Livingston Hockey Beats No. 2 Nutley in McInnis Cup Semi-Final OT Thriller
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 • 10:09pm
WEST ORANGE, N.J. - The Livingston Lancers hockey team upset the Nutley Raiders 3-2 in overtime during Monday's McInnis Cup semi-final from Codey Arena.
Last year's First Team All-Essex and former Conference Rookie of the Year Jonny Garfinkel was able to score the first goal of the game as he took the puck in the middle of the zone, finally backhanding it to the right of Nutley's Alec Astorga to go up 1-0 early in the game.
"All season the first goal is a huge momentum booster, in the first period especially," Garfinkel said.
However, in the second period, a couple of oddities in Livingston's zone took all that momentum away. In just 37 seconds, Nutley scored two goals to take a 2-1 lead.
On the powerplay for Nutley, Davie Fierro looked to dump the puck in Livingston's zone, looking for another forward to play it. Instead of the puck rolling to a Nutley stick, it took an awkward bounce and hit the back of Livingston's goalie Brian Lilien's skate and went into the net for the first goal.
Seconds later, at even strength, Will Paro was just looking to center the puck from Lilien's right, however, it hit off of a Livingston's player skate and went in.
"We were outplaying them at that point," Lilien said. "(Nutley) just tried to do whatever they could, and the (first) shot just got blocked by Ben [Arden], and it was a great block, (it) hit the boards, bounced off my skate and it got in. And then 30 seconds and another bounce to get in, we could have easily just folded and shut down. It was really great of us that we kept going, and that's what it's all about."
27 seconds after Nutley scored, Livingston took it into Nutley's zone looking for a tying goal with five minutes remaining in the 2nd period. Tal Finberg passed it across to Ben Arden, who took a shot from the left. Livingston's Cameron Friedfertig was able to get his stick on the puck and directed it through Astorga for the Lancer's second goal of the game.
As play continued, the pressure was increasing, the game was getting chippy, and each time a shot was made, the crowd became louder.
In the third period, the teams exchanged shots, but Lilien and Astorga continued to deny their opposition on every single chance. No goals were made in the third period. The only names on the third period box score were Lilien and Astorga, making brilliant saves left and right.
After ending regulation tied, they began a sudden-death, 15-minute overtime period.
"I knew that any goal in the third period or overtime would obviously end (the game)," Lilien said.
While in overtime, Lilien was understandably nervous, but he never let his nerves take him over during the game.
"Obviously, it was so nerve-racking," Lilien admitted. "The whole time I knew that I had to be perfect."
Lilien remained perfect for the rest of the game, saving 37 of Nutley's 39 shots, as Livingston's junior forward Tal Finberg finally scored the game-winning goal with 2:24 remaining in overtime.
The play adapted as senior defenseman Mike Koval went coast-to-coast with Seth Crockett and Finberg on a 3-on-2 against Nutley. Koval passed it to his left, where Crockett took it. Then without even moving with the puck, Crockett fired it to Finberg who was on the other side of Koval, where he sniped it over Astorga's glove and into the net.
"It was just a relief," Finberg said. "Alec Astorga (who saved 36 of 39 shots) is such a good goalie, he stopped every one of my shots, and finally the puck went in. I'm just so happy we made the finals"
After Finberg scored the goal, the Lancers' bench cleared in a second as everyone rushed to Finberg, who was already celebrating his game winning goal by Livingston's fan-section next to the boards.
"It feels good to get a win against Nutley for the first time of the season," Arden said. "Honestly, when (Tal) scored, I was on the ice, and I was skating into the zone, so I was at about the red line. I saw it go in, and it was an awesome shot first of all. I kind of stopped for a second, ran over as fast as I could to (Tal), and I don't know if you saw this, but this is kind of funny. I kind of jumped to get him, but he went down (to celebrate), and I missed him, went head first into the glass. Then I got up and jumped on top of him."
The Lancers are one win away from winning the McInnis Cup, a tournament that Livingston has never won.
"Every win means a lot," coach Dave Conklin said. "This program has been up and down. Back in the 70's and early 80's, Livingston was the top team in the state. They've had some really bad years since 1982, but it means a lot. All these wins of beating these top 20 teams. We beat Seton Hall (Prep) when they were I think 14 at the time, tied MKA; they were ranked 11th. Just beat Nutley and they were ranked 16th. They're all huge wins and I don't think Livingston's beaten Seton Hall since 1982, so (all these games) mean a great deal to the program and we're seeing all the little kids come to the games now, so hopefully, they all start playing hockey and create a nice little Feeder Program."
Livingston will face No. 1 Montclair Kimberly Academy in the championship game on Saturday. Face-off is scheduled for 5:45 at Codey Arena.