CLARK, NJ – Clair Cagnassola led the Oak Knoll Rams with four goals including what proved to be the game winner with 3:14 left in the second half and the defense, led by strong goaltending from Monica Fritz, was able to hold of the Kent Place Dragons en route to an 11-10 win on Tuesday afternoon at Abraham Clark High School.
In a contest that saw four lead changes and six game tying goals, it was Oak Knoll who struck twice in the final nine thirty and change in play to defeat their cross town foes and extract a matter of revenge after Kent Place had won the regular season battle; also by just one goal about a month ago.
“It feels amazing, especially because during the regular season we lost to them by just one. It felt great. They’re our huge rival,” said Shannon Galvin, who finished with two goals for Oak Knoll.
After Anna Doherty scored her sixth goal of the game for Kent Place to make the score 10-9 in their favor, Cagnassola took matters into her own hands as Oak Knoll fought back to gain their second lead of the second half.
Cagnassola was able to tie the game at ten apiece when the offense held possession for a few minutes before she found an open lane, drove and buried the ball into the back of the cage.
A Kent Place faceoff, their fourth out of five draw wins in the final 25 minutes, eventually led to a free try from Lauren Oberlander, but her shot from in front was stymied by Fritz. She had four huge saves for Oak Knoll in the second frame.
“We’re so proud of our goalie for that. She came up with some huge saves down the end there that could have tied the game and made us go into overtime. She pulled through,” Galvin commented.
That stop led to an Oak Knoll clear and from there Cagnassola would take care of the rest. Again with her squad maintaining some quality possession in the offensive zone, Kent Place was eventually called for a loose ball penalty, thus awarding her a free try.
Cagnassola calmly stepped into the left slot and rifled a low shot in to give Oak Knoll the lead for good at 11-10.
“I have a lot of trouble with free position shots… so I got really nervous,” Cagnassola said after the game. “I’ve been working on them a lot lately and I just thought where to place it. I usually bounce it in between the goalies legs and that’s kind of what I did,” she added.
Fritz had one more big save on Kent Place’s Kathryn Giroux with just over a minute remaining, but an Oak Knoll turnover soon after that gave Kent Place one last quality opportunity in the waning seconds.
Liz Gully, who put in two goals for Kent Place, looked to feed Doherty cutting wide open toward the Oak Knoll cage. However, the pass just rolled off her stick and out of harm’s way.
“We were holding our breath because she’s their leading scorer. She’s definitely one to watch. Having the ball on her stick in the last couple of seconds was definitely a heart stopper,” Galvin said.
Fittingly enough, it was Cagnassola who cleared the ground ball up field before Oak Knoll celebrated the win.
“I was kind of like, ‘oh my god, now I have the ball. We got this one.’ I just jogged it up a little bit and waited for time to run out. It was really exciting,” Cagnassola told the Alternative Press.
For Kent Place, they did everything they could to defeat a tough Oak Knoll team for the second time this season.
They had a strong start to the contest as Doherty scored her first of the game just 3:01 in.
After Cagnassola knotted the score at one a piece, Doherty and Gully scored 1:12 apart as Kent Place gained a 3-1 advantage.
Later on, down 7-5 at halftime, Kent Place came back in a big way to start the second half when Doherty netted two goals within the first 2:30 to once again draw the game even.
“We’re such similar teams in the way we play; big rivalry. I’m just proud of our girls. They did everything I asked them to do. It was a good game all around,” Kent Place Head Coach Tracy Drummond said.
With the win, Oak Knoll advances to the Union County tournament finals against Summit High School this Saturday at AL Johnson High School at 5 p.m. Summit defeated Westfield 17-13 in the later game on Tuesday evening.
Oak Knoll defeated Summit 12-10 in regular season action a few weeks ago.
Kent Place finishes their season with a record of 5-9.