Red Bank Catholic 2, Rumson/Fair Haven 1
Monday night reminded me why I love doing this. On a night that reminded me of my trip to the Rock two years ago to catch the Ridge-Bernards rivalry game, I saw my first game at the very impressive Red Bank Armory between Southern White rivals Red Bank Catholic and Rumson/Fair Haven.
RBC (8-2) was considered the ‘favorite’ against RFH (5-2-3), but everybody gets up for a rivalry game, and with each school controlling half the stands at their shared home ice, the crowd made sure the game stayed competitive. The Bulldogs came out stronger, and RBC goalie Tony Baptist made a good save on RFH forward Justin Gates just one minute into the contest to keep things scoreless. A penalty at the 4:34 mark, however, took some wind out of the RFH sails, and RBC controlled the rest of the period. Play was choppy, with RFH content to ice the puck and RBC unable to bang any rebounds past Mike Swick in the Bulldog goal. When the Casey goal finally came, it was on a shot Swick never saw. RBC second-line forward Michael Pickett made a blind backhand pass out of the right corner that found Mike Nill alone on the left side of the slot. With a teammate and a defender dominating Swick’s vision, Nill found time to pick his spot just inside the right post and hit it with a wrist shot for a 1-0 RBC lead. Swick held out the rest of the period, however, making 15 saves to keep it a 1-0 game.
Bulldog head coach Dave Smith made a tactical change to open the second period, dropping his third forward deeper toward the blue line on the RFH forecheck in response to RBC head coach Ken Carlson’s style that encourages long stretch passes. The forecheck change limited the RBC breakout, and RFH got right back in the game at the 6:48 mark. Defenseman Kyle Abbott wrested a high shot from the point. Baptist jumped to stop it but lost control of the rebound, which dropped between his legs. Gates got there first to put it between Baptist’s legs as he was still looking for the puck. Rumson had an 8-2 shot advantage at that point, but RBC tied things up three minutes later. Junior forward James Pielli, impressive on the Caseys’ top line all night, backhanded a pass from behind the net that carried through traffic in the slot. Sophomore linemate Michael Chilton got it and backhanded a shot high to Swick’s stick side, and the RFH goalie could only get a piece of it before it found net. RFH continued to carry play despite the weary legs of its top line, and Baptist made a strong pad save to deny the Bulldogs a power play goal with 24 seconds remaining.
After the ice cut, neither team could find an advantage for most of the period. The Bulldogs squandered a minute of power play time to open the period, and RBC finally connected on one of its home-run passes three minutes in. Swick rose to the challenge, however, making a blocker save on Pickett’s wrist shot. The game turned just past the halfway point, when RFH got one power play and, almost immediately after, another. The Bulldogs struggled bringing the puck up the ice, however, and never managed a decent chance despite the yeoman efforts of defenseman Joe Torcivia. Baptist only had to make one more tough save down the stretch, a glove save with less than a minute remaining, and the Caseys skated away with a key win in both the Southern White and Shore B divisional races. What RBC is doing in the White Division, however, is anybody’s guess.
Player of the Game: Tony Baptist (RBC)
Red Bank Armory
Accusations of autocracy notwithstanding, this is a tremendous place to watch a game. I kept noticing different elements that I would want exactly the same were I constructing my own dream rink. The brick gives the building a great foundation, on the exterior and inside, and the place just felt classy. Hanging the balconies a few feet inside the boards is an interesting decision, but the standing room effectively forces the crowd together (I wish it extended the length of the ice). The ice is fast, the lights and scoreboard are first-rate, the locker room facilities appear well-laid out, and the seating behind one goal is a nice touch for parents who prefer to sit. Maybe it just felt so electric because it was a rivalry game, but most of the people I talked to shared my opinion that the Armory is the finest rink South Jersey has to offer.
Red Bank Catholic 2, Rumson/Fair Haven 1
RBC (8-2) 1 1 0 - 2
Rumson/Fair Haven (5-2-3) 0 1 0 - 1
RBC 16 6 7 - 29
Rumson/Fair Haven 3 15 9 - 27
10:58 RBC #7 Mike Nill (#18 Michael Pickett)
6:48 RFH #6 Justin Gates (#7 Kyle Abbott)
9:49 RBC #4 Michael Chilton (#23 James Pielli)
Rumson/Fair Haven 0-4
#30 Tony Baptist (RBC) 27-26
#34 Mike Swick (RFH) 29-27