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Raiders skate out to best start in three years

Hillsborough High School senior forward Patrick Lewicki skates by two Saint Joseph defenders on his way towards the net during a game played on Jan. 24 in Flemington. Hillsborough defeated Saint Joseph 3-2.

There has been no slowing down the Hillsborough High School ice hockey team this winter.

First-year Coach Beuk Forrest and his Raiders are off to a 8-1-3 start to the season and have their sights set on making more strides on the ice this winter with postseason play on the horizon.

“The guys are doing a great job this year,” Forrest said. “We’re getting a lot of scoring from a bunch of different people. We have players that contribute all the time in different areas to help us win.”

The last time Hillsborough had this type of start to a season was during the 2018-19 campaign when the Raiders went 9-2-1 during their first 12 games.

Hillsborough went on to win 21 games that season and advanced to the finals of the NJSIAA Public A Tournament.

Just like the 2018-19 team, Forrest and his 2021-22 squad believe they have what it takes to make a run at a state championship and also make a push at winning a Skyland Conference title.

“Our goal this year is to get back to the state final,” Forrest said. “This senior class were freshmen the last time they made it to the finals. I think they’ve kept that with them the past three years and want to try to get back there. We can do it. We just have to keep this up.”

Hillsborough won its eighth game this season with a 3-2 victory over parochial powerhouse Saint Joseph High School in Metuchen on Jan. 24 at the Flemington Ice Area.

Junior forward Logan Behrje was the lighting bolt that sparked Hillsborough to a 3-0 lead going into the third period.

Behrje tallied the game’s first goal just over seven minutes into the contest following a Saint Joseph turnover.

Senior Patrick Lewicki sent a great pass up the ice to Behrje as he entered the Saint Joseph zone and the junior forward then slapped a shot by a Falcon defender and goalie RJ Petersen into the net to put the Raiders up 1-0.

Behrje struck again for the Raiders with 5:02 to go in the second period. Racing up the ice on a breakaway with a Saint Joseph defender on his tail, Behrje was able to get enough space to get a shot off that whizzed by Petersen into the top left-corner of the net to make it 2-0.

Behrje’s game-high two goals give him 10 goals on the season.

Both Lewicki and sophomore Nolan Collison lead the Raiders with 12 goals scored this winter.

“I’ve really been able to step my game up this year,” Behrje said. “All my hard work is paying off.”

Hillsborough extended its lead to 3-0 in the final minute of the second period as sophomore Jegor Sobolev scored his third goal of the season with 42.9 seconds left to cap off an impressive first two periods of play by the Raiders.

“Scoring a last-minute goal in the period always gives a team a jump no matter how they’re playing,” Forrest said. “The guys were able to execute on the ice and we were able to come away with a couple goals in the (second period).”

Hillsborough is currently averaging just under five goals a game this season and have scored a total of 39 goals in its last six games.

The three-goal lead by Raiders was also in large part to the stellar play between the pipes by senior goalie Jason LoRicco.

Saint Joseph had a very hard time trying to get shot by LoRicco, who finished with 37 saves in the victory.

Forrest credits a lot of Hillsborough’s success this winter to the play of LoRicco in net and his senior leadership on and off the ice.

With four years of varsity experience, LoRicco knows he can give the Raiders a chance to win any time he’s out there in net.

“I take a lot of pride in that,” LoRicco said. “That’s been my job all four years and it will continue to be my job until our last game. I just got to give them a chance.”

Saint Joseph did not go away quietly in the third period, scoring two goals in just over a minute to make it a one-goal game with 1:03 left to play.

The Raiders, however, were able to stall the Saint Joseph rally in the final minute of the contest and hang on for the victory to extend their unbeaten streak to 11 straight games.

Hillsborough is 6-0-1 in its last seven games.

The Raiders are scheduled to host Skyland Conference foe Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School on Jan. 26. After playing the Panthers, Hillsborough will end the month with a game against Hopewell Valley Central High School on Jan. 29.

 

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