ELMONT, N.Y. – Matt Imbriano won the game, earned some redemption and maybe even a job.
Call it the UBS hat trick.
Imbriano, the Don Bosco senior first line center, scored on a breakaway with 18 seconds left to lift the Ironmen to a 2-1 victory over Portledge School on Tuesday afternoon at UBS Arena, the home of the New York Islanders. (Watch the winning goal in the video at the top of this page.)
It was billed as the first high school ice hockey game ever at the sparkling new luxury hockey palace next to Belmont Park.
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Since Don Bosco coach Greg Toskos is a UBS executive, he had some pull to get the Ironmen the chance to play. After the game, I asked if Imbriano’s goal meant he qualified for a summer internship at the company.
Toskos laughed, but Imbriano seemed keen on the idea.
“Who wouldn’t want that?” he said.
UBS Arena may have been the real star on Tuesday. The building has a vintage New York feel, the seats are wide and comfortable, and the ice was glistening.
It was telling that when the refs took the ice just before the start of the game, one let out a whoop of joy.
The Ironmen have now played at Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, West Point and UBS. They also have played multiple times at the Prudential Center, the home of the New Jersey Devils.
“This is 10 times better than that,” said Imbriano, but he might be biased after scoring the game-winner. “Everything about this is brand new and top of the line. It feels great to be here.”
The Ironmen used the visitors’ locker room, which was enormous. Game notes from the Islanders last home game against the Seattle Kraken were on the table. The Islanders don’t play at home again until Feb. 17.
Toskos showed off the locker room and his own massive coaches’ office that he was able to use.
It was more than just a game on Tuesday. The Islanders and UBS partnered with the 43 OAK Foundation to put on a clinic after the Don Bosco win for aspiring hockey players who don’t have the financial means to travel. Many of those players were in the stands watching the game.
The contest was crisp and clean, without any penalties. Portledge captain Odin Ford delivered a crushing hit on the first shift of the game, but missed most of the contest with an injury.
The Ironmen grabbed a 1-0 lead seven minutes in on a messy play in front of Portledge goalie Jake Anderson, with Nick Milmone squeezing one past the pile in front.
The Panthers responded with a nifty two-on-one just before the end of the first period.
In the second period, Don Bosco peppered Anderson with multiple shots, but he was outstanding. Don Bosco outshot the Panthers, 43-25.
The third period was back and forth, Don Bosco goalie Ethan Marich made three brilliant saves down the stretch. Portledge won a face-off in the Don Bosco zone with about 30 seconds left.
Then boom, Imbriano won a face-off, pushed it ahead to himself, then got a step as the Portledge defenders mistakenly went wide. He just whipped it by Anderson short side for the game winner.
“When I got the faceoff, I looked up and saw their defensemen spread out and I thought if there was a chance to do it, now is the time,” Imbriano said.
Toskso remembered how Imbriano missed multiple chances in the Ironmen’s tie against Bergen Catholic last week.
“I told him, I will still take you on a breakaway any day of the week,” Toskos said. “I know that bothered him. It would bother all goal scorers. This was a great way to make up for it.”
The Ironmen (16-5-1) now brace for the playoffs. The Gordon Cup tournament starts Friday. Don Bosco is defending champion and the No. 3 seed, behind Delbarton and Christian Brothers Academy. The Gordon Cup is usually just a dress rehearsal for the non-public state tournament.
“I told the guys to start getting ready for the playoffs,” Toskos said. “This was a game where we had to come in in hard to get ready and we did. They came in and were ready to go.”
Darren Cooper is a peachy-keen high school sports columnist for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter and download our app.
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