By Wayne Witkowski
The showdown played up to its billing when Jackson Memorial High School’s ice hockey team held on to a 5-4 victory over Jackson Liberty High School at Howell Ice Arena in Farmingdale Jan. 6 in a matchup of defending division champions.
Joe Jablonski III scored what proved to be the winning goal with 13:08 left in the third period off passes from Nick Boyle and James Termine for Jackson Memorial, which is defending its Shore Conference A South Division championship. It was the second goal of the game for Jablonski and spotted the Jaguars a 5-2 lead before Jackson Liberty, in the throes of a rebuilding season from last year’s Shore Conference B Division championship, thundered back. It cut the deficit to one goal on power play goals by Nick Labiance off passes from Joe D’Andrea and Ryan Verile with 1:40 left and Zach D’Andrea, with Joe Granza assisting, with 24 seconds left. But Jackson Memorial protected the lead from there.
Jackson Memorial took an early 3-0 lead a minute into the second period as Jablonski, Kyle Lalley and Matt Mezzina scored, and the team had a 52-23 edge in shots. Matt Pousson made 19 saves in the Jackson Memorial net, while Chris Boyce turned away 47 shots for Jackson Liberty.
Nick Swain also scored for Jackson Memorial, and Michael Krzyzewski, Cameron Satkowski and Boyle posted two assists each.
Nick Labianca scored twice for Jackson Liberty with two goals, and Joe and Zach D’Andrea each added a goal. LaBianca leads the Lions with 12 goals and 13 assists.
The victory kept Jackson Memorial along on a 10-1-1 start and on pace to surpass last year’s 12-8-3 season.
Jackson Liberty, meanwhile, needs to win some games, as it is off to a 3-6-1 start and has gone 0-4-1 in its last five games. The team has played many games against top-caliber teams, including a 4-3 loss to Middletown High School North and a 5-5 tie with Middletown High School South.
Both Jackson teams this season play in the Shore Conference A Central Division.
Despite losing formidable scorers Mike Termine (19 goals, 22 assists) and Chris Petrone (13 goals, 14 assists) to graduation, Jackson Memorial coach Larry Clayton exuded confidence that this year’s team again would contend like last year’s team that in the NJSIAA Public A tournament opened with a 4-3 overtime victory over Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and then lost, 2-1, in overtime to Morris Knolls High School.
“I think we’re going to be as good as last year, maybe potentially a little better,” Clayton said.
Boyce had performed well in goal replacing stalwart Chris Stefanowicz, who allowed 46 goals last season. Boyce has allowed 20 goals, but 14 of them came over the last four games, including a 7-4 victory Jan. 8 against Brick Township High School. Cody Jablonski and Boyle each scored twice in contribution to a 5-3 lead in the first period, and Lalley tallied the other goal in the first.
Carmen Satkowski spotted Jackson Memorial a 6-3 lead with 5:11 left in the second period, and Brick Township answered back a minute later. Joe Jablonski III capped the scoring with a power play goal with 20 seconds left in the second period.
Defenseman Trevor Cear leads Jackson Memorial with 10 goals and 14 assists, followed by Joe Jablonski III with nine goals and three assists. Cody Jablonski had seven goals and 13 assists, and Satkowski had six goals and 11 assists.
Jackson Memorial hosts Middletown South at 8:15 p.m. Jan. 13 and is on the road for a 5:45 p.m. game Jan. 17 against Saint John Vianney High School.
Jackson Liberty hosts Toms River High School East Jan. 13 and travels to Toms River High School South Jan. 16.