#4 Mountain Lakes’ Defense Suffocates #12 St. Joseph Regional in 7-1 Win

Photo by: Gene Colacino (@gcproductionsvideo)

The Mountain Lakes Lakers’ will forever hold the title of last Tournament of Champions winners ever. While you cannot discredit what they did on the field last season, many looked on with questions of who would step up and replace last year’s prolific senior class. Everyone knows that Coach Tim Flynn and the Mountain Lakes program does not do rebuilds, it simply retools. This guarantee rang true once again in their season opening matchup, a 7-1 decision over the state’s twelfth ranked team and Gibbs Division challenger the St. Joseph Regional Green Knights. 

St. Joseph’s Colgate-bound Kyle Rummel would win the opening faceoff and drive the ball downfield, but nothing would result from the possession and the Lakers would take over and transition up field. This allowed sophomore Merric Martorana to set up behind the cage before attacking around the crease and placing a bounce shot into the top corner of the netting while being thrown to the ground. There was no one true player manning the X for the Lakers, as Gettysburg-bound Kevin Gillespie set up and drew a defender before dishing the ball to a cutting Nick Fidacaro that was denied by Green Knights junior goaltender Ryan Cunningham. 

Mountain Lakes continued their rush of scoring opportunities, with junior Justin Brennfleck dodging at the top of the box before finding an opening to walk in right down Broadway and rip a shot that found the back of the cage to put the Lakers up 2-0. They would try to set it up at the top of the box again, but some great defensive play by Mike Cevetillo would give the ball back to the Green Knights. The St. Joseph defense would clear to midfield and find Rutgers-bound Duke Richman II. Richman would make two defenders miss on the sideline before sending a pass to the middle for sharpshooting junior Navy commit Isaac Cruz, who took the pass and rang a laser off the pipe. 

Mountain Lakes would add another one after a long possession that they waited to strike on. After moving the ball around the horn, Brennfleck would circle from the top to the side of the box to draw a defender before dishing a mass to Fidacaro in the slot for a quick shot and goal. The Lakers’ offense was spreading the Green Knights’ defense apart with movement along the outside, then sending cutters through the seam for fast looks with no defenders around. 

St. Joseph Regional had two good looks before the half, but both were denied despite the best efforts of Isaac Cruz. A transition up field let up to Cruz setting up in the alley, before dodging and spinning past four defenders to the crease for a prime opportunity that was stuffed by Lakers goaltender Matt Sentowski. This would send the game to halftime with Mountain Lakes having the advantage. 

The Green Knights would hope for a momentum swing to start the third quarter, possessing the ball for the first six minutes of the quarter. Cruz would be the one who finally got St. Joseph on the board, sniping the top corner from 10 yards out. Mountain Lakes would answer right back, with a pole goal from junior Aidan Malnati that hyped up the Lakers bench. The last goal of the quarter would come from Martorana again, with another great attack from behind the cage. He would fake the pass one way, before wrapping around and hitting a jump shot for the 6-1 lead. The last tally of the game would come in the wanning minutes of the fourth quarter, as junior Giacomo Bevacqua missiled one from 20 yards out for his first of the season. 

While the offense did more than it’s fair share in a 7-1 win, including two goals and an assist from Fidacaro, the defense and goaltending for the Lakers was the statement in this game. The Lakers’ defense, led by Lafayette-bound Gavin Ananian, Middlebury-bound Nate Holliday and junior William Tate at close defense with sophomore LSM Milo Penniston locking down the top of the box. They clogged the middle and did not let many good opportunities up, playing positionally sound and physical. After getting a three goal cushion, they took advantage of the Green Knights offense setting up at the top of the box, keeping them outside and giving them possession until it almost became a lull. They would then strike, taking the ball away and transitioning up field fast to chew time off the clock and get scoring chances. The Mountain Lakes offense kept the ball out of the Green Knights hands, dominating possession in the first half and fourth quarter. Sentowski was a brick wall when called upon, turning away nine shots on 10 attempts. The Lakers look like the real deal once again, and will face Mendham on Saturday before heading into the heart of their tough schedule. The Green Knights look to rebound against Iona Prep (NY) and Northern Highlands, before two tough games against ranked opponents in Pope John and Ridgewood.