South Brunswick falls to MKA in Van Cott Cup opener

By: Ken Weingartner
   When the South Brunswick High ice hockey team lost 4-3in overtime to Montclair-Kimberley Academy in Monday’s opening round of the Van Cott Cup tournament, "frustrating" might have been the best word to describe the outcome.
   That word also probably best applies to the season as a whole.
   South Brunswick struggled to a 5-13-1 record and saw a run of appearances in the state’s public school playoffs end at five. The Vikings were 41-25-4 over the previous three seasons.
   The game against MKA, against which the Vikings split a pair of regular-season meetings, was delayed nearly an hour because there were no officials. When the action started, Vinny Fedele needed only eight minutes to put South Brunswick ahead, 1-0. Fedele scored again in the second period to increased the advantage to2-0.
   A power-play goal by the Cougars, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, shifted momentum and MKA eventually built a 3-2 lead in the third period. Mike Mazzola’s power-play tally 30 seconds after the Vikings fell behind ended up forcing overtime.
   "The third period was by far our best period of the game," South Brunswick coach Noah Antonoff said. "In overtime, a couple bad bounces and a questionable icing call gave MKA the opportunity to score to win the game. Even though the defeat was tough to digest, the guys should be proud of how they played and the resiliency they showed when no one thought they had a chance."
   South Brunswick ended the regular season on a winning note with a 5-3 victory over Westfield, a team that had beaten the Vikings 9-3 earlier in the year.
   Fedele scored twice, including once short-handed, to give the Vikings a 2-0 lead in the second period, but Westfield answered with three goals of its own in the stanza to forge a 3-3 tie entering the final frame.
   Mazzola and Fedele each scored in the third period to break the tie and lift South Brunswick to victory. Fedele ended the game with the hat trick while Chris Guarini also had a goal.
   "There was some question what team would come out for the third period, but we came out flying," Antonoff said. "It was definitely a good way for us to end the regular season and go into the postseason. It was nice to get a win."
   South Brunswick, which battled injuries and a short bench for much of the campaign, started the season by dropping its first four games, then used a three-game win streak to nearly get to .500. That, however, was as close as the team would get. Adding to the Vikings’ frustration were four one-goal setbacks throughout the year, essentially the difference in their final record or being .500.
   Fedele led the Vikings with 18 goals and 17 assists. Richie Stewart had 13 goals while Mazzola was next with nine. Mazzola was second to Fedele with 14assists while Anthony Calvano, who had four goals, was third on the team with 10 assists.