Lakeland wins 7th straight by Nick Gantaifis of The Record
Following an opening-night loss three weeks ago, the Lakeland ice hockey team has been on a roll.
Since falling to Mahwah, 6-3, in the season opener on Nov. 24, the Lancers have won seven straight after a weekend sweep over Wayne Hills and Ridgewood.
Lakeland (7-1) is one of the hottest teams in North Jersey through the first month of the season, outscoring opponents 33-7 during its seven-game win streak. It’s also the Lancers’ best start since the 2015-16 season when they won eight straight games to open the campaign
“The difference between this team and some of our better teams over the past couple of years is our balance and depth,” coach Nick Crouch said. “We have so many different guys contributing each night and a lot of guys seeing ice time. Our upperclassman are great leaders and our sophomore class is one of the most dedicated and hardworking groups I have been around in my eight years as a head coach.”
Over the weekend, senior Drew Lorenz scored twice as the Lancers cruised to a 5-2 victory on Sunday night at the Ice Vault in Wayne. Junior Matt Coiley and sophomores Scott Martin and Joey Wogisch had one goal each.
On Saturday, Lakeland handled rivals Wayne, 4-1 in a rematch of last winter’s Passaic County title game, which the Lancers lost 3-1.
Senior goalie Luke Joyce stopped 41 shots and junior Bobby Wogisch recorded his second career hat-trick. Coiley netted the Lancers other goal and assisted on another. Wogisch, Martin and Lorenz had one assist each.
SCORES: H.S. box scores for Dec. 16
The Lancers took a 1-0 lead in the first period when Wogisch scored his first goal at 5:25 and increased its lead when he scored his second goal in the second period on a power play at 13:05. Coiley’s goal came just over 10 minutes later with 2:51 remaining in the period. Wogisch closed out the scoring in the third on an empty netter with :27 left in the game.
So far this season, Lakeland has wins over Ramapo, Indian Hills, Glen Rock, Montclair, West Morris, Wayne and Ridgewood.
Perhaps Lakeland’s biggest win to date was back on Nov. 30 in a 2-1 victory over league rivals and state-ranked Indian Hills in only the third game of the season. Joyce was outstanding in net, turning away 37 shots-on-goal to limit the Braves to just one goal.
“Luke has been fantastic in goal,” Crouch said. “He has really settled in nicely after that first game and is a big reason we are off to such a good start.”
Senior Jason Paragallo scored the game-winner off a feed from Lorenz with 8:14 remaining in the game and the Lancers’ defense, led by Joyce, did the rest as Lakeland won their second-straight game since its opening-night setback. Following a scoreless first two periods, senior Brayden Mahurter broke through and got the Lancers on the board first with an early third-period goal off an assist from junior Kevin Sidow.
Lakeland’s wake-up call came following the season-opening setback to Mahwah when the Thunderbirds scored four goals in the third period to earn the win. The Lancers held a 3-2 lead with 9:32 left in regulation before Mahwah went on a tear and scored four straight.
“I really think losing the season opener to Mahwah is the reason why we are 7-1,” Crouch said. “We took some valuable lessons out of that game and I’m not sure we would be where we are today with out that experience.”
Lakeland plays in the Big North Liberty Stars Division along with Indian Hills, Ramsey and newly-formed co-op West Milford/Pequannock. The Lancers previously played in the Liberty Stripes with the likes of Wayne, Mahwah and Glen Rock.
Lakeland (7-1 overall, 1-0 division) is currently sitting in second place in the Stars Division to start the week behind Indian Hills (6-1 overall, 2-1 division). The Lancers next face last place West Milford/Pequannock (3-6 overall, 0-2 division) on Friday night at the Ice Vault in a 6 p.m. start.
Last season, Lakeland finished with a 14-9-1 overall record and reached the Public C Round of 16 where they fell to West Morris, 5-1. The Lancers also reached the Big North Silver Cup title game, falling to rivals and top-seed Wayne, 4-2. A month earlier, Lakeland lost to Wayne in the Passaic County Tournament title game, snapping the Lancers’ three-year championship streak.
Through the first eight games of the season, Lorenz and Paragallo are tied with seven goals apiece for the team lead and Wogisch is right behind with six goals.
“The key for us moving forward will be how the guys handle the success,” Crouch said. “We still have a lot of work to do and can get a lot better. We can’t just be satisfied with where we are at now.
“If we are going to contend at the end we have to get better every week and raise our level of play. How we approach practices these next couple weeks will tell me a lot about how good this team wants to be.”