SOMERSET — It hasn’t been a dream season by any means for the Bernards and Montgomery High School ice hockey teams, but the two teams played to a spirited 4-4 tie Monday afternoon at Protec Arena.
The Cougars (5-11-1) held a two-goal lead entering the third period, but Dan Osika and Matt Dean found the back of the net less than two minutes apart to even the score at 4-4. Dean recorded a hat trick in the game and all three goals were scored in the dirty area just in front of the net.
“The front of the net is the place you need to go if you want to score,” Dean said. “So I just park myself there and drive the net hard for rebounds and that’s how I was able to be successful today.”
Dean’s third goal of the contest, at the 11:18 mark of the third period, was a result of great work along the blue line by the Bernards (8-5-2) defense. The Mountaineers defensemen kept the puck away from the Montgomery forwards and eventually Jake Kerr fired a shot on net. Michael Yanovitch made the stop, but the rebound squirted right to Dean’s stick and the senior forward tapped it in.
Montgomery jumped on top early, when Jese Negron ripped home a slap shot from just inside the blue line at the 10:22 mark of the first period. Negron, one of the Cougars’ captains this season, said he’s been given the green light to shoot the puck more often this winter.
“Coach (Rob) Scarpa has been giving the defensemen the option to carry the puck a little further and shoot it when we have the chance,” he said. “So I just let it go and it went in.”
Dean tied the game less than five minutes after Negron’s goal, but Montgomery found the back of the net three times in the second period to seize control of the contest.
Cam Garinger and Bryan Mayewski worked a beautiful two-on-one down the middle of the ice, with Mayewski dishing to Garinger for the goal at 12:07. Six minutes later, with two Mountaineers in the penalty box, Montgomery capitalized again, working the puck around the offensive zone before Steve Krafcik let a shot fly from the point. With two Cougars standing in front of the net, Bernards goalie Coleman Merchant never saw the puck, and it found the back of the net to put Montgomery up 3-1.
Maxx Berteletti capped the Montgomery scoring with a tap-in goal with 5:26 remaining in the second period.
But from there, it was all Bernards. With less than a minute to play in the middle frame, Dean scored on a tip-in right in front of the Montgomery net, once again because of poor rebound control by the Cougars defense. That goal buoyed the Mountaineers to a comeback that Dean said wouldn’t have happened earlier in the season.
“We certainly battled back, which is something we wouldn’t have done in the past; we usually crumble when we fall behind, but we were down 3-1 and we came back,” Dean said.