After handily dispatching their first two opponents in the NJ State High School hockey tournament, 11-1 vs Newark East Side and 8-3 vs West Morris Central, the Lakers take to the ice for a quarterfinal match against the Middletown South Eagles on Sunday March 6, 2011 at 4:15 pm at the Ice Vault in Wayne.
Coach Mark Lio’s Lakers have shown good balance thus far in the Tournament, led in scoring, as they have all season, by junior Jeff Celniker who has racked up 7 goals and 5 assists in the first two games. However, many other players are making significant contributions, both on the game scoresheet and on the team statistical charts. Goalie Gavin Spray, backed up by Conor Silverstein and cheered on by the injured Jared Bernstein, has grown throughout the season and looks ready to backstop the team towards its goal of a state championship. The defense in front of him has been a young, cohesive, improving group led by Assistant Captain Andrew Portnoy, newcomer Elliot Vorel, Tyler Devore, Alec Fernandez, Paul Kimmelman, and John Spagnola. Up front, a rotating cast of players has teamed with Celniker in providing the Lakers their best scoring team ever. Co-captains Billy Burgoyne and Nick D’Aloia have had outstanding seasons, providing speed, scoring and leadership. Other players, including Joe Spagnola, Geoffrey Smith, Ryan Gecawich, Corey Carnahan, and Matt D’Aloia have all notched outstanding two-way seasons with impressive scoring themselves, especially assist leader Spagnola’s knack of controlling the puck in the corners and feeding a pass to an open teammate.
Their opponents this Sunday, the Middletown South Eagles, ride a late season hot streak into the game. Midway through the season, the Eagles were mired in an up-and-down controversy laden mess, with a record barely above 0.500 and suffering through questions and scrutiny stemming from the mid-game dismissal or resigning of the talented Johnson brothers. During February, the Eagles put together a string of stronger performances that have carried them comfortably into the State Tournament.
The Eagles are led by several players who also play for the NJ Junior Titans team, including goalie Chris Marsillo, F Jason Zimmel (#14) and D/F Jimmy Burns (#11). They have some strong scorers in Zach England (#21), Tyler Ralph (#12), Chris Connor (#28), Chris Malamut (#68), and Cole Samuels (#4). The Eagles appear to be big, fast and physical, taking many penalties but relying on Marsillo to keep them in the games despite prolonged shorthanded situations.
Marsillo was the First Team goalie on the Shore Conference All Star team (A Division), with Ralph and Burns making the Second Team and Connor achieving Honorable Mention. Thus far in the the tournament, the Eagles have beaten Nutley 5-2 then upset higher seeded Princeton, also by a 5-2 score.
Conclusions? To win a state championship, you have to beat good teams with outstanding players. The Lakers will have to get the puck past Marsillo and jump to a lead, stay focused on defense, and most of all avoid being pulled into a classic Shore Conference physical brawl. As stated on NJPowerRanking.com, Marsillo will have to have an “out of body performance to limit the Lakers to under four.” We shall see.
In summary, the Lakers are playing well, scoring seemingly at will (7.46 goals a game), and are well suited to continue their State B Championship run beyond Sunday.