WEST ORANGE, NJ - The Verona-Glen Ridge ice hockey team will have to wait one more season to chase down their elusive first Kelly Cup Title after falling in the finals to Cranford by a score of 3-2.
“We earned the right to be here and compete, but we were a little flat to start,” said VGR Head Coach Ken Lilien.
The Cougar’s were determined to give payback to the Hillbillies for two previous losses. In two lopsided victories earlier this season the VGR squad had defeated Cranford by a combined score of 13-2 with victories of 5-2 and 8-0 respectively.
“I think our 8-0 win [against Cranford] is partially to blame. We talked about that and I think they used it as a rallying cry,” said Lilien.
Two first period goals from Matteo Wilde and Jack Templeton helped Cranford out to a 2-1 first period lead. The Cougars made it known that they would be no pushover in the final round.
“I think because of our slow start in the first we had to chase their lead,” said Lilien.
The Hillbillies attempted to battle their way back drawing a pair of powerplays in the second period. Down by one, on a delayed penalty call the referee would blow the whistle on what could have been a loose puck that was driven home for what could have been the game-tying goal for VGR midway through the second period.
“I’m not going to argue with [the call], [the referee] said he saw the guy touch it, I didn’t see it, but I’m not going to harp on that it was [blown] dead and there’s nothing you can do,” said Lilien.
The call ultimately changed the complexion of the game as VGR failed to convert on the corresponding powerplay. The next goal would give the Cougars a two-goal lead and was the eventual decisive blow.
“[Cranford] played 40 minutes of very hard, physical hockey,” said Lilien
The Hillbillies high-powered offense refused to go quietly, however battling for the remainder of the game. Zach Gold’s powerplay goal with six seconds left in the second made for a very interesting final period.
“We got that late goal in the second by [Zach Gold] and I thought that might give us some momentum,” said Lilien.
Zach Gold finished with two goals on the evening. The sophomore continues to be a lightning rod for the squad on both ends of the ice.
“[Gold] is amazing, he’s done it for us all year…he’s a warrior. He does it at both ends of the ice,” said Lilien.
The VGR team will now drop to 15-9 as they look toward the State Tournament as the last piece of their season. The Hillbillies have drawn the number 11 seed in the Public C Tournament and will look to use this loss as momentum moving forward for a successful run in states.
“It stings a lot now, tomorrow we’re going to take a day off and then practice Sunday…we’re going to deal with the emotion of the loss, but hopefully we use it as rallying cry,” said Lilien.
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