Wayne takes “round 1” from Lakeland in possible Passaic hockey tournament preview by Greg Tartaglia of The Record
WAYNE – Dean Hulbert still remembers.
The senior center is the leading goal-scorer on the Wayne co-op hockey team. He netted his 12th of the season Friday night at Ice Vault to put the finishing touches on the Knights’ 5-2 Big North Liberty-Stripes win over Lakeland.
Earlier this week, the division rivals were awarded the top two seeds for the upcoming Passaic County tournament. The three-time defending champion Lancers are No. 1, and Wayne is No. 2.
Prior to the formation of the co-op with Wayne Valley, Hulbert played his first three varsity seasons for Wayne Hills.
“The past three years, they [Lakeland] beat us in the county tournament,” he said. “They had our number, but this just shows that this year is different.”
Wayne (5-4-3) is now unbeaten against in-county competition in 2017-18, having defeated West Milford (the No. 5 seed) on opening day and Passaic Valley/Cedar Grove (No. 3) on Dec. 22.
“The co-op definitely gives more depth to our roster,” said Hulbert, who recorded his 100th career point earlier in the winter. “We know that we’ve got great guys with good talent and a good group of guys that are willing to work together and play hard.”
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Lakeland moved to 7-4-1. The teams’ next division game is scheduled for Jan. 19, but if both win their Passaic semifinal contests next Saturday, Jan. 13, they also could meet in the county final.
“We’re looking at this as a three-game set,” Wayne coach Joe Belger said. “[Friday] was Game 1. We’re hoping that Game 2 comes Monday night, Martin Luther King Day, in the Passaic County final. And then Game 3 is the following weekend.”
Knights senior Richie Sabbagh had three points (one goal, two assists) in Round 1, opening the scoring 1:06 into the game.
The teams showed very little in the first two periods, when Wayne held an 11-7 shot advantage. After Drew Lorenz’s second power play goal of the night pulled Lakeland even at 2-2 with 8:18 left, the Knights scored three times in the final 7:20.
“We were kind of feeling each other out,” Lancers coach Nick Crouch said. “It was one of those games where we were both trying not to make mistakes and not show too much, while still trying to win, obviously.”
Hulbert set up Tyler Mirman for the go-ahead goal, and Wayne struck twice in the final 1:07 thanks to Chris Taranto and Hulbert. Goalie Luke Horbatuk finished with 15 saves.
Lakeland entered the contest having won three straight by a combined 16-3. Its entire starting lineup in underclassmen, with brothers Bobby (sophomore) and Joey (freshman) Wogisch on the top line with cousin Matt Coiley (sophomore). Defenseman Kevin Sidow is a sophomore, while Jason Paragallo and goalie Luke Joyce are juniors.
“Are we the best team in the county? I guess we’ll find out next week,” Crouch said. “We carry the 1-seed because of what these guys have done the first half of the season. But by no means do I think we’re a shoe-in to win the thing.”
Wayne, meanwhile, had been on a three-game skid, with setbacks to Morristown (7-1) and Livingston (7-0) in the Ice Vault Holiday Classic. The Knights welcomed back junior forward Eric Kruglyak from a wrist injury on Friday and were able to prevail despite missing seniors Marc Perez (club commitment) and Alex Waterman (illness).
“We made it known in the locker room that we really wanted to come out [Friday] and make a statement,” Belger said. “After two rough games, losing a combined 14-1, we really needed this kind of consistent, 45-minute effort.”
2018 Passaic County hockey tournament
All games at Floyd Hall Arena, Little Falls
Quarterfinal (Friday, Jan. 12)
(5) West Milford vs. (4) Clifton, 6:40 p.m.
Semifinals (Saturday, Jan. 13)
(3) Passaic Valley/Cedar Grove vs. (2) Wayne, 5:30 p.m.
(1) Lakeland vs. w/o West Milford/Clifton, 7:30 p.m.
Final (Monday, Jan. 15)
Semifinals winners, 6:30 p.m.