It took Morristown-Beard nearly 40 minutes before it finally took its first lead of the game. But when it finally broke through, it never let go.
Will Bonnelli's goal, assisted by Sam Schappel with 5:31 remaining in regulation, gave second-seeded Morristown-Beard a lead it would not relinquish as the 10-time and defending champions held on to stun top-seeded Morris Knolls, 4-3, in the final of the 42nd annual Mennen Cup at Mennen Arena in Morris Township.
Isaac Davison, Max Cassella and Mike Karrat each delivered game-tying goals, helping Morristown-Beard erase three one-goal deficits while goaltender Anthony DelTufo stood tall with 18 saves before Bonnelli's sixth goal of the season capped off one of the wildest finishes in Mennen Cup history.
"Coach Randy Velischek always says, 'Get in front of the net and good things will come of it.' So that's what I did, the puck came right to me, I saw my opportunity and got a stick on it," Bonnelli described his game-winning goal. "We never had two guys on the puck the whole game but in between periods we talked about and went out did it in the third. We really showed it out there.
"We were never the underdog in this game," Bonnelli said. "This team has a lot of skill. Not only skill but heart and determination. That's what really helped us out there."
The triumph marks Morristown-Beard's 11th Mennen Cup title, trailing only Delbarton (18) for the most cups, all-time, in the rich history of the tournament. Coach Velischek, who played five seasons for the New Jersey Devils (1985-1990), was thrilled the way his team battled back from three deficits, specifically with three timely goals down the stretch in the third period.
"I really loved the way we held them in for large parts of the game, really happy with the way we played defense," Velischek said. "Historically, we're not a team that blocks a lot of shots but when push came to shove our defensemen and a couple of our forwards really stepped up and blocked a lot of shots."
Alex Welch and Chris Conway gave Morris Knolls a 2-1 lead it carried into the second intermission. Cassella tied it up at 2-2 just 26 seconds into the third period but Conway came right back with his second goal of the game to return the lead to Morris Knolls just 40 seconds later. Not to be outdone, Karrat came right back finishing an outstanding set up from Brayden Patricia as Morristown-Beard battled back to once again tie the score at 3-3 exactly one minute after Conway gave Morris Knolls its third lead of the game.
Karrat's goal was the last in a flurry of three goals in 1:40 to begin the third period, setting the stage for Bonnelli to record the game-winner.