WEST ORANGE, NJ -- After struggling through a transition season for the past few months, the Nutley Raiders ice hockey team was victorious in their final home game Saturday night, achieving a 4-1 defeat over the Ramapo Raiders.
Their last season battle at the Richard J. Codey Arena improved Nutley to (6-12-2), while their opponent fell to (3-16-3) in their final game.
After just suffering a three-game losing streak – which included a 6-1 loss to Millburn and two far losses to Governor Livingston – senior Dan Caputo knew him and his team needed to play strong Saturday, despite the fact that they were playing a struggling team.
“We always have to take every team seriously and we came into this game with a really bad losing streak,” Caputo said in a post-game interview.
After the teams moved up and down the ice for three minutes, Nutley senior Gerard LaFiura assisted freshman Joe Melillo’s first career goal.
Caputo praised Melillo and the other underclassmen for playing so well on Senior Night.
“The underclassmen really stepped up for us,” he told TAPinto Nutley.
Senior Ryan O’Mara and junior Mark Frade then got the puck closer to the goal before freshman Matt Jaworksi scored the second goal of the game 5:35 before the first buzzer.
LaFiura and sophomore Isabel Fontanals were quick to assist senior Andrew Spitalnik in scoring a goal in the second period.
Six minutes later, Ramapo’s Dante Puleo and Michael Pear teamed up for their team’s only goal of the night.
The Nutley defensemen as well as some of the forwards blocked many of the opponent’s shots. Head Coach Andrew Surowiec explained that even if an opponent is taking good shots, blocking them can eliminate their scoring opportunities.
“Anything not getting into the net -- regardless of if it’s a good shot or not -- helps us not let them get any chances,” Surowiec said.
As Nutley’s defense remained strong, O’Mara and fellow senior Phil Woodkotch assisted Captuo in scoring his 13th goal of the season 10:39 before the final buzzer.
Although Ramapo accumulated 16 losses this season, they play in one of the toughest divisions in the state and scored four or five goals per loss, Surowiec explained.
“We knew that they can score goals and we had to be careful,” the coach told TAPinto Nutley.
Nutley senior goalie Tim Spitalnik recorded 17 saves and surpassed 400 season saves on Saturday. Senior Luke Mutterer made another 31 saves for the visiting team.
For their last game of the season, Nutley will visit Roselle’s Warinanco Ice Skating Center Monday to take on the (10-8-2) Cranford Cougars, who beat them by one point in Nutley’s December 3 home opener. The two teams will face off at 6:30 PM.