Saint Joseph rallies past Old Bridge in ice hockey showdown

St. Joseph Metuchen ice hockey player Matthew Samarelli skates into the Old Bridge zone with the puck during a game played on Dec. 10. St. Joseph (Met.) defeated Old Bridge 2-1.

It was a comeback story for the Saint Joseph Regional High School ice hockey team in its Greater Middlesex Conference showdown with Old Bridge High School on Dec. 10 at the Old Bridge Ice Arena.

The Falcons roared back from a two-goal deficit and picked up their second victory of the season with senior Dan Bradshaw scoring the game-winning goal with 7:38 left to send the Metuchen school to a 3-2 victory.

“It’s always a good feeling to score the game-winning goal,” Bradshaw said. “It’s more about the team’s effort than me scoring. It’s another win in the win column and we’re excited about it.”

The result was a learning lessons for both teams.

“You have to learn how to come from behind to win a game,” said Saint Joseph coach Ryan Carter. “It was good for us to have lead how to battle back here early on in the season. It showed what our team is made of.”

The victory gave Saint Joseph a 2-1 record at the time.

Old Bridge coach John Hughes is confident despite his squad falling to 1-2 after the defeat to Saint Joseph. Both losses were by one goal.

“Our kids seem to be starting to gel well together and are working hard,” Hughes said. “I can only see the best for them moving forward if they keep their heads up and continue to do what they do best.”

On Dec. 10, Old Bridge got off to a quick 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the contest thanks to the scoring of junior Alex Sech.

Crashing the net after teammate Max Dec’s shot was stopped in front by Saint Joseph goalie Nick Adams, Sech tapped in the rebound to give Old Bridge a 1-0 lead just under five minutes into the contest.

Sech knocked home his game-high second goal of the game with 7:15 to go in the first period, skating into the Saint Joseph zone all alone and slapping in his fifth goal of the season to put the Knights up by two goals.

“We knew based on last year’s game that this was going to be a fast paced game,” said Hughes. “We wanted to beat (Saint Joseph) at their own game and that’s what we told the kids before the game. We had to come out fast and get as many shots on goal as we could.”

Saint Joseph cut the Old Bridge lead back to one three minutes later with Ivan Borisov scoring his second goal of the season that made it a 2-1 contest going into the second period.

The Falcons controlled most of the action in the second period, but couldn’t capitalize on their chances to tie the game.

Old Bridge goalie Vin Marzullo was a big reason why.

The junior netminder stood on his head through the storm of shots the Metuchen team put on net throughout the period.

When the Falcons were on the power play midway through the period, Marzullo stepped up big to help Old Bridge get the power play kill by making back-to-back sliding saves to keep the Knights still in the lead.

Marzullo had 20 of his game-high 45 saves in the second period.

“Vin is an unbelievable goalie,” Hughes said. “The kid can stand on his head when we need him to and he did that in this game.”

The second period looked to be a lost opportunity for Saint Joseph,  but things suddenly changed in the final seconds for the Falcons with Connor Kaczmarek delivering the “turning-point” of the game.

Corralling the puck off a nice pass from teammate Christina Cuccia and skating up the boards into the Old Bridge zone, the junior slapped home his second goal of the season with 2.4 seconds to play to tie the game at 2-2 going into the third period.

“We were definitely frustrated because we had so many shots and we couldn’t bury one, so to get the goal before the second period ended really gave us a lot of momentum going into the third period,” Kaczmarek said. “Scoring a buzzer beater like that always feels good.”

Just like that — It was a brand new contest and both teams came out looking for that inclusive score to grab control of the game.

The Metuchen school were the ones to grab control of the action, taking their first lead of the game with 7:38 left to play. 

After his first shot hit Marzullo in the chest and bounced out to the crease, Bradshaw chased in to get the rebound, and it paid off with the senior scoring his first goal of the winter to give the Falcons the lead.

Saint Joseph held off the Old Bridge attack the rest of the way behind Adams, who finished with 13 saves in net for the Falcons.

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports