WEST ORANGE, NJ--Despite suffering a loss to Mendham in its most recent game, the Nutley ice hockey team had some very successful results at the Essex County Holiday Tournament, which wrapped up on Friday, Dec. 27 at Codey Arena in West Orange.
Nutley, which is a co-op program along with Columbia High, earned victories over Parsippany Hills (on Dec. 21) and Pascack Valley (Dec. 26) before being defeated, 4-2, by Mendham to finish 2-1 at the event.
The Mendham game started at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, just 14 hours after the completion of the Pascack Valley contest on Thursday night.
"Last year it was the same situation, three games with two being played on consecutive days," said Nutley head coach Andrew Surowiec. "We were definitely tired at points against Mendham, but still had flashes of playing very well. We could definitely use a rest though."
Against Mendham, the Raiders fell behind, 3-1, before Leo Carrillo's goal early in the third period brought the Raiders within one goal. Mendham (3-2-2), however, added an insurance goal later in the third to seal the decision.
That loss snapped a seven-game unbeaten streak and was the first for Nutley (5-2-2) since it opened the season with a 4-2 setback to Gov. Livingston on Nov. 30.
The Raiders began play in the Essex Holiday Tournament with a 4-0 victory over Parsippany Hills on Saturday, Dec. 21. Frank Matrona and Julian Poole each scored in the first period while Joe Melillo and C.J. Hannon added goals in the second. Chase Nicolette and Rocco Albanese each assisted twice.
Freshman Victoria Rutnick halted all four shots she faced to record her first solo shutout this season.
In its next game on Thursday, Dec. 26, Nutley broke open a tied game with a three-goal third period to post a 6-3 decision over Pascack Valley. Justin Devlin sandwiched two goals against a strike from Zach Fagin as the Raiders snapped a 3-3 tie with its final period outburst.
Fagin finished with a goal and an assist while Cooper Fojas, Nicolette and Albanese also found the back of the net. Senior goalie Johnny Matrona was sturdy between the pipes saving 27 of 30 shots.
"Johnny has been great and is always ready to play," said Surowiec. "He faces a lot of shots and he's always up to the challenge."
Surowiec has also been very impressed with the play of Fagen and Devlin thus far this season.
"We moved Zach to defense after being a forward last year and he's really been a huge help," said Surowiec. "And Justin is our third forward on the line along with Rocco and Joey (Melillo) and he's been a big asset."
Nutley has been led offensively this season by Albanese (six goals, two assists), Melillo (four goals, 10 assists), Devlin (four goals, five assists), Fagin (four goals, three assists), Frank Matrona (four goals), Hannon (two goals, three assists), Nicolette (two goals, two assists), T.J. Wassman (two goals), Carrillo (one goal, four assists), Poole (one goal, three assists), Fojas (one goal, two assists), Dennis Maguire (one goal, one assist) and Paul Poplawski (one goal).
Nutley will now enjoy a well-deserved break until Saturday, Jan. 4 when it will meet Oratory at Codey Arena at 5:45 p.m.
"We've played nine games already and a lot of schools haven't even played five, so its important to get proper rest," said Surowiec. "We're off to a good start and I certainly have some high hopes for this team. They haven't missed a beat since the end of last year and we want to keep it up."
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