Hockey players pay tribute to one of their own, a fallen combat hero

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:45

    WEST MILFORD-Tributes to a fallen teammate, Brian Parrello, who was killed during a combat mission with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq, were a prelude to the Highlanders hockey game against River Dell High School's Hawks. The tributes included raising Parello's jersey, #13, and a poster showing this proud Marine in his dress uniform, then affixed to the glass behind the West Milford goal. On behalf of River Dell High School, the Hawks coaching staff presented West Milford Captains Joe Romano and Andrew Atieh with a Catholic Mass card in Parello's name in a display of sportsmanship and compassion. In the first meeting of these two teams four weeks ago it was all West Milford with a 7-2 Highlander victory on River Dell home ice. But, it seemed clear, early on, that the Hawks came to play on Jan. 7. Adding in the injuries to Jim Fisher, Dave Pelak, and Ryan Dixon the Highlanders had their hands full. After a scoreless first period the Hawks got on the board at the seven mark of the second, scoring on a long, deflected screen shot that caught West Milford's Sean Ryan off guard. Following the intermission between the second and third periods the Highlanders came out hard and fast. Only 1:54 into the final period Steve Williamson ended up with the puck after a scrum behind the West Milford net, took the open ice up to the red line, and fired a pass to a streaking Andrew Atieh. The speedy left wing wristed a whistler from 30 feet out splitting the legs of the Hawks' netminder to even it up at one-all. Just three minutes later the Highlanders were on a power-play, and some beautiful puck control executed by Joe Romano and Keegan Saum mesmerized the Hawks and led to a cross-ice feed by Romano to an all-alone Jeff Reese. The defenseman stepped up and blasted a winner into the top right corner to put West Milford up 2-1. With time ticking down River Dell poured it on until the turning point late in the period where a questionable call cost the Highlanders a penalty and gave the Hawks the man advantage. River Dell then pulled their goalie for the 6 on 4, and capitalized with only 1.9 seconds left to tie the game at 2. Forwards Nick Lezette and Zack Weiss left their marks on the Hawks with a couple of big checks and defenseman Frank Troia filled in admirably for the injured Jim Fisher and David Pelak.