ROSELLE, NJ – Jared Figueroa dazzled and scored four goals for Scotch Plains-Fanwood, but it wasn’t enough, as the Raiders ice hockey team fell on Opening Day Sunday to the Arthur L. Johnson (Clark) Crusaders, 8-4, at Warinanco Ice Center.
Figueroa, a senior, found the back of the net 45 seconds into the game and season, and added two goals in the second period and one in the third to keep the Raiders in the game.
The Raiders pulled within one goal late in the third period after Figueroa’s fourth goal of the afternoon, but the Crusaders scored three times in the game’s final minute to pull away, with one of the goals being Tyler Mekovetz’ fourth of the game for A.L. Johnson.
“We’re definitely looking for him [Figueroa] to be one of our front men on the forward lines,” Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Matt Gunther said after the game. “Unfortunately, we just don’t have the communication and cohesion at this point in the season.”
After SP-F jumped to the early lead 45 seconds into the game, A.L. Johnson scored four unanswered goals before Figueroa scored 11 minutes into the second period. Tyler Mekovetz scored three of those goals, while Rocky Azari added another. Freshman goaltender Ryan Lamberta was manning the net for the Johnson goals scored in the first two periods.
“As of right now, we have two younger goaltenders – a sophomore, junior and freshman,” Gunther said. “It’s kind of all up in grabs for who’s going to steal the first-string goalie spot, and at this time, we’re really going to have to see who really wants to take the spot and push for it the most.”
In addition to scoring four goals, Jared Figueroa gave the Raiders their best chance to tie the game, as well. With two minutes left in the game, the senior had a breakaway and took a shot, but it went wide to the left.
"Give it a couple of games and a few more practices, and we’re going to connect a little better," Coach Gunther said.
Scotch Plains Fanwood plays in the NJIHL's Liberty Conference with West Essex, West Orange, Dayton, Newark East Side and Oratory Prep. The Raiders will be back in action Wednesday, when they take on Cranford at 3:30 p.m., also at Warinanco Ice Center. Johnson next plays Friday against Toms River South.