NUTLEY, NJ-- The Nutley High ice hockey team continued its fast start to the 2019-'20 season as it shut out its third opponent this month with a 2-0 victory over Scotch Plains-Fanwood on Friday night at the Ice House in Hackensack.
Frank Matrona scored the first goal of the game - off of feeds from Joe Melillo and Leo Carrillo - with just 23 seconds remaining in the first period. That 1-0 lead lasted until Melillo deposited an empty-netter with 20 seconds left in the third period.
Senior goalie Johnny Matrona stopped all 26 shots he faced to post the shutout.
"The Scotch Plains goalie played very well and that frustrated us early on but we were finally able to get one past him," said Nutley head coach Andrew Surowiec. "Then we got into some penalty trouble in the second but continued to play good defense. And Matrona was very good again."
Nutley (3-1-1) is now unbeaten (3-0-1) in its last four games since a season-opening 4-2 loss to Gov. Livingston on Nov. 30.
Nutley, which is a co-op with Columbia, is coming off a highly successful season a year ago where it went 13-6-3 and won the first hockey cup championship in the 21-year history of the program. The Raiders captured the McMullen Cup when its defeated The Frisch School, 4-2.
"I think last year was a big step for the program," said Surowiec, now in his fourth season at the helm. "But we are moving up in divisions and there's a lot of parity there. We'll have to turn it up a notch to stay as successful."
Nutley earned its first victory of the season when it blanked Verona, 2-0, on Dec. 4. That was followed two days later with an 11-0 decision over Bayonne.
Nutley then earned a 2-2 tie against Millburn on Dec. 9 as Rocco Albanese scored his team-high fourth goal of the season with 12:13 left in the third period.
This year's roster includes seniors Carrillo (three assists), Alex David, Justin Devlin (two goals, three assists), Dennis Maguire (one goal), Melillo (three goals, six assists), Chase Nicolette (one goal) and Annie Pasternak, juniors Zach Fagin (one goal, two assists), Cooper Fojas (two assists) and James Gonon, sophomores Albanese, C.J. Hannon (one goal, one assist), Frank Matrona (three goals), Julian Poole (one assist), Paul Poplawski (one goal) and T.J. Wassman (two goals) and freshmen Carmine Argenziano (one assist), Caleb Diegnan, Trey Gigante, Andrew Nicolette, Will Pechman (one assist) and goalie Victoria Rutnik.
A year ago, Melillo led the team in scoring with 19 goals and 14 assists with Albanese right behind with 18 goals and 11 assists.
The Raiders are scheduled to play Whippany Park on Wednesday, Dec. 18 at South Mountain Arena in West Orange at 6:30 p.m.
"We lost to then, 3-0, last year so we're definitely looking forward to getting a little payback," said Surowiec. "After that we'll be playing at the Codey Arena Holiday Tournament."
Those games, held Dec. 21, 26-27, will be against Parsippany Hills, Pascack Valley and Mendham, respectively.
Nutley will then delve into its New Jersey Interscholastic Ice Hockey League Kelly Division schedule.
"Its a step up in divisional play and will be a challenge," said Surowiec. "But its a nice challenge to have and I think this team will be up to it."