WEST ORANGE, NJ — Tied at two and staring a five-game losing streak in the face, the West Essex ice hockey team turned to one of its leaders in Captain Sammy Friedman to steer the course and lead the squad onto a 4-2 victory over Nutley on Monday.
“It feels great after a bunch of losses to get a win,” said Friedman. “It feels amazing.”
The Knights’ junior forward capitalized off of a scrum in front of the net midway through the third period. Friedman flew in from the left side of the net to pick up the loose puck and find the top shelf of the net for the 3-2 West Essex lead with 9:37 left in the game.
“My teammate Pat [Coyle] hit it off the goalie’s pad and the defense was drawn to it so I pulled it back and roofed it on him,” said Friedman.
Friedman was not finished just yet, as he realized the squad might need an insurance goal. Seventeen seconds later, the junior streaked down the boards to rocket in his second goal of the period for the 4-2 Knights lead and Friedman’s sixth point in his last two games.
“[Friedman] is that kind of player, he’s explosive, he’s fast and if you sit back on him he can hurt you,” said West Essex head coach Marc Gregory. “He’s really picked it up [lately].”
West Essex was not without a solid performance defensively from goaltender Hannah Podvey, who notched nine third-period saves and 17 for the game to preserve the Knights’ victory.
“[Podvey] made some big saves,” said Gregory. “She’d love to have those two back, but she did step it up today.”
Despite a 2-12-1 record, the Nutley squad showed its resilience in the second period, fighting back to even up the contest at two. Zach Fagin and Joe Melillo’s back-to-back goals came two minutes and 47 seconds apart to assure that the game would not be a cakewalk for West Essex.
“I don’t know what that was,” said Gregory. “We certainly came out flat. We’re going to have to work on that [to] make sure we come out better at the beginning of the periods.”
The Knights flipped the switch in the opening of the game dominating the first period to the tune of 12 shots to Nutley’s four. Connor Hapward had the hot hand, netting the first goal of the game and following it up with an assist on the second goal off a deflection from Alex Laglia. Hapward now has four points on the year and Laglia has seven.
“These guys were hungry today, they certainly wanted to get the win,” said Gregory. “They felt like they could get the win and they played like that to start.”
After breaking its losing streak on Monday, West Essex improves to 4-8-1. The Knights will have a tough test against 11-2-3 Scotch Plains on Wednesday.
“Scotch Plains is a good team that’s playing for a league title and we’re going to have to go down there and spoil their hopes and keep working,” said Gregory.