RANDOLPH, NJ- The Randolph boys ice hockey team faced their first big test of the season on Tuesday, December 3, when they took on perennial power Morristown Beard at Mennen Arena. Despite a few hiccups along the way, the Rams controlled the tempo and skated away with a 5-3 victory.
“It was important to get a step on everyone in the Mennen Division early,” said Captain JT Zangara. “Mo-Beard is a very good team. We had our struggles, but we can learn from the mistakes for the future.”
The Crimson jumped on the Rams early, taking a 1-0 lead just four minutes in. Randolph responded just two minutes later and used a three-goal flurry in a four-minute span to seize the momentum.
Zangara got things rolling when he took a feed in the high slot from Ben Yurchuk, and fired a quick wrist shot that tied things up at 1-1. A minute and a half later, Yurchuk was clearing the puck out of the Rams end, and sent it up to center ice. Evan Xhumba won a footrace to the puck, skating in on net all alone, and after faking the goalie to the right, he tucked the puck in behind him on the left to give his team a 2-1 lead.
Three minutes later, Alternate Captain Justin Harper drove up the left wing boards and sent the puck towards the net where Zack Gallo was in the right place to tip it in for a 3-1 lead.
“Ben Redgate got the puck along the left side boards and gave me a perfect pass as I was cutting through the slot in our own end,” said Harper. “As I was racing up the ice, the defenseman closest to Zack lost an edge and fell down making it a two on one. I noticed Zack heading towards the net and I instinctively gave him a back-hand pass. The next thing I see is Zack cheering and the ref calling it a goal.”
But Mo-Beard was not about to go away quietly, and they scored again off a screened, deflected puck with just 1.3 seconds left to close the gap to 3-2 at the end of one period.
A scoreless second period kept both teams on edge entering the third, knowing the next goal was key.
The Rams were the ones to get it, courtesy of a rocket from the blue line by Xhumba, assisted by Redgate and Gallo, and the lead was 4-2. But with six minutes left, the Crimson again cut the lead to one on another screened shot that made its way through multiple bodies from the blue line. With the score now 4-3, the final minutes saw both teams play with urgency down the stretch.
With just over two minutes left, Zangara would end the tension and put the nail in the Crimson’s coffin when he scored from point-blank range off Yurchuk’s third assist of the night.
The Rams out shot the Crimson 32-15 for the game, as Gavin Einfeldt made 12 saves to earn the win.
“Coach was happy with the win,” said Zangara. “We had some struggles but it’s good to learn from them earlier rather than later.”
The Rams are now 2-0 after a season opening 9-0 victory over Vernon. They hit the ice again on Thursday Dec. 5, traveling down south to play Princeton Day.