RANDOLPH,NJ - With Saturday's tough loss to Kinnelon in the back of their minds, the Randolph varsity hockey team stepped onto the ice at Mennen Arena Tuesday night looking to bounce back against a Morris Knolls team that always seems to fight until the end against the Rams. This edition to a long rivalry would be no different.
Randolph fell behind early, and costly errors put the Rams a step behind, but an electric third period found the Rams ahead. Despite a furious response from Morris Knolls, goalie Andrew Holowko and the Rams held on for a 4-2 victory to extend Randolph's record to 7-1-1 on the season.
Randolph had chances early on the doorstep, but a tough call on a hit from behind on Tucker Simmons had Randolph's sophomore Dan Janson in the penalty box for a minor penalty and a 10-minute misconduct. Just six seconds into the power play, Morris Knolls capitalized as Reed Peliconi stuffed one past Holowko through a crowd in front to shock Randolph, 1-0.
In the second, Randolph began generating chances behind the defense as Michael Slavin and Mitchell Gaudioso had point-blank looks, but couldn't finish. With Knolls playing penalty-free hockey Randolph had trouble sustaining pressure. But after a grueling, goal-free second period, junior Matthew Bruno won a puck behind the net and found TJ Lindquist in front. Lindquist beat Morris Knolls' goaltender Zack Flake under the glove to draw even, 1-1, 2:08 into the third.
Just two minutes later, needing a lucky bounce, a shot from the point found a friendly stick. “Our defenseman Jack [Zimmer], he took the shot,” said junior Michael Slavin. “I think the goalie saved it, it went over the net, bounced back to me, I slapped it. It was a rubber duck out there, bounced off a bunch of things, I didn't even see it. Somehow it found its way in.” Randolph was up, 2-1.
Looking for a cushion, and with Knolls cutting a rut to the penalty box in frustration, Noah Leinwand banged one in from the doorstep with 9:00 left to put Randolph ahead, 3-1. The Rams needed it, as Alex Urbanski would bring Morris Knolls within one with 2:31 remaining, 3-2.
With Knolls crashing the crease in the final seconds and the possible equalizer just missing the crossbar, Noah Leinwand potted an empty-net goal from the red-line with 40 seconds on the clock to shut the door on the Golden Eagles, and gave Randolph the victory it needed on the heels of an upset loss.
It was a fitting end for any Knolls- Randolph contest. Despite the Golden Eagles' 2-7 record, the matchup always gives a test and a lesson. "It was like a tale of two teams for us," said Coach McLaughlin, whose team scored all four of its goals in less than 13 minutes. "We played hard sometimes, and others we played soft. We need to play a three-period game in this division, because there's not a team you can take a game off from."
"If you would have told me before the season that we would have been 7-1-1 at this point of the year I would have took it in a minute," McLaughlin said. “But you know, once you get to this point then you want more.”
When asked how big it was to bounce back with a victory after a frustrating loss, the coach said, "Oh, it was everything. . . We've had our ups and then we go down, and we lose to Kinnelon, 1-0, and the guys were starting to hold their sticks a little tight."
They got a boost to the lineup and the crowd as they got back assistant captain Stefan Tamminga, who is battling Hodgkins' Lymphoma. “I could tell I've been out for awhile, but it felt good to get back on the ice,” said Tamminga after the game.
He had a port removed from his chest last week that had stopped him from taking contact, but now when he feels up to it, he'll be back out there with the guys that have helped him through it. “I know my teammates are always there, like when I first got it, they all shaved their heads for me, that meant a lot. I know they are always there for me, for whatever I need.”