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Hillsborough off to hot start on the ice; win fourth straight game with victory over Bridgewater-Raritan

HILLSBOROUGH – The Hillsborough High School ice hockey team has picked up right where they left off last winter by beginning the 2022-23 season with a blazing 4-1 start on the ice.

Since dropping its season opener against Westfield on Dec. 8, Hillsborough has rebounded with authority by going on a four-game winning streak.

The Raiders won their fourth consecutive game on Dec. 19 at the Rock Ice Arena in Dunellen with a 5-2 victory over Bridgewater-Raritan.

“We’re playing well right now,” said coach Dave Hansen after the victory over Bridgewater-Raritan. “Good teams find a way to win. It was nice to pick up a couple points (tonight).”

Over the course of their current four-game winning streak, the Raiders have tallied 22 goals and seen production up and down the roster.

Junior Nolan Collison leads the way for Hillsborough with five goals and five assists so far this season. Collison tallied his team-high fifth goal of the season to get the Raiders on the board first against Bridgewater-Raritan seven minutes into the first period.

“I’ve been just trying to help the team,” said Collison on his great start to the season. “We have a good team and it’s all coming together.”

Bridgewater-Raritan’s Dymtro Murenets tied the game at 1-1 with 3:16 left to play in the first period, but Hillsborough answered right back in the final 30 seconds of the period to retake the lead.

Nate Bienstock “passionately controlled” the puck in the Bridgewater-Raritan zone and dished a successful pass to Logan Behrje flying up the ice. Behrje then delivered a “perfect one-timer” that found the back of the net for his first goal of the season with 21.6 seconds on the clock to give the Raiders 2-1 lead heading into the second period.

After Bridgewater-Raritan tied the game at 2-2 with just over five minutes to play in the second period, Hillsborough once again answered right back to regain the lead.

Sophomore Jeremy Wachnachter led the charge in putting the Raiders up 3-2 with 3:46 to go in the second period.

The sophomore fought to gain control of the loose puck in front of the net and then tapped home the go-ahead goal to give Hillsborough a one-goal lead heading into the third period.

“It gave the boys a lot of energy on the bench and allowed us to keep the game away from (Bridgewater-Raritan),” Wachnachter said of his go-ahead goal.

Hillsborough took a 4-2 lead with 10:21 left to play when junior Jegor Sobolev scored his third goal of the winter.

Wachnachter lit the red light again three minutes later for his game-high second goal of the contest to cap off the scoring for the Raiders.

It’s the first time in his high school career that Wachnachter scored two or more goals in a game.

“It feels pretty good. We’ve been working really hard on and off the ice this season and we’re now 4-1,” Wachnachter said.

Hillsborough is coming off a stellar 2021-22 campaign where they went 13-5-3 and made it to the semifinals of the NJSIAA Public A Tournament.

The Raiders dropped a heartbreaker to Ridge [High School] in the semifinals of the state tournament, losing 5-4.

Hansen, who is in his first season as head coach for Hillsborough, was in attendance for that state semifinal game against Ridge last winter.

The former Madison High School head coach said he left that game very impressed with the talent Hillsborough had and said, “they would be one of the teams he would want to coach.”

That opportunity came for Hansen this summer and he sent in his application right away to Hillsborough High School Athletic Director Mike Davis for the position.

Now, at the helm of the Raiders, Hansen is getting a chance to see what the Hillsborough hockey program is all about and has been very happy with his time so far with the team.

“It’s a really great group of guys that come to win,” Hansen said. “They work hard. A lot of these guys have a really high Hockey IQ.”

Hansen and Hillsborough will look to accomplish their first goal of the season by starting the 2022-23 campaign 5-1 when they face defending NJSIAA Public C champion Governor Livingston on Dec. 23.

The biggest goals on the minds of the Raiders this winter is winning the Skyland Conference Cup and making a deep run again in the NJSIAA Public A Tournament.

Both of those achievements are on the table in the eyes of Hansen for his Raiders.

“It would be great to make it to the finals of the Skyland Cup and earn a Top-4 seed in Public A. It would give us a chance to make a great run in states,” Hansen said.

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