Patriots going strong as ice hockey playoffs approach


By Jeff Appelblatt

The ice hockey team at Freehold Township High School is rolling. The senior-heavy lineup has clicked at the same time, and the Patriots find themselves winners of nine straight games.

That includes every game the team played in 2017. The club finished 2016 with a 4-4 tie against St. Rose High School. Since then, the Patriots outscored all of their opponents, including a recent 8-0 blowout of Red Bank Regional High School Feb. 4.

Max Halvorsen, Freehold Township’s leading goal scorer, scored four against the Buccaneers, making it 13 games in a row he netted at least one goal and eighth during that stretch in which he scored at least three. He’s also dished out 28 assists in that time.

The team’s second leading scorer, Brendan Liebross, began 2017 with a career-high seven goals in a win vs. Old Bridge High School. He had two games in January he didn’t fire any, but those were the only two games this season the senior failed to score. Instead, Halvorsen scored three in each of the games, while Liebross had five assists.

Meanwhile, Nick Raiola has played a crucial role in preventing other teams from matching Freehold Township’s eight goals per game. The goaltender has stopped nearly 90 percent of the shots fired at the net, allowing only 43 of the 333 shots slapped his way from going in.

That’s nothing new for Raiola, though. Since he was a sophomore two years ago, he’s been stopping more than 86 percent of shots sliding or flying his way from making it into the net. Even when Raiola was a freshman during the 2013-14 campaign, he stopped 435 of 523 shots.

Also during the streak Freehold Township has been on, Tyler McNamara reached point No. 100 of his career on an assist to Liebross against Bridgewater-Raritan High School. The Patriots went on to win that game in Somerset, 5-4. Liebross scored two goals. Halvorsen, Julian Kislin and Niko Neron each scored one. McNamara picked up three assists.

As the regular season nears a finish, only Brick Memorial High School (7-10-4) is left on the regular-season schedule for the Patriots after they played against Central Regional High School (14-4-1) Feb. 7.

And then it will be playoff time. Freehold Township (14-3-1) will look to make noise in both the Shore Conference Tournament and the NJSIAA Public A state tournament when its dominant regular season comes to a close.