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Champions Crowned in NJ High School Hockey

by Gordy Stillman / New Jersey Devils

Lions attack Rams as Middletown North wins first championship in school history.

The Middletown North Lions win the program's first championship. (Getty Images)

Middletown North struck early and often as the Lions beat Ramsey 5-4 to win the NJSIAA Ice Hockey Public B championship on Monday, March 9 in the first of three title games at Prudential Center. Star Bobby Hampton led the way with two goals and two assists en route to the program’s first state championship.

The Lions only trailed for 93 seconds throughout the game, after Rams star Alex Whelan notched his second goal of the night. Hampton hit back quickly to tie up the game.

Lions coach Matt Clemente told the assembled media that he maintains a loose, joking atmosphere before the team takes to the ice, saying, “I tell them ‘We’re at game 27. You know how to fore check, you know what our defense is. Just go out there and have fun.’”

“Between North and South, each team being around for 15 years, 30 chances at the state championship, to be the first one to bring it back to town, it really means a lot to these guys.

“It still seems too good to be true,” Hampton ’16 said. For Hampton, the sense that the Lions could make a serious run at the championship began when the schedule switched to the state tournament. “We were a different team.”

The Lions looked relaxed throughout the game, scoring five goals in the first two periods for a 5-3 lead before locking down for all but the final 46 seconds of the game. Ramsey’s Brandon O’Callahan made it a one-goal game, scoring with an extra attacker on the ice, but it was too little too late. Ramsey outshot Middletown 34-25, but Lions goaltender Anthony Manfredi stood unflinching to keep the lead.

On the other side, Ramsey’s five goals allowed was a season high, allowing more than four goals for the first time since March 2011, and almost doubling the previous season high of three goals allowed.

Clemente expected his team to put the puck in the net, speaking about how tonight wasn’t the first game this season where the Lions put up high numbers against defensively skilled teams. In the seminfinal round of the tournament, the Lions managed to shut out Chatham, with a 4-0 score.

Middletown North ends its season 18-5-4, but Clemente said he feels like the season is still going. Moments after winning, Clemente said, “I think there’s another game right now, like next week.”

Randolph retakes Public A title after one-year absence

Returning from a one year hiatus, the Randolph Rams won their fourth title in five years. (Getty Images)

Randolph took home the hardware Monday, March 9 in the NJSIAA Ice Hockey Public A Championship with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Howell at Prudential Center. The win marked Randolph’s eighth title and first since 2013.

Persistence paid off for the Rams, who outshot the Rebels 37-18, including a 21-2 lead after the first period. Despite so few shots on goal, the Rebels found the net first, with Kyle Hallbauer putting the puck past Garrett Stenberg at 12:29 in the second.

Stenberg then when on lockdown between the pipes, not allowing another goal as the Rebels ratcheted up the pressure in the final frame. Talking about not letting that lone goal unravel the game, Stenberg said, “the point already went off. There’s already a point up on the board. You just got to make sure you don’t give them another one.”

Stenberg, a senior, reflected on the perfect end to his and his fellow seniors’ high school careers. “We’ve been playing together since we were five years old, and now that we’ve won the state championship, it’s an incredible feeling.” Stenberg later said he could not describe the feeling, beyond calling it incredible.

Rams coach Rich McLaughlin raved about Stenberg after the game, saying he thought his goaltender was easily one of the best players in the tournament. McLaughlin coaches a defense-focused team, and said “that’s the way we teach, every day we teach team defense.”

After the second period, trailing 0-1, McLaughlin spoke to his team, telling the players “we kind of sat back and let it come to us,” McLaughlin said. “Our whole game is just time and space, you gotta take away their time and space, and we didn’t do that in the second period, but in the third period we got back to that.”

Ending the season at 19-5-4, McLaughlin and company have been here before. The team won three state titles in a row from 2011 through 2013. “Each one has its own character. You remember the kids on each one of them, and they win it differently each time,” McLaughlin explained. “It’s a great day.”

Christian Brothers Academy erases the pain of last year with Non-Public championship

Going to overtime for the second year in a row, Christian Brothers Academy pulled out a win on a goal by Chris Hayes early in the extra period. (Getty Images)

For the second year in a row, Christian Brothers Academy found itself tied at the end of regulation in the state title game. Thanks to the heroics of Chris Hayes, the Colts wrote a different ending this year, defeating the Delbarton Green Wave 4-3 in the NJSIAA Hockey Non-Public Championship Monday, March 9, at Prudential Center.

It was truly a tale of three periods. Starting off the game, the Colts outshot the Green Wave 12-7 but left the frame scoreless. In the middle period, Delbarton came out of the gate quickly with two goals in its first two shots, both by Andrew Petrillo to give Delbarton a solid 2-0 lead in the first three minutes of the second period. At the 9:49 mark, Delbarton made it 3-0 on a goal by MJ Melillo.

CBA had been here before. Last year, Christian Brothers trailed Morristown-Beard by three goals, 1-4, heading into the third. But this time, the Colts fought to a one goal deficit heading into the final frame. The catch, however, was that they were facing mighty Delbarton. The win even surprised coach Ryan Bogan, who said, “Before the game I said to our athletic director, ‘this isn’t the kind of game where we can go down by three goals and come back.’”

Bogan’s crystal ball must have been foggy, because after once again clawing back to force overtime, thanks to goals by Greg Malafronte and Anthony Cucich in the second, and Derek Cordessa in the third, Chris Hayes found a way to win 3:48 into overtime.

As the puck passed Delbarton’s Troy Kobryn, Hayes said the first thing he felt was relief. “We’ve been working so hard, and to see everybody throw their hands up in the air, it felt great.”

A junior, Hayes also spoke about how happy he was to contribute to a win in the senior class’ final game. In yet another way that history repeated itself, it was 10 years ago that CBA last won the Non-Public title outright. Before Monday, it was also the last time Delbarton had been denied the title for the second year in a row.

“It just goes to show the character on that team. It’s tremendous,” Bogan said after the win. “We battled together as a team all year, and here we are, rewarded for it.”

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