By Jim Hintelmann
MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIP – When the St. John Vianney hockey team jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Middletown North in the second period, it appeared that it would be an easy win for the Lancers.
SJV did win the game, but it had to hold off a late North comeback to preserve a 3-2 victory Friday at the Middletown Ice World, but coach Mick Messemer wasn’t entirely happy.
“We had too many penalties and it was ugly at times, but a win is a win and we’ll take it,” said Messemer. “If we didn’t get that many penalties, we might have scored a couple of more goals, but give credit to Middletown North. They are a tough team that didn’t give up.”
Despite having a young team with freshmen scoring the first two goals, SJV has already matched last year’s win total with half of the season remaining.
“Even though we have a young team, I expected a good season,” said Messemer. “We have a lot of guys back and some good newcomers, but we still have some work to do.”
What proved to be the game-winning goal came late in the second period when sophomore John Gelatt, who lives in Middletown, outraced a defender and slapped in a shot from eight yards out that went off the glove of goalie Anthony Manfredi, who still had a solid game in the nets with 26 saves. “I was in the neutral zone and was able to get the puck and put it in,” said Gelatt. “Their defenseman was backing up and I was able to make the shot. I’ve been playing travel hockey since I was nine years old and that was my 10th goal this year. I had nine last year.”
SJV scored on a power play early in the game when freshman Mike Franzoni got the puck from Gelatt and tallied on a perfect wrap-around goal.
SJV made it 2-0 on another power play just before the end of the period when a shot by freshman Jake Larusso was deflected into the net by Kevyn Rigatti.
Gelatt’s goal was his third in as many games while SJV (6-2-1), is 4-0-1 in its last five games. Goalie Jeremy Connor had 16 saves for the Lancers, who had a 29-18 shot advantage.
North’s John Hallard scored a pair of goals, his seventh and eighths of the season, in the third period to make it a one goal deficit. The Lions had several more chances to tie it up, but Connor made several big stops to help SJV keep the lead.
“We had a bad start,” said North coach Matt Clemente, whose team went 19-3 last year and won the Shore Conference championship. “We played well in the third period, but the game is more than the third period. You have to play 45 minutes of competitive hockey.”
North (4-4-3) lost heavily by graduation, including top scorers Bobby Hampton and Khristian Acosta, but Clemente has been pleased with the season.
“We have a young team that is still learning to win,” he said. “We won the Shore conference last year and went to the semifinals of the states before losing, 1-0, but we have a lot of depth this year and should improve.”
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