Livingston Hockey's Late Surge Not Enough to Earn Trip to State Final
Tuesday, March 5, 2013 • 8:51pm
WEST ORANGE, NJ - The third period is do-or-die for most hockey teams. Over the past few months, Livingston has excelled in the final 15 minutes of regulation and in overtime, winning some close games to get to the NJSIAA Public A semifinal.
Bridgewater-Raritan has been the exact opposite. Throughout the year, they've built early leads, but have struggled to hold on late in game, so it makes perfect sense that Tuesday's semifinal between the Lancers and Panthers came down to the wire.
In the end, Bridgewater-Raritan was able to hold on after allowing two third period goals to be Livingston 3-2 and advance to Saturday's Public A final at Prudential Center.
"This is something you have to prepare for all season," Panther head coach Patrick Alvin said. "You can't just jump into the state playoffs and think things are going to go well after two or three weeks of getting ready for it."
Bridgewater-Raritan led early thanks to two power play goals in the first period. Steven Cleary scored the first Panther goal less than four minutes in. Then in the final two minutes of the opening period, Eddie Weissman lit the lamp to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
"It was nice to stay focused, especially the second power play," Alvin said. "Its tic-tac-toe what we do."
After a long intermission, the Panthers found the back of the net 90 seconds into the third period when Alec Casiero put in a loose puck in front of Livingston goaltender Brian Lilien.
Lancer head coach Dave Cohen said it was a tough opening stretch for Lilien, but in the long run, the goaltender was what kept Livingston in the game.
"Brian [Lilien] played a great game," Cohen said. "He's played great all season. We just came ups little short today."
In the third, Livingston came out with a vengeance. Ben Arden put a puck over Panther goalie Bobby Esposito less than two minutes in to bring the Lancer crowd back into the game.
A minute and a half later, Mike Koval scored on a wrist shot from the right circle to pull Livingston within one.
"The second one really started to hit me," Esposito said. "I needed to wipe it out. I completely forgot about the first two, then brought my game back to normal level, how i normally play."
After Alvin called a timeout, Esposito was phenomenal for the final 10 minutes, staving off every Livingston shot but one.
In the final five minutes, a Koval shot from the point hit the post. This proved to be Livingston's last offensive chance to tie the game. With the goalie pulled in the last minute, the Lancers never got a strong shot on Espostio, giving the Panthers a trip to the Public A Championship.
"We turned into a shell in the third period," Esposito said. "Coach called a good time out and we got our stuff together to get the win."
Bridgewater-Raritan will face Randolph in Saturday's final at the Prudential Center. Randolph will be playing in their fifth title game in the last six seasons.
"We haven't played Randolph in a long time," Alvin said. "They're a terrific program and we're going to go out and give it everything we've got."
As for Livingston, the Lancers end their season at 19-6-4, leaving Cohen with a feeling of regret for his seniors.
"I feel really badly for them that we came up a little short this year," he said. "I think those guys should be really proud. they worked hard, not only all year long, but for four years. You want them to get their success and the accolades they deserve."