UNION, NJ — The season opener for the Jonathan Dayton High School Bulldogs varsity ice hockey team was an exciting one as the team battled back hard from an early 5-0 deficit in a 6-3 loss to the Newton-Lenape Valley Braves.

The Bulldogs carried play virtually the entire game, outshooting the Braves 36-22 and carrying puck possession throughout. However, a questionable 5-minute major penalty was called on senior center Victor Velazquez in the first period, and the Braves power play tallied five goals with the man advantage to take an early 5-0 advantage.

But the Bulldogs did not roll over and give up after the disastrous five-minute stretch of play.

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Junior left wing Gary Mignone served as the catalyst that got the Bulldogs offense motoring just 47 seconds into the second period with a slap shot goal after a feed from senior right wing Brenden Smith. Dayton continued to dominate play the remainder of the second period, but Braves goalie Trey Kaplan turned aside several high quality chances.

The Dayton squad came out in the third period firing again on all cylinders. Senior captain and right wing Joe Triano blistered a shot into the net following a pass from Velazquez to cut the lead to 5-2. Velazquez kept the momentum going by tallying Dayton’s third goal.

But a miracle comeback was not in the cards for the Bulldogs as the Braves hung on to the lead and added an empty net goal just before the final buzzer to make the score 6-3.

Junior defensemen Mark Cunningham and freshman goalie Eric Serio came up big for the Bulldogs throughout the game. Cunningham logged tons of quality ice time as injuries have shortened the Bulldogs defensive corps. Serio turned aside 16 shots in his first game at the high school level as he filled in for injured senior goalie Nick Facchini.

Senior Lucas Minio, and juniors Antonio Nacci, Jeremy Greiss and Antonio Famiglietti also played aggressive throughout the game. Other players who supported the effort included senior Daniel Aldenyi and sophomores Gabriel Dematos, Zachary Silverstein and Giuseppe Wadowski.

Head Coach Brian Hayes and Assistant Coaches Jordan Fabi and Michael O’Brien will now lead the Bulldogs into their next battle in a home game against Bayonne High School on Sunday night at 8:15 p.m. at the Union Sports Arena.