By Edward Kensik

For the Montclair Local

Brett Janifer had the advantage into the Paramus zone late in the third period, and took a shot on goal, but the puck hit the right post in the state playoff game on Monday.

It was a just one of those days for the Montclair High School ice hockey team Monday at Clary Anderson Arena on Feb. 25.

Montclair basically hit everything except the back of the net in their NJSIAA Public A quarterfinal against Paramus/Lyndhurst/Hackensack, but their season came to an  unceremonious end with a 3-0 defeat.

Despite the loss, Montclair head coach Mark Janifer lauded his young team that was not expected to get as far as they did after graduating a good crop of seniors from the 2017-18 team. The Mounties finished 13-9-5 overall, finishing fourth in the NJIHL-McInnis Division, and winning their own holiday tournament back in December.

"This was a very good year considering this was supposed to be a rebuilding year," said Mark Janifer, the father of Brett Janifer.

The Montclair head coach kind of chalked up the loss to not being their day — a day that you never want to see in a state tournament game that will be the squad's last of the season.

"We hit the post several times and had several chances," said Mark Janifer. "It just didn't seem to be our day."

Another example of foreshadowing was to come when Montclair's Will Schiffenhaus's shot beyond the blue line went by Paramus goalie Jonathan Berko. But the refs said that the Mounties were offside and the goal was nullified.

The difference came with five minutes left in the second period.

Even though Montclair was down 2-0, the Mounties had three chances where they had a 5-on-3 advantage after several Paramus penalties. While there were short spurts of 5-on-3, Montclair had at least a one-man advantage for the last five minutes of the second period.

But all the Mounties got was hitting posts and crossbars as they failed to cut the Paramus lead even to one goal.

Montclair's George Osterberg bears down on the Paramus end in the state playoff game. 
Montclair's George Osterberg bears down on the Paramus end in the state playoff game. 

After the game, Mark Janifer credited Berko in stopping the Montclair offense. "Their goalie [Berko] played a great game," said the Montclair head coach who added that the Paramus defense also contributed to them going scoreless. "They [Paramus defense] were collapsing down low."

Even if the Mounties had generated one goal on the power play at the end of the second period, they would have had plenty of momentum going into the third period.

Instead, the momentum was definitely on the side of the Spartans heading into the final period excelling in the penalty kill.

And Montclair could not generate any momentum in the final period.

Despite giving up three goals, Mounties goaltender Lucas Podvey played well with 37 saves for the game.

And Paramus head coach Denis Jelcic honored the Montclair goalie and the Mounties after the game stating that getting the first goal by Sean Leonard, two minutes into the second period that made it 1-0, was a big advantage.

"They are so good and they're goaltender is very good, so scoring first was huge momentum builder," said Jelcic.  "We felt we needed to get one first and happy we did."

To get to the battle against sixth-seeded Paramus, third-seeded Montclair needed to come-from-behind to defeat 19th-seeded and Essex County rival, Nutley/Columbia in the second round.

In the end the Mounties went from being down 4-1 to Nutley and turned it into a 5-4 victory in the shootout.

George Osterberg scored the game-tying goal for Montclair that sent the game into overtime with 11 minutes left in the third period. Mark Rechan, Brett Janifer and  Schiffenhaus also scored for Montclair.

Last year, Montclair was the top seed and was upset in the Group A tournament quarterfinals by ninth-seeded Colonia.