It wasn’t quite a Christmas miracle, but the Montclair High School ice hockey team’s goalie, Ondrej Smalec, had one of the highlight performances of the local winter sports season during the holiday week.
The star goalie made a career-high 54 saves, including a flurry during the final minutes of a frantic third period, to help MHS knock off Ridgewood, 2-1, in the consolation game of the Clary Anderson Holiday Invitational last Thursday, Dec. 29. Thursday’s win also made Smalec the unofficial winningest goalie in MHS history with 45, according to head coach Pat Verney.
Smalec, a four-year starter in net, is having a monstrous senior season for a young Montclair team that improved to 4-4-2 overall after splitting their own holiday tournament. He has allowed just 11 goals in nine games started, saving an incredible 306 of 317 shots faced (96.5 percent).
His 54-save game was the standout performance of the week that was in Montclair High School athletics. It was a busy one in which the Mountie basketball, hockey and wrestling teams all competed in holiday tournaments in different parts of the state, with mostly positive results.
Follow @SportsMontclair on Twitter for live updates from games this upcoming the upcoming week, including Mountie hockey’s big league contest with Livingston on Wednesday night.
The high school basketball and wrestling seasons began Friday, with mixed results for Montclair High School sports teams. Now, we enter the first full week of the season, which is a busy one all around. Upcoming highlights include the boys basketball team’s home opener, the ice hockey team’s battle for league supremacy and a bounce-back opportunity for the girls basketball team.
BOYS BASKETBALL (4-2 overall, 2-0 SEC-Liberty)
Last week: ‘Score at the Shore’ Tournament (fourth place) – MHS 55, St. Joseph Hammonton 53 (Tuesday); Holy Spirit 44, MHS 33 (Wednesday); Mainland 62, Montclair 54 (Friday).
This week: home vs. Seton Hall (Tuesday, 4 p.m.), at Irvington (Thursday, 4 p.m.), home vs. Bloomfield Tech (1 p.m.).
Charles Murphy had a season-high 24 points for MHS in their lone win in the ‘Score at the Shore’ tournament, as the Mounties held off a then-unbeaten St. Joseph of Hammonton team in the opening round. Both of Montclair’s semifinal and championship games were close — in the semifinal round, they were tied at the half with Holy Spirit before being outscored, 11-2, in the third quarter; in the third-place game, they trailed a solid Mainland squad by just five at the break.
This week could be a big one for the Mounties, who will get a shot at knocking off a perennial Essex County power in Seton Hall on Tuesday, followed by two chances to create some early separation in the Super Essex Conference-Liberty Division with league games on Thursday and Saturday afternoons.
GIRLS BASKETBALL (4-2 overall, 2-0 SEC-Liberty)
Last week: Mount St. Dominic Holiday Festival – MHS 31, Mount St. Dominic 28 (Monday); MHS 59, Piscataway 45 (Tuesday); Rumson 65, MHS 35 (Thursday).
This week: at Columbia (Tuesday, 7 p.m.); home vs. Newark Tech (Thursday, 7 p.m.), at East Orange (Saturday, 1 p.m.).
The Mounties picked up two victories during their holiday break, which they spent at the Mount St. Dominic Holiday Festival. Last Monday, they earned a come-from-behind victory over the host school, with Alisa Wiggins (15 points) and Jill Jennings (10) providing most of the scoring. The next day against a solid Piscataway squad, Wiggins equaled her season-high in points with 25 to help MHS outscore the Chiefs, 34-24, after halftime. The other two-thirds of head coach Paul Palek’s “big three,” Bianca Fede (18 points, 4 steals) and Jennings (9 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals), also were big contributors.
MHS had a rough go in their final game at the festival, a lopsided loss to a Rumson team ranked fifth in the state that saw the Mounties fall behind 20-2 after a quarter. Wiggins continued her string of double-digit scoring efforts with 13, giving her an average of 19.2 points per game over Montclair’s first six.
This week, Montclair will face two of the top teams in the SEC-American Division; Newark Tech and East Orange both reached the Essex County Tournament championship game a year ago.
ICE HOCKEY (4-4-2 overall, 1-2-2 McInnis Division)
Last week: Clary Anderson Holiday Tournament – Montgomery 4, MHS 2 (Tuesday); MHS 2, Ridgewood 1 (Thursday).
This week: home vs. Livingston (Wednesday, 7 p.m.); home vs. MKA (Friday, 4:30 p.m.).
Smalec’s heroics were covered above, but they salvaged a split of two competitive games at the Mounties’ home holiday tournament.
Junior forward Pat Ledgett had both MHS goals in the opening-round lost to a strong Montgomery team, and he added another multi-point game (1 goal, 1 assist) in the Ridgewood win. Ledgett is Montclair’s leading scorer this year with five goals, and he and Will Schiffenhaus are tied for the team lead with three assists.
Cary Collucci had the eventual game-winner against Ridgewood, scoring less than a minute into the second period on assists from Ledgett and Schiffenhaus, to break a 1-1 deadlock.
This week will see Montclair compete in two key league games, both at Clary Anderson Arena. Livingston visits the barn Wednesday night, in a rematch of a 1-1 tie from the season’s opening night Nov. 28.
Friday, the always-emotional crosstown rivalry between the Mounties and MKA will resume on the ice. The Mounties have won four in a row against the Cougars over the past two seasons, directly after a string of 10 MKA victories in a row.
WRESTLING (3-2 overall, 1-0 SEC-Liberty)
Last week: Mountain Lakes Tournament (Friday).
This week: at Belleville (Wednesday, 6 p.m.); at Barringer (Friday, 5 p.m.); at Union City Tournament (Saturday, 10 a.m.).
The Mountie wrestlers trekked out to Morris County last week, with junior 106-pounder Jacy Jones and senior 220-pounder Sam Mellow coming home with first-place trophies.
Jones (9-1 record this year) and Mellow (7-0) are both off to excellent starts as each hopes to be a contender in the Essex County and NJSIAA individual tournaments later in the season. Both pinned their first two opponents in the Mountain Lakes Tournament, with Jones winning his weight’s championship via a 6-0 decision, and Mellow making it 3-for-3 with a pinfall victory in his.
Other highlights for MHS were Damony James, a sophomore, who took third place in the 160-pound weight class, and senior Jonathan Dulin, who was fourth in the 145-pound bracket.
The meat of the wrestling season begins after New Year’s, with MHS looking to stay unbeaten in their Super Essex Conference dual schedule on Wednesday and Friday. The Union City Tournament, scheduled for this Saturday, should offer a competitive field.
Jones, junior Ben Baily (9-4 at 132 pounds), senior Kasson Quince-McGee (8-1, 195 pounds), Mellow and Dulin have been the team’s top performers thus far this season.