The Bulldogs took control of the puck early in the game, pounding RBR goalie Charlie Fox with 16 shots in the first period. Fox stepped up and stopped them all, but the Bucs struggled to get the puck out of their zone long enough to generate any scoring chances. RFH kept the Bucs from getting a single shot on goalie Sam Adkinson in the first.
It was exactly what Rumson-Fair Haven Coach Chris McCaffery was looking for from his team.
"Offensively we cycle the puck, keep the puck in their zone, keep them on the defensive, and I think we did that pretty much the whole game. We played 95 percent of the game in their end," said McCaffery.
RFH tallied their first goal 1:21 into the second period when Alex Riguardi scored with assists from Christian Midnuch and Gary Cali. The Bulldogs advanced their lead to 2-0 with 2:42 left in the second when Brian Robinson found twine, assisted by Brian Patterson. RFH peppered Fox with 19 shots in the second, many of them slap shot blasts from defensemen at the point which had to make their way through a crowd in the slot.
"We needed to get traffic in front of their goaltender, which we ended up doing," said McCaffery. "We got a rebound goal. We stuck to the game plan."
Cali made it 3-0 about a minute into the third, which is where the score stayed until RBR's Nick DeSalvo broke Adkinson's shutout bid with 46.9 seconds to go in the game. RFH countered with a buzzer-beating goal from Cali assisted by Hunter Rotchford to make the final score 4-1.
Rumson has typically been victorious in the ice rivalry over recent years. RBR coach Tim Hall said the schools are roughly the same size but RFH has always boasted a larger hockey-playing population. Rumson plays a division above Red Bank, in the Shore Conference's 'C' Division, while the Bucs are in the 'D' Division.
Though Hall said his team was fired up to face their neighbors, the Bucs needed more energy to beat them.
"They came out with a ton of intensity and we didn't match them," said Hall. "Our guys aren't used to playing at that pace. RFH does a really good job. They go three lines and they don't have a real top line. There's nobody on their team that's a superstar, but the thing is they've got three lines, nine forwards, where there's really no dropoff. So they can just roll one, two, three -- and really, it's the same pace, the same intensity -- so that's tough to keep up with."
Despite the loss, Coach Hall saw good things from his team. He said he has been trying to get defenseman Pat Schroll (#10) to step up and play with more intensity, which Schroll came through on.
"In the second and third period he really started playing with a little more reckless abandon, which is what I've been looking for from him," said Hall.
Hall said sophomore defenseman Drue Amato (#20) is another player to watch for in upcoming games. Amato came to RBR from Lake Placid last year.
"He's a big kid, 6'2 easy -- big rangey kid, good athlete -- he's a gamer and he just gets after it and he does it with a lot of natural instinct. He plays with that intensity and you can't keep him out of the lineup."
Tough Start for Red Bank, But Bucs Still Undefeated in Their Division
Hall said through a quirk of the schedule, the first three games of the season have all been against 'C' Division opponents in ascending order of difficulty, beginning with their opener against Toms River East, then Manasquan last Thursday (a 4-2 loss) and Rumson-Fair Haven.
"I think the boys will take a little comfort in the fact that they were playing these 'C' division teams, knowing we haven't lost a game in our division yet," said Hall.
Red Bank plays their first 'D' division game against Ocean -- a team which incorporates players from Shore Regional -- later this week. Hall said last year Ocean was a little better than .500, and hopes that the first three games against tougher opponents will give his team some jump in their step going into the matchup.
The Bucs and Spartans face off at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Gold Coast Arena in Wall.