WEST ORANGE, NJ — The last time these two teams met in the regular season, the level of physicality was palpable.
That tension carried over into last night's game, as Millburn Ice Hockey battled through a war of attrition to grab a 2-2 tie against rival Cranford. Both teams have had victories in what has become a charged rivalry.
Millburn went through Cranford the last two years for the Kelly Division Championship, while the Cougars defeated the Millers 5-0 in their only other meeting earlier this year.
This game was no different in physicality from the last meeting, with more than a dozen penalties called across three periods of play, including concurrent minor penalties, a five-minute major penalty, and one instance per side in which a team had two players in the box serving consecutive minors.
Speaking with TAPinto Millburn after the game, Head Coach Brandon Doria broke down what he saw out on the ice, and said that while a tie is an improvement over the team's last matchup against Cranford, there is still more to be done.
"It was a must-win game for us, just for playoff standings and everything," Doria said. "So we knew how big of a game it was coming in. I think we came out flat. [We] bounced back, we were able to score a late one to tie it up, but t the end of the day you've got to play a full 45 minutes.
"I don't think we did that. I think we came out a little slow, and the goalie played really well. He made some big-time saves at the end there. So at the end of the day we can build on it, considering our last result, but at the same time for us, it wasn't as good a game as we've been playing."
Fyodor Brylin started the scoring with 4:19 left in the first period, when he grabbed a feed from Isaac Lenner, made a nifty move, and put the puck past the Cranford Goalie for a 1-0 lead. The Cougars would respond about a minute later, as Anthony Massoni scored to knot the game up at 1-1.
Neither team would score in the second period, but Chris Kube sent the puck home early in the third to give Cranford a 2-1 lead.
Then, with time winding down in the game, Ben Hayum took a feed from Ronan Stewart and Lenner, sending a shot on the power play through the goalie's five hole to restore the 2-2 tie. Millburn would have a chance to win late, but sent a shot off the post, with the game ending seconds later.
Lenner, who had a two-assist night, also spoke with TAPinto, but was more focused on how to beat Cranford the next time these two teams face off, wherever it may be.
"We're looking to be a little more physical next time," Lenner said. "Get the first hit. They're a very physical team, and whoever gets the first hit seems to avoid taking penalties. As long as we play physical, get pucks to the net, we should be good."
Lenner also said that while the result was a better one than the previous game, the team was still not satisfied with their performance.
Millburn is right back in action today with a game against Governor Livingston at Codey Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 5:00 p.m.