River Dell boys ice hockey team advances to inaugural Steve Jaskot Memorial Holiday Tournament Championship Game
This season, the 2021-22 River Dell Boys Ice Hockey Team is off to a tremendous start, sporting an overall undefeated record at 6-0-2 and 3-0-1 in the Big North Patriot Conference.
After tying Paramus Catholic 2-2 in the regular-season opener, River Dell posted six consecutive wins in a row. They outscored their opponents by a significant margin 28-8, including three straight shutout victories. Goaltender Liam Freel, a dominant force between the pipes, registered three shutouts while making 82 saves.
A tri-op squad consisting of River Dell/Emerson/Westwood, Kristian Bush led the team to score eight goals, seven assists, and 15 points. Another critical contributor Roman Kirilytchev tallied six goals, eight assists, and 14 points.
Head Coach Kyle Scancerella on the team's performance this season, "Getting off to a quick start was one of our main priorities and we've clearly done that." "Liam(Freel) has been a key to that, he's been playing outstanding and our only goalies and took that with pride and just taken the job and run with it."
"We've got a lot of scoring coming from Kristian Bush, Roman Kirilytchev, and Riley Ehrenfels, and those three have been kind of the driving forces." "On the back end, Matteo Marinic has been adding some goals, and we have our senior assistant captain Tim Wanvig who has just been playing fantastic hockey for us and a workhorse." He never gets tired and out there all the time."
"It's a whole team effort at this point and everyone has been clicking on all cylinders right now." "It really starts with Liam(Freel) who has been making some insane saves." "In the Clifton game they might have had only five shots but two of them were odd man rushes and high-quality scoring chances but he was able to shut them down."
"We put the focus on the defensive end, making sure we are sound there so when we do get our offensive chances, we could start converting." "The team has bought into that and playing well positionally, and it's been enjoyable so far."
Last week River Dell participated in the inaugural Steve Jaskot Memorial Holiday Tournament at the Ice House in Hackensack, New Jersey, defeating Old Tappan 2-0 on Tuesday, December 21st.
Tragically, Jaskot passed away last year at the young age of 34 due to complications from a staph infection. Furthermore, he was in his first season as the head coach of the River Dell boys ice hockey team.
"This means everything and it's important to just keep his legacy alive and remind everyone how special person he was," Head Coach Kyle Scancerella explained. "This is a great way to represent all our freshman, sophomore, juniors and seniors at the time and they remember it all vividly." It was such a tough time for our players and coaching staff.
"We lost a great person, and they showed that year the resiliency to keep going and playing." "That was what Coach Jaskot taught them and kept that message going throughout his time of being a coach." They've just kept that with them, and even though this year, anytime they face adversity, and keep pushing through.
"That was all built on Steve(Jaskot) and everything he worked for is just coming to light now and it's still alive in our program." "We're just really grateful we're able to celebrate his life and legacy through this tournament and hopefully we can do it many more times after."
On Monday, December 27th, River Dell faced off against Pascack Valley in front of a lively crowd at the Ice House. Pascack Valley struck early in the first period off a rebound shot. Midway through the period, River Dell tied the game up on a goal from Andrew Spano. Spano wristed a deflected shot side past the goaltender Aidan Rybacki from the left circle.
"When Andrew(Spano) came off the ice, we told him he usually doesn't take those type of shots and not his type of game," Head Coach Kyle Scancerella noted. "He said to me that he scored the same way last year against Pascack Valley." He went to the face-off area and designed the play. He told his center, you go in here, and I'm going to get it and let it go, and it worked out well.
Forty seconds into the second period River Dell jumped ahead 2-1 on a power-play goal from Jack Gruja. On a shot from the point that Pascack Valley goalie Aidan Rybacki made the pad stop, Gruja grabbed the rebound and snapped the puck past Rybacki into the wide-open net.
"We went into the first intermission with the power play and has been a great strength of ours this year," Head Coach Kyle Scancerella described. "We were very confident going out and pretty much saying if we score here, that's a big momentum turn." We got a nice shot from the point, and Jack(Gruja) was right there on the rebound and put it home.
In the third period, Pascack Valley tied the game up at 2-2 with nine minutes left. Not even a minute later, River Dell reclaimed the advantage on a goal from Vinny Miraglia. Miraglia managed to poke the puck into the net with a mad scrum in front of the net.
"Right now, we're playing with such confidence, even though they tied the game with minutes to go we saw the belief that we could get the lead back, Head Coach Kyle Scancerella said. "Vinny(Miraglia) has been a guy the last two years and this year a grinder who loves to get into the dirty areas, and that's what he did. He went in there, took on two guys and by himself, and just battled and battled and was able to outwork both defenders and was able to tap it home.
Clinging onto the 3-2 lead, River Dell was less than ten seconds from victory when Pascack Valley tied the game up. Pulling goalie Aidan Rybacki for the extra attacker worked to perfection. Pascack Valley advanced the puck into the offensive zone, where the puck landed in front of the net with Zach Groves roofing a loose puck top shelf past Liam Freel with 8.9 seconds remaining.
Eventually, a hard-fought and physical contest ended in a 3-3 tie. River Dell goalie Liam Freel peppered all game with shots left and right, making 36 saves. Both teams lined up to exchange fist bumps at center ice.
"Last night was a tough one, we were down multiple guys and a lot of guys had to step up and they have that kind of next man up mentality," Head Coach Kyle Scancerella stated. "We showed it last night versus a very good Pascack Valley team."
"We got to the end of the game; they're able to pull their goalie and get one late," Head Coach Kyle Scancerella mentioned. "Overall, this year, we've been performing better than our expectation." We're excited to see what's coming to the rest of the year."
"what Coach Jaskot always said we're going to be the hardest working team out there and that's our goal every night." "We might not win some game games but that is going to happen to every team, but as long as we work hard and improve each day that's our goal." We want to represent River Dell with class, make sure everyone in River Dell is proud of how the hockey team represents themselves and the way we play, and I believe we have been doing a pretty good job of that so far.
Despite the 3-3 tie against Pascack Valley, River Dell still managed to advance to the championship game, where they will square off against Ridgewood on Wednesday, December 29th, with the face-off set for 7 p.m. at the Ice House.
More than just a game, an emotional and poignant atmosphere due to Steve Jaskot, a 2004 Ridgewood High School alumnus and varsity captain on the Maroons ice hockey team. Jaskot's wife Jaime and parents' will be in attendance to drop the ceremonial puck.
"You could have not scripted a better ending to this tournament as far as Ridgewood," Head Coach Kyle Scancererlla remarked. "There are ties both ways, he meant so much to that program and means so much to us." No matter what the outcome is tomorrow, we want to both be able to celebrate his legacy together in the finals.
"I can't find a better family than that, they're so sweet and kind and always checking in." "I remember when everything was happening when he(Steve Jaskot) passed away and his Mom came up me and said you had a great mentor and she was so positive and her strength really inspired me."
"The same thing with Jamie and she went through so much and every time I see her she is so positive and asking how we are." "It's just an amazing and to do them for this as well so they could see how Coach Jaskot meant to us is something special."