ROSELLE, NJ - The Nutley/Columbia High co-op ice hockey team fought valiantly for over two periods but in the end, suffered a 3-0 loss to third-seeded Cranford in the opening round of the 2021 Kelly Cup on Saturday night at Warinanco Park in Roselle.

"We played them hard and it was 0-0 entering the third," said Nutley/Columbia head coach Dave Macri. "It was just a combination of not getting enough scoring opportunities and running out of gas."

Cranford (4-6) advanced to the semifinal round of the Kelly Cup against second-seeded Oratory on Monday. Nutley/Columbia, which was seeded sixth, fell to 4-7 with the loss.

Nutley/Columbia had actually defeated Cranford, 4-3, a week earlier on Feb. 20 also at Warinanco Park.

That victory saw Frank Matrona score two goals for the Maroon Raiders, including the game-winner in the third period. Julian Poole and T.J. Wassman each had a goal an an assist in the decision.

Goalie Oliver Tauscher made 51 saves to preserve the win - the same amount he had in the Kelly cup loss on Saturday.

"Oliver has just been outstanding and gave Cranford fits in both games," said Macri of his senior net-minder. "We did everything we could do but just didn't have many shots on goal the second time around."

With the ongoing corona pandemic being a concern, there are no state playoffs for state teams to take part in but there are several Cup tournaments being held.

"The Cup tournament is alwyas exciting," said Macri. "Its a a culmination of all the hard work put in during the season. We certainly didn't take nothing for granted and were equal to the task for the first two periods.

"For a while it was starting to smell like a game headed to overtime, which would've been even more exciting, but it wasn't meant to be."

Cranford finally got on the scoreboard five minutes into the final period and then added two more goals thereafter.

Nutley/Columbia has been paced offensively this season by Rocco Albanese (six goals, six assists), Matrona (six goals, one assist), Wassman (five goals, three assists), Vijay Vinton (four goals, three assists), Poole (three goals, four assists), Zach Fagin (two goals, four assists), C.J. Hannon (two goals, three assists), Cooper Fojas (one goal, two assists), Mallory Albanese (three assists), Andrew Nicolette (two assists), Paul Poplawski (two assists) and James Gonon (one assist). 

Nutley/Columbia will meet Tenafly on Thursday, March 4 and is looking for an opponent for Friday, March 5 to cap its 2021 season.

"The state has allowed us to play 15 games this year and we're just about at that," said Macri. "We've really enjoyed having the opportunity to compete."