Scannell's gem helps Mahwah edge Ramsey
Two of the best goaltenders in all of New Jersey were pitted against one another on Friday night at the Ice Vault.
But it was Sean Scannell who turned in a dynamic 34-save performance that carried Mahwah to a 2-1 victory over divisional rival Ramsey.
“I’m speechless. I really am,” said Mahwah head coach Kevin Sabella. “He’s unreal. The more shots he faces, the better he gets. If I’m a coach on the other team, I’m telling my kids not to shoot. I know that’s true for a lot of goalies, but in Sean’s case, it really is. He gave up nothing against Glen Rock, one goal to DePaul Catholic, and one goal tonight. He’s carrying us right now.”
The Thunderbirds were a little short-handed due to a strep-throat virus that put a couple of players out of commission, so the directive from the coaching staff was to rely heavily on defense and goaltending.
“We had to adjust our game plan tonight,” said Sabella. “We knew we were short-handed, so we pulled back on our forecheck, we sat back a little bit and it frustrated them a little. We said if we got a chance on the power play, we’d have to capitalize and we did.”
The Thunderbirds opened the scoring five minutes into the first period when Matt Gutierrez centered a puck out of the corner to a wide-open Derek Jordan. The senior forward one-timed the puck low to the blocker side of Larkin and into the back of the net to give Mahwah a 1-0 lead.
“Derek quietly has one of the best shots in the league,” Sabella said of his big left wing. “All he has to do is move his feet and get in position. Sure enough, he stepped up big for us tonight. He’s coming around now. This was one of his better games.”
Although Mahwah drew first blood, Ramsey was carrying the play throughout most of the game and out-shot Mahwah, 36-15. The Thunderbirds were simply content to sit back and allow the Rams into the offense zone, but keep play to the outside.
However, after Chris Curtiss went off for interference late in the first, Brandon Hasslinger finished a tic-tac-toe play from Alec Mast and Alex Whelan to deadlock the game at one.
Scannell faced 17 shots in all in the first period, but continued to battle and keep his team in the game.
“They got 36 shots, though some of them weren’t too bad,” said Scannell. “But, I give a lot of credit to the defense in front of me. They were really holding everyone up out there and keeping them out of the middle.”
With their goalie getting stronger and more confident, all the Thunderbirds needed was one more opportunity.
At the 10:13 mark of the second period, the Rams took a penalty and Mahwah made the most of its man-advantage.
Derek Jordan carried his team into the zone and drove around the net to the right wing hash marks. As the power play set up shop, Jordan dished off to Curtiss and the senior defenseman ripped a shot that Larkin never saw. The Thunderbirds were ahead, 2-1, and determined to keep their rival off the board.
Ramsey’s Alec Mast had a partial breakaway midway through the third, but Scannell stood his ground and made the stop. Connor DiTomaso also had two open looks in the third, but the lightning-quick glove of Scannell was there both times to steal a sure goal away from the opposition.
“That’s one of the gutsiest wins I’ve seen us have in five years,” said Sabella. “We had two kids with strep throat that could barely make it to the game. We went 24-4 last year and still I’ve never been more proud of the team than I am tonight. It was a real gut-check game for us.”
It was also a more satisfying win for the Thunderbirds. At the sound of the final bzzer, there was a celebration normally reserved for a playoff win. The players knew it was an important victory for their team, now playing the underdog to their rival.
“We had no one back this year, no expected us to win this time,” said Scannell. “So this is an even bigger win over Ramsey than any game last year. A couple guys are really sick tonight, but we stuck it out.”
After losing two of their first three, the Thunderbirds have four straight victories heading towards the Bergen County tournament and the second half of their regular season. Mahwah will look to prove that it is one of the best the Big North, and the Public B playoff bracket, has to offer.
Mark Krulish covers ice hockey for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_Krulish