VERONA, NJ – With 378 saves so far this season, goalie Liam Blaney has helped lead Verona-Glen Ridge hockey to a 10-6-1 record. Coach Ken Lilien said Blaney shows up to play every night and has grown into a leader on and off the ice, earning him TAP into Verona/Cedar Grove’s Hillbilly Athlete of the Week honors.
“It’s pretty exciting. I’ve never been recognized before,” Blaney said on his nomination. “With hockey being my only sport, I was a little surprised to be named Athlete of the Week.”
Blaney has been playing hockey since he was around five years old and has served as goalie since he was nine. In addition to tending goal for Verona-Glen Ridge, he also plays on the club team circuit.
Verona-Glen Ridge struggled a bit early in the season, losing five games in a row in late December, but has come on strong as of late and currently has a three game winning streak. Blaney said it was frustrating, citing early match ups against Nutley and Livingston as games they could have won, but said seeing the team fight to get back on track has been a highlight of the season.
“We went on a five game losing streak in December, but we’ve been fighting back and in our last games against Nutley and Livingston we came from behind to win,” he said.
It was a game against St. Rose on Dec. 26 during the holiday tournament that Blaney had his best effort so far, saving all but one of the 46 shots allowed and earning him a 98 percent save percentage. It was a game that also gave his team momentum as they went on to win the next three games played.
“I think the highlight for me this season has been my personal performance. The game against St. Rose in the holiday tournament was definitely my best so far and I feel as a team we are improving every game,” Blaney said.
Looking forward, Blaney has his eyes on the playoffs and a run for the states.
“I’m definitely looking forward to playoffs and if we keep doing what we’ve been doing we will hopefully make it to states,” he added. “That’s always fun because you get to play different teams and the fans come out to cheer us on.”
Verona-Glen Ridge is set to take on Gov. Livingston on Thursday at 4 p.m. at Codey Arena in West Orange.
Photos provided by Ken Lilien