WEST ORANGE, NJ – In the end, the lack of firepower was the undoing of the 2016-17 Randolph boys ice hockey team. John Vilade of Ridge scored two goals to help his team record a 4-2 ice hockey victory over Randolph in the semifinal round of the NJSIAA Public A state tournament Thursday at Codey Arena.
"We had a good playoff run, but in the end we came up short against a very good team," said Rams coach Rich McLaughlin. "The first two periods we just were chasing around the ice and never got in front of them. Ridge is a very fast team that can move the puck and we needed to contain them better."
While the team was full of hard working, smart hockey players, the 2016-17 Rams had the lowest goal output for a Randolph team in over eight years. The Rams won with their trademark strong defense and by frustrating and wearing teams down, but were not built to be a "come from behind" team.
Unfortunately, that is the scenario they faced in the state Semi’s against a talented offensive team in Ridge. Second-seeded Ridge scored two goals in the first period and opened a 3-0 lead before third-seeded Randolph got on the board for the first time in the third period.
Ultimately, the lead was too much to overcome for a team without a double digit goal scorer on the season, until Jack Zimmer hit that mark in this game.
"We do not have a high scoring team that can play run and gun and that was the type of game we played last night," said Rams coach Rich McLaughlin. "In the third we asked the kids to step up and play with pride, and they did. We never quit and that says great things about this group of kids."
The Red Devils took a 1-0 lead on Will Allen's goal with 10:28 left in the opening period with an assist from Connor Villa. Vilade converted a feed from Alex Konovalov into a goal with 4:49 left in the first period for a 2-0 lead. Konovalov had the assist again as Ridge built a 3-0 lead on Jack Mandala's goal with 10:49 to go in Period No. 2.
Randolph (12-9-5) was in desperation mode when the third period began. The Rams finally broke through on a power play with just over 10 minutes left in the final period when Matt Siegal's shot deflected off Jack Zimmer and past the Ridge goalie to cut the Red Devils' lead to 3-1. Ridge answered quickly however, and made it 4-1 when Vilade connected for his second goal with eight minutes to go.
Randolph didn’t quit, and Zimmer scored again with 6:24 left, as the Rams frantically attacked the Ridge net. Randolph ended up outshooting Ridge in the game 27-18 overall, but were not able to score again as the game ended 4-2 Ridge.
Siegal also assisted Zimmer on his second goal, while JT Zangara and Will Zimmer each picked up one secondary assist.
"I am proud of the way they came together and played, as we seemed to have kids hurt and sick the entire year from game two all the way to the end of the season," siad McLaughlin. "In the semis we had two kids playing with casts on their wrists and another kid with the flu. It says a lot to the character of the kids and that means a lot going forward whether it is back here next year or a senior moving on to bigger and better things."
The future looks bright for Randolph however, as the squad boasted numerous underclassmen who played significant roles. The Rams only had three seniors playing major roles this season, so 2017-18 will see the majority of the roster return, with another year of experience and growth under their belt and ready to make another run at a title.
Ridge (22-6-1) will appear in the state championship game for the first time in eight years, Sunday Mar. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Mennen Arena against Watchung Hills.