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Bartlesville High School Athletics

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Liberty Ties Middletown South in Puck Opener

LIBERTY TIES MIDDLETOWN SOUTH IN PUCK OPENER

A Class B North battle between divisional powers Middletown South – ranked No. 5 in the APP Pre-season Top 10 Poll – and Jackson Liberty resulted in a 1-1 tie on Thursday night, as a late goal by Eagles junior Dan Berkowitz allowed the club’s to split the point. “We came out slow, played better in the third, and came out with one point. Hopefully next time we’ll come out with two,” said Berkowitz whose game-tying goal was his second in as many games. With the Eagles trailing by a goal in the waning minutes of the third period, Middletown South went on the power play and set up an offensive zone cycle that worked the puck to Deven Ralph at the point. The talented sophomore uncorked a blistering slap shot that weaved through traffic and plopped off the pads of Jackson’s senior netminder Chris Stefanowicz – who made 23 saves in the game – and onto the stick of Berkowitz, who shoveled it to the back of the net to knot the game at 1-1. “Everyone in the locker room was saying we outworked (Jackson) in the third,” Berkowitz said. “And everyone agrees, if we played the whole game like we did the third period we win.” Jackson Liberty took a one-goal lead in the first minute of play, when Joe Low forced a turnover and fed a pass to Lions captain Leszek Gronowski, who notched his first of the year. “This is a tough one, because we led the entire game, and then gave it up with six minutes to go,” said Gronowski, who led the Lions with 22 goals a season ago. “From a game like this you learn that you have to battle to the end,” Grnowski added. “If you let up any time before that, things like this can happen. A late penalty, a quick shot, and just like that we leave with a point instead of a win. But we can build off this.” Gronowski’s first period tally was the only shot to get past Middletown’s goaltender Clay Simonsen, who recorded 16 saves in the second start of his varsity career. “It’s been really, really awesome,” Simonsen said of stepping into this starting job as a freshman. “My first game (against Middletown North), playing in front of all those people, it was incredible. And with the first couple of games out of the way, it’s just about playing hockey now...I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season holds.” Jackson Liberty and Middletown South – who entered the game without New Jersey Jr. Titans 16U National skaters Gavin Gulash, Ryan Lambert, and Mike Racioppi, who are in Minnesota for the weekend – are scheduled to meet again on Jan. 15 at Middletown Ice World for a 5:45 p.m. tilt.