MORRIS TOWNSHIP -- With all the championships, all the accolades and notoriety that come with it, it's easy to lose focus. But this Delbarton team never did.
Delbarton dug itself out of a hole in the first period with a pair of goals from James Falivene and Mark Benemerito in the second frame as the number one team in the state stormed back to defeat third-seeded Don Bosco Prep, 2-1, in the finals of the 42nd annual NJSIAA/New Jersey Devils Non-Public State Championships at Mennen Arena in Morris Township.
As the final seconds slipped away and the Green Wave spilled out onto the ice in celebration, head coach Bruce Shatel stepped back underneath the rafters at Mennen Arena and took a moment to reflect on it all.
"I've had some really talented teams that have had to have been brought back in in terms of their focus, their work ethic -- I've never had to do that with these guys," Shatel said. "They knew they had to be at their best every time out."
The triumph marked Delbarton's 12th NJSIAA title -- an unprecedented number in the annals of Garden State hockey lore. It was the Morristown school's second straight and eighth in the last 10 years. It is a living, breathing dynasty and the program by which all others are measured.
"It feels great, continuing the tradition," Benemerito said. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy. A lot of people doubted us but we kept working all year and proved everyone wrong."
"It's an unbelievable feeling to win a state championship going out my senior season," Delbarton goaltender Troy Kobryn, who also backstopped his team to a state title in 2015-16, said. "They're a great team but we showed we're better."
Delbarton finished 27-1-2. Benemerito and Kobryn join Andrew Bosland, Danny Colon, Michael Gordon, Jalen Kaplan, Hunter Macy, Jack Malone and Nick Siffringer as two-time state champions.
"I've been a part of 10," Shatel, 383-46-35 all-time in a coaching career that began in 2001-02, said. "27 wins with the schedule we played? I scratch my head, truly."
But it was Don Bosco Prep which seized the initiative just 1:38 into the game when Tyler Neilsen finished the play started by John Campomenosi.
"My eyes were closed to be honest," Neilsen said. "I got spun and tried to put it on net with a couple of guys driving. It was a great play by Campo to get it deep and get a look to the middle. I'm so proud of everybody out there."
Don Bosco Prep (20-7-1) carried the lead into the intermission but despite outshooting Delbarton 21-19 in the game, couldn't solve Kobryn a second time.
As quickly as the Bergen County school struck in the first, Falivene wasted no time striking back 2:39 into the second for Delbarton.
"Me and Pat Harrington coming down, two-on-two, and I found some space in the middle," third-liner Falivene said. "Pat got it over to me, great pass, and as their goalie slid over I went back far side. It felt great to get that one. Being down, we needed to get the energy back in the building and that definitely did it -- it sparked the whole team."
"It came down to attitude, who wanted it more and that was us tonight," Falivene said.
After burning out the bearings with his first two lines, Shatel was thrilled with the unexpected power source.
"James Falivene -- he's a hockey player and he's had a couple of big goals along the way. He's picked his spots and has had some big ones for us," Shatel said. "I couldn't have been more thankful tonight for another one."
Falivene's goal tilted the ice in Delbarton's favor and Benemerito delivered the go-ahead goal 10:47 later, just 1:34 before the end of the second period.
"It was a lost draw. It hopped over their defenseman's stick, I saw a lot of open ice, chased it down and went backhand upstairs," Benemerito described his game-winning breakaway goal. "It bounced off the boards and their D was wide. It went right to the middle and I was lucky to get there. I usually go backhand and did it again."
"The second period has been our period all year. It's been our go-to," Shatel added. "We capitalized on two big opportunities. What more can I say about Benemerito -- he's a star."
The two-goal outburst in the second frame sent Delbarton into the break with a 2-1 lead. From there, it went into lockdown, defensively, though Kobryn was forced to make a couple key saves in the third to keep it from going to overtime.
"We had a lot of pressure early, got the turnover, the goal and the momentum," Don Bosco coach Greg Toskos said. "We out-shot them every period. We had our chances. The puck just missed the net a couple times in the third period.
"Today's game is a game of inches. The puck hops over Campo's stick, they're off to the races and the puck's in the back of the net and that's the game-winner," Toskos said. "We got here, haven't been here in four years. Inching closer."
Among the dozen Delbarton teams to have raised a banner over the years, the 2017 squad was probably not the most talented. But what it lacked in talent, it made up for in focus and work ethic. Those traits define the makeup of a champion.
"We just kept grinding all year," Benemerito said. "We grinded it out tonight and you see the result. It feels great."
Don Bosco -- Tyler Nielson (John Campomenosi) 13:22
Delbarton -- James Falivene (Patrick Harrington) 12:21
Delbarton -- Mark Benemerito 1:34
Troy Kobryn, Delbarton, 20 saves. Alexei Masanko, Don Bosco, 17 saves.