by Andrew Garda
ROSELLE — While the Montclair Mounties were unable to overcome Summit’s hockey team Tuesday night at the Warinanco Sports Center, losing in a tight 3-1 game, there were still plenty of positives to be found. Last time out, Montclair (9-2-2, 1-2-2) was shellacked by Summit (12-1, 8-0) by a score of 5-0.
Coming into this game, after a recent triumph over Madison, the Mounties were a much different, more confident team.
“We’re playing better hockey, no doubt,” coach Pat Verney said after the game. “We lost 5-0 to them early in the year and it could have been 8-0 if Gus [Bylin] didn’t play well in that one. Gus was great today and we lost 2-1, with the third goal an empty net.”
The Mounties were outshot 28-21, but it was a vast improvement from the first game, where Bylin was blasted by 37 shots, while the Mounties managed only 17 scoring chances.
Bylin faced a lot fewer shots this time out, and managed to save 26 of those scoring chances, including two major saves — one in the second period and one in the third — to keep Montclair within one goal. One of the reasons why he faced fewer shots was the excellent play of his defensemen.
Will Schiffenhaus and John Painter are well-known powerhouses in the defensive end at this point, but for Verney, the unsung hero of Tuesday night was Jared Topf.
“A ninth grader, only weighs about a hundred pounds, and he’s playing out of his mind good,” Verney said. “He plays like he’s twice his size, doesn’t back down from anybody. His play was inspiring today, the way he played defense.”
Verney had plenty of praise for his two other defenders though, and said Schiffenhaus and Painter had executed the exact game plan the team had talked about all week leading up to the game.
Despite great defense and plenty of scoring chances, the Mounties lost in large part because they just left too many opportunities on the ice.
“There were some pucks which were laying in the slot that we just chipped wide, and that’s the only thing I’d want back today,” Verney said.
Despite the loss, Montclair again showed it is a team to be reckoned with against one of the best in New Jersey.
“In my opinion, that’s the strongest public school team in the state, top to bottom,” Verney said of Summit. “They’re well coached, have so much depth, and so much speed. They’re phenomenal in transition. Their transition embarrassed us in the first game. They beat us 5-0 and they had double-digit odd-man rushes, which is not the way Montclair plays defense. So we did a much better job against that today.”
At the end of the day, while the Mounties played very good hockey, it wasn’t enough.
“It’s tough because they’re a good team,” Verney said. “You have to play a perfect game. We played a 9 out of 10 today, and you have to play a 10 out of 10 to beat Summit.”