can create offense from any point on ice.

But it was junior’s gritty performance in front of the net that proved inspirational in Middletown South’s Tuesday evening meeting with Manasquan, when Block scored a pair of second period goals and assisted on another marker in the final frame to secure the Eagles a 3-3 tie with the Warriors.

“Every shift of every game, Nate works his ass off,” High School South Head Coach Andrew Rosenbloom said of Block, who leads the Eagles in scoring with 15 points on eight goals and seven assists through seven games. “You see where he’s scoring goals from. He’s capable of scoring from anywhere on the ice, but he’s scoring by getting into the dirty areas. When you have a top line guy who’s willing to do the work in front of the net, it says a lot about his character, and it rubs off on the rest of the team.”

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Following late Warriors (0-2-2) tally by John Farinacci in the opening period, the Eagles (3-2-2) answered early in the second, as Andreas Forand ladled a pass into the low slot, where Block muscled his way through a defender and knotted the contest at 1-1.

Just over two minutes later, Block struck again, forcing an offensive zone turnover and jabbing home a weak side rebound off a wrist shot by Aiden Cavendish to make it a 2-1 game with 11:30 to play in the second.

“We weren’t really able to get any clean shots from the outside, or backdoor passes in. But those shots on net, the goalie was letting out rebounds. I went to the front of the net and was able to put them in,” Block said. “Regardless of skill level, anyone who goes hard to the net can put those types of pucks in. So if I do it, and the guys see that it works, hopefully it inspires others to go to the front of the net.”

In the opening minute of the third period, the Warriors evened the score at 2-2 on a rebound goal by Braden Ryan.

Middletown answered with four minutes remaining in regulation when Block slid a short pass to Cavendish, who maneuvered a pass into the high slot Michael Volpi. The senior fired a wrist shot over the glove Manasquan netminder Conall Dougherty for his sixth goal of the year and a 3-2 Eagles lead.

However, the advantage was short-lived, as a pair of Eagles penalties in the final minute of play provided allowed Ryan to capitalize on a power play opportunity, chipping his second of the night over the glove of Jack Collings – who made 23 saves – to tie the game at 3-3 with 12 seconds remaining in the third period.

“I thought it was a really good hockey game. When two good teams play, a late goal to tie it, things like that can happen. Besides letting up an early one, I thought the effort level, our compete level, was much improved,” said Rosenbloom, comparing his club’s output to a disappointing 5-3 loss to Rumson-Fair Haven on Feb. 11. “I can’t fault the effort our guys put out. Last game, maybe. But tonight we battled well.”

High School South and Manasquan are set to square off again at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Feb. 17, at the Jersey Shore Arena in Wall Township.