Entering this 2017-18 campaign, Wall Township had its sight set on capturing four distinct championships.
In Week 5, Zach Tarantino helped the Knights put the first notch in their belt at the Winding River Holiday Tournament, leading his top-seeded club to a 3-2 victory over second-seeded Jackson Memorial in an anticipated meeting of defending Conference Cup Champions.
“We won a cup last year, and so did they, so we knew how good a team they were before we came into this one,” said Tarantino, who was named the Finals MVP and landed SportsFood.com/Alite Flooring Player of the Week honors.
The senior winger was stellar in the title game, scoring a pair of goals — including the game-winning tally — and assisting on the game’s opening marker by Ryan Burns, an individual effort inspired by a regular season loss suffered a season ago to the Jaguars.
“They’re a really good team, and they have been for the past few season. I think we underestimated them a little bit last year and they ended up beating us. We didn’t have Logan [Beattie], but they were still a really good team. So we came in tonight with that in the back of our minds, and played as well as we could, because we knew they were capable of beating us.”
Tarantino’s big night was the conclusion to a Holiday Tournament in which the Knights captain dominated, combing for 14 points on six goals and eight assists in three victories.
Wall Township opened with a lopsided 9-0 victory over Toms River South-East, in which Tarantino logged two goals and a couple of helpers. He came back the following evening with a seven-point showing on two tallies and five assists in a win over Jackson Liberty, before playing a role in all three Knights markers in the final.
“I’m liking the way things are going right now,” Tarantino said. “I’m scoring a lot of goals and still getting my assists, but even more so, we’re winning games and championships.”
“We have some more things we want to accomplish this year. We’re looking to go after the Division, the Shore Conference and a state title as well. But this was the first step towards accomplishing those goals.”
Tarantino closed out Week 5 as the the Shore Conference’s leading point producer with 39 points on 15 goals and 24 assists.
THE FAN FAVORITE
The people have spoken, and they’ve made their voices heard in favor of Rumson-Fair Haven netminder Sean Ryan.
In a Week 5 Reader’s Poll that saw nearly 8,000 votes cast, the junior goaltender earned 5,314 votes, or 67.75 percent of the vote, making him the SportsFood.com/Alite Flooring Fan Favorite of Week 5.
Ryan earned his nomination after a pair of games over the holiday break with Middeltown South and Middletown North, in which he combined to steer aside 71 shots.
Ryan made a single-game career-high 49 stops against the Eagles on 54 shots, before his club was edged by Middletown North two days later during an outing in which he turned away 22 of 25 Lions attempts.
STARS OF WEEK 5
Thomas Swartwout, Brick Memorial: The Mustangs two-way standout helped his club to a pair of Ice Vault Holiday Classic victories over Ramapo and River Dell, combing for three goals and two assists.
Dan McEvoy, Howell: The sophomore was incredible between the pipes, making 33 saves in a 5-1 win over Fair Lawn, and 18 more stops in 3-1 victory over Old Bridge to win the John Piccolo Winter Classic Tournament.
Matt Pousson, Jackson Memorial: The Jaguars made a run to the Winding River Holiday Tournament title game and Pousson was a big reason why, as the senior keeper combined to stop 96 of 103 shots to record a .932 save-percentage and a 2.33 goals-against average.
Brian Anderson & Ciaran McNelis, Red Bank Catholic: In a 5-2 non-conference victory over Monroe Anderson logged one goal and three assists, while McNelis stopped 30 of 32 shots faced.
Zach D’Andrea & Joe Granza, Jackson Liberty: In a pair of Winding River Holiday Tournament victories over St. Rose and Point Boro, D’Andrea and Granza combined for 14 points on four goals and 10 assists.
Deven Ralph, Middletown South: The senior winger starred for the Eagles in a pair of non-divisional victories over Rumson-Fair Haven and Vernon. Ralph registered a hat trick and a helper in a 5-3 win over the Bulldogs, and assisted on a pair of tallies — including a third period game winner by Nick Lioudakis — in a 4-3 triumph over the Vikings.
Kurt Kroeper, Middletown North: In a 3-1 non-divisional victory over Rumson-Fair Haven, the senior winger had a hand in all of the Lions tallies, as he logged a goal and picked up primary assists, including the lead helper on the game-winning marker by Brad Heuer.