The dream of a first-ever Bergen County Tournament title ended for the Glen Rock hockey team Wednesday night, when the Panthers were beaten 6-1 by six-time champion Don Bosco Prep in the tournament final at the Ice Vault in Wayne.
But in the moments after the loss, Glen Rock assistant coach Zane Kalemba pointed out that the Panthers’ No. 1 goal remains very much alive.
“The boys battled hard. I’m proud of them,’’ Kalemba said. “That’s a good group we played against, give Bosco a lot of credit. I think this is great for our learning experience. We’re going to play some other good teams the rest of the year and our goal is to win a state title, so I think it’s going to be great if we learn from this game.’’
The Panthers (11-3-2) took home the runner-up county tournament trophy, but remain on track for a return trip to Prudential Center in Newark, where the state finals will be played March 6.
“At the beginning of the year we asked the kids what the goals were, and everybody said, ‘state title,’’’ Kalemba said. “And a lot of them said, ‘county title.’ So that was within reach.’’
It was within reach for the first two periods, anyway, largely thanks to the work of goaltender Ryan McAuley, who gave up an early goal but battled back to make several difficult saves to keep the game close. After two periods, Glen Rock trailed 3-1, despite being outshot 25-7.
“Mac’s been great all year for us,’’ Kalemba said. “He made some big saves in the first and second and you can’t really ask for a goalie to do anything more against a team like this.’’
The atmosphere was charged up for the event, with Glen Rock students turning out in huge numbers. Members of the school’s other teams were there to support their fellow students, as well as alumni still home from college and scores of other students, teachers and parents. Chants of “Let’s go Glen Rock!’’ rang out, and every save by McAuley, and each shot by the Panthers drew loud cheers.
Playing in their home rink, Don Bosco (11-3-1) took the lead just 1:03 into the game, but the Panthers tied the game at 7:45 of the first period, when junior left wing John LaMacchia deflected in a pass from sophomore defenseman Pat Smith. It was the only goal scored against the Ironmen in the tournament.
But with 1:57 left in the period, Don Bosco’s Tyler Sedlak deflected a shot from Tsubasa Konishi by McAuley through traffic to re-take the lead for the Ironmen. Konishi, who had been the leading scorer for Don Bosco entering the game, is a Glen Rock resident and former GRHS student who transferred to Don Bosco before the season.
Don Bosco got the only goal in the second period, when the Ironmen outshot the Panthers 16-4. And in the third, Don Bosco put the game away with three goals, the last of which was scored by Seiho Jin, also a Glen Rock resident.