Friday night marked the home opener of North Jersey’s newest pro hockey club, the New Jersey Outlaws. Take it from someone who was at the game, outlaws are what they are: the game was fast, intense and very physical. Their opponent, the Danbury Whalers, is no peewee team. They pushed the pace for all of the first and really pushed during the last five minutes but the Outlaws put on their game faces and got it done in regulation.
Danbury opened the scoring in the first on a messy goal in front of the net. Outlaw defenceman Jim Jensen replied late in the first to tie it at 1-1 on a huge slap shot from the blueline.
The second period was all Outlaws as they scored an early powerplay goal by center Kevin Cooper assisted by star winger Matthew Puntureri, who would have more points throughout the game. The crowd was sent into a frenzy when Danbury defenceman Lynn Beedle threw a beautiful open ice hip check on Outlaw center Matt Miller, that sent him in a full flip in the air before landing hard on the ice. Danbury shortly after made a very costly turnover which led to the third Outlaw goal by number 17 Jari Bolbotowski, who was able to walk in alone and deposit it top shelf behind Whalers goalie Nick Niedert, who nevertheless made some stellar saves on the night and held his team in the game the whole night.
The third period was the definition of old-time hockey. The period started off with a bout between Bolbotowski and Whaler defenceman Adam Blanchette with the Outlaw winger winning the tussle. With momentum on their side and the crowd energized, the Outlaws added two more goals from Puntureri and defenceman William McCreary. The Whalers would add two late goals to push the Outlaws but their stellar defense held them in and locked down a win, but not before Danbury gave one final push when they entered the zone and crashed the net hard sending Outlaw goalie Dan McWhinney flying into the end boards. That drew the ire of the Outlaws, who responded by starting three fights. The crowd loved every minute of it and they were rewarded with a big win from the team and a crowd salute after the final whistle.
The crowd was mostly a family-oriented group with a good mix of college kids and younger teens. The players were very gracious with the young fans and tossed them pucks in warmups and gave high fives and autographs after the final whistle. The goals were plenty and the hits and fights were enjoyable for the fans. One couldn’t ask for a better home opener from the new team in North Jersey. There was a band before the game for enjoyment and after as well. I would recommend this as great family activity for anyone looking to do something on a Friday or Saturday night.
The Three Stars of the Game were as follows:
#3: Outlaw Captain Travis Kauffeldt, who was creating plays all game and keeping the Outlaw energy going.
#2: Outlaw Goalie Dan McWhinney, who made 35 saves in the victory and was stone wall thorughout including a marvelous glove save on Whaler center Martin Moucha to keep the Outlaws ahead in the second period.
#1: Matthew Puntureri was the first star and rightfully so, the star winger led the Outlaws with a power play goal and three assists all while chipping in with physical play and great backchecking on the defensive side of the game.