By Mike Gurnis
For roughly 42 minutes of Saturday’s game, Randolph did what has traditionally done to many opponents over the years.
It shut Chatham down and allowed very little room for the Cougars to operate.
The final 2:56 of the game proved to be far more dramatic after Chatham finally got on the board to cut into the deficit. But despite the frantic final few minutes, Randolph was able to hang on for a 3-1 win over Chatham in a key Mennen Division matchup at Mennen Arena.
Jase Zangara scored a pair of goals for Randolph, including one 17 seconds into the second period to give his team a two-goal cushion.
“It was a big momentum shift,” Zangara said of his second-period goal. “It was great pass by Zach (Gallo) getting out of the zone, and we just pushed and put the puck on net.”
Randolph coach Rich McLaughlin said, “It gives us a deep breath. Everyone gets going again, it woke us all up. We knew they were going to come at us eventually. We couldn’t hold them back all game long, we needed that extra goal, and that third goal was even bigger, obviously.”
Freshman Daniel Sharkey came through with a big goal with 6:50 to go in the third on the power play to extend the lead to three. It provided some margin for error for the Rams, which to that point had shut down a very potent offensive team with dynamic threats such as Matt Nacinovich and Nikita Konevych.
“This week we really focused hard on the D-zone and just staying tight,” defenseman Ashton Feinberg said. “We knew they had some offensive players that can really skate. We stayed tight in our zone, we got the puck out when we needed to and just stayed big.”
Chatham finally got on the board with 2:56 to go in the game on Dillon Gagliardi’s goal. What followed was a final couple of minutes full of heavy hits, and a couple of big scoring opportunities.
“With this group, we have a lot of grit,” Feinberg said. “They bring it every single game. I have no doubts, no matter how physical the game is, that our team is going to pull out of it strong.”
But in the end, Randolph was able to get through it to hand Chatham its first loss of the year.
It’s the type of game that Randolph has struggled to close out on a couple of occasions this season, and its ability to do so should give a young team more confidence in doing so as the stakes get higher going into the final month of the season.
“It wasn’t perfect, but my young guys who are out there- we were playing three freshmen out there at one point- it’s a learning experience,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a game. We’re 5-1-2 now, seven games in, so it’s not even half the year yet. These guys are learning every day, and the young guys are learning how to win. That helped us out a lot and I hope that gets us over the hump, because we’ve lost a game and we’ve tied a game this year in almost the same way, where we gave up a couple of late goals. That kind of game, you learn how to win. It was good.”
Chatham, on the other hand, may not have executed and gotten the result it wanted, but put forth a strong effort and showed some resiliency in the final minutes when it tried to get back into the game.
The Cougars, who were without the services of key players such as Doyle Curry and Isaac Suh, know there is a lot of hockey still left to be played, and will have at least one more opportunity to face Randolph on Jan. 18.
“When you play a structured team like them, who’s defensively sound and constantly hounding the puck, you have to play a more simple game,” Chatham coach Brendon Herr said. “Up until about now or the last week, I think our schedule is- I’m not going to say it’s been pretty easy- but it’s been light. Now you start to come down the stretch through the Mennen teams, and we’ve prepared these guys before and said this is going to be a 60 minute game. If you can’t play 60 minutes, you’re not going to come out on the right end of this. I thought we had a really good start- the first three-to-five minutes we had the puck in their zone, and were all over them. We got into some penalty trouble there in the middle stages, and that goal at the start of the second kind of set us back too. I think overall the intensity was there. These guys were ready to play. They’re a good team, they’re structured…we had our opportunity on three or four power plays, they had theirs and had some good looks, but when you go up against a good goalie and their penalty kill was sound and tight…we’ll get to see them again.”
MORE POST-GAME REACTION
“Our compete level just upped a little bit there knowing that we were down by a couple, obviously running out of time there towards the end. I think we have to have that compete level for 60 minutes. I think we had that at times tonight, and other times we did not. You have skilled players like Gallo and Zangara, those are two players that we stressed before the game that we had to take their time and space away. At times we did that, and at times we had trouble doing it.” — Chatham coach Brendon Herr
RAN — Jase Zangara (Zach Gallo, Ryan Potanovich) 5:22
RAN — Jase Zangara (Ryan Potanovich, Jacob Campbell) 14:43
RAN — Daniel Sharkey (Jack Rueff, Ashton Feinberg) 6:50 PPG
CHA — Dillon Gagliardi (Luc D’Costa) 2:56
Shots on goal: Chatham 24, Randolph 24
Saves: Connor Thomas (Randolph) 23, Nate May (Chatham) 21
Team Records: Randolph 5-1-2 (3-0-0 Mennen), Chatham 7-1-1 (3-1-0 Mennen)