BRICK — Over the past five years the Point Boro hockey program developed several pillars of tradition under former head coach Alex Depalma.
The Panthers were disciplined and respectful, as well as fierce competitors who approached the game with a blue-collar grit and a collective motor that never quit.
When Steve Plancey officially took the reins of this program in the fall, the Point Pleasant Boro alum and former WestfieldState University defenseman did so with pride in his heart and a mission in mind to further build upon the pedigree and personality this Panthers outfit had assumed.
MILESTONE MOMENT: That process began on Friday evening at the Ocean Ice Palace, where a short-handed Point Boro collective — who was without the services of senior standouts Tom Colorio and John Callander — blanked Class A South divisional rival Brick Memorial by a 2-0 decision, the Panthers (1-1-0, 1-0-0) first victory of the 2017-18 season, and what’s more, the first victory of Plancey’s young career behind the bench.
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“The pride and tradition this program has created over the last five years is something very special,” Plancey said in the post-game. “It takes a special person at the top in [Depalma], and some special kids to buy in to create a culture like we have here at Point Boro, and it now it’s my job, and this group’s job to make sure we carry that pride and tradition forward and continue to develop it.”
“That’s my goal and I know it’s the goal of these players as well,” Plancey added. “I know I speak for myself as well as theplayers and coaches when I say that we have high expectations for this team. The standards haven’t changed. And it’s great to get the first one, but I told the guys; enjoy the win, but tomorrow is a new day and a new challenge and we have to rise to the occasion.”
OVERCOMING OBSTACLES: The Panthers certainly met a formidable opponent on Friday in a Brick Memorial club that features one of the best goaltenders in the Shore Conference — Andrew Slobiski, who steered aside 31 of 33 shots faced, including all 11 shots on goal in the third period — and a top tier two-way defenseman in Thomas Swartwout, all while trying to overcome their own roster deficiencies, including a banged up Eric Dahl (lower body) and Aidan Zielaznicki (upper body) — who both suited up — as well as the aforementioned omissions (Colorio and Callander).
The first goal was going to provide a pivotal momentum swing, and the Panthers got it, as Ryan McCabe ladled a puck downbelow the goal line that was dug out by Corey Campbell, who wheeled into the slot from left circle and beat Slobiski over the glove at 5:33 of the opening period.
Campbell’s tally would go in the books as the game-winning goal — as junior netminder John Meyer stopped all 18 shots faced to preserve the victory — and the marker’s significance was amplified for the senior, as it led the to the milestone moment for Plancey.
“Coach has really been motivating for us, and really helping us move forward as a team,” Campbell said. “It’s great that we could help him get his first win. We’re reallyhappy for him and hopefully it’s nothing but more good things from here on out.”
Dahl helped put the game out of reach for the Panthers with his first of the season, when Zielaznicki and Will Herrington worked the puck from behind the net to the front of the crease, where the senior jammed home his first of the season to the back of the twine for a two-goal advantage with 2:13 to play in the second period.
“Brick Memorial is a good team,” said Dahl, who had 17 goals a season ago. “We’ve seen a lot of those guys enough over the years to know there’s no quit in them. Slobiski is a real good goalie, and we knew we had to put a lot of shots on him. And that’s what we did. We took shots, worked hard in front of the net and I was able to force one in, and that helped us out.”
MEYER BLANKS THEM: Dahl’s goal helped provide Meyer a little more room to breath in his crease, where the junior stood tall in this divisional clash, matching Slobiski’s efforts — including nine high-pressure saves in the third period —and ultimately registering the first shutout of his scholastic career.
“Slobiski’s is one of the best around, there’s no denying that. And when you go up against a guy like that, the spotlight is on you to perform,” said Meyer, who is in his first season as the full-time starter. “It’s a battle of the goalies, and it comes down to who is going to crack first. My guys played really well in front of me. They were able to put in a couple of goals and this turned into a a really special night.”
UP NEXT: Point Boro travels to Rumson-Fair Haven on Monday, Dec. 4 for an 8:15 p.m. meeting, while Brick Memorial hosts Bernards on on Dec. 10 at 7:15 p.m.