By Brian Deakyne
RED BANK — Tyler Ralph, Chris Connor, Zach England.
With those three players on the top forward line, Middletown South is going to be tough to beat for the remainder of the season.
That was evident, with Ralph, Connor and England accounting for all six of the Eagles’ goals — including two on the power play — in their impressive 6-4 win over Red Bank Catholic, Tuesday night at Red Bank Armory.
“They’ve been playing together for two years now. We put them together last year and they were dynamite,” Middletown South head coach Stan Gutt said. “They’re a dynamic line, they’re tough to play against. They’re high tempo, high speed and they just keep working.”
England scored two of his three goals in the third period, giving Middletown South the lead for good with 10:19 remaining in the game and adding an insurance goal nine minutes later.
After Ralph won a face-off in the right offensive circle, England ripped the wrist shot past Red Bank Catholic goalie Chet Tooker, giving the Eagles the lead early in the third period.
Later, Ralph hit Connor with a stretch pass across the neutral zone, and Connor dropped the puck for England, who skated in off the left wing and buried his third goal of the game past Tooker, essentially putting the game away with 1:24 remaining.
“This whole year and the last few years, we’ve been priding ourselves on winning the third period,” Gutt said. “When you go out there and win the third period, you’re going to win most games.”
The Eagles entered the third period with a 4-3 lead, but Michael Hodge tied the game for the Caseys, taking a turnover in the offensive zone and beating Middletown South goalie Trevor Ralph, evening the teams at 4 with 12:57 left in the game.
RBC jumped out to a 2-1 advantage early, but the Eagles rallied for two straight goals, taking the 3-2 lead in the second period.
England scored his first goal of the game when Ralph hit him with a cross-ice pass and England beat Tooker, going bar-down, tying the teams at 2 with 10:06 left in the second period.
Four minutes later, Ralph took the puck out of net-mouth scramble and beat Tooker on a wrap-around off the right post, giving the Eagles a 3-2 lead.
Red Bank Catholic answered late in the second period when Trevor Grossman hit Kyle Gatta for a goal in the slot with 3:27 left in the period.
Middletown South answered that goal, with a power-play goal from Chris Connor. With the Eagles given the 5-on-3 advantage, it only took seven seconds for Ralph to hit Connor across the crease, giving them the 4-3 lead heading into the third period.
RBC opened the scoring when Gatta’s shot from the right wing trickled through Ralph two minutes into the game.
After Connor’s first goal, where he toe-dragged past a defensemen and beat Tooker blocker side, the Caseys’ took the lead late in the first period when Christian Constantino buried a shot off the face-off, giving RBC the 2-1 lead.
Middletown South was able to control the third period, out-shooting RBC, 13-3 and 32-16 throughout the game.
“When we go out and play a third period like that, we’re not going to lose too many games,” Gutt said.
The win comes nine days after Red Bank Catholic topped the Eagles, 4-3, at Wall.
“It’s a good rivalry between us and RBC, always an up-and-down game. It was physical. Yes, last week we lost to them, but we wanted to come back and give them a little revenge and show them that we’re here in the Shore Conference and we’re not going anywhere,” Gutt said.
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