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Road to the Rock: New Champions Have Been Crowned

by Brittany Burke / New Jersey Devils

Morris Knolls Named Public A Champion

Morris Knolls captured the Public A Championship by defeating Bridgewater-Raritan with a 3-0 shutout performance. Sunday's game was the third shutout for the team in the NJSIAA tournament. (Photo / Prudential Center)

In their first championship appearance since 2005, Morris Knolls came in with the At-Large bid from the Mennen Division and has claimed the title of NJSIAA Public A champions.

In the third shutout of their championship run, the Golden Eagles defeated the Bridgewater-Raritan Panthers 3-0.

“They played terrific. We’ve been stressing we need to play team defense and then capitalize on the opportunities that we had and now three straight shutouts, so I’m very happy with our play,” said Head Coach Walt Keiper.

Morris Knolls hasn’t allowed any goals since defeating Jackson Memorial 4-2. En route to the championship game, Morris Knolls kept both Ocean Township/Shore Regional and Randolph off the boards. In Sunday’s final match the senior goalie, Zach Flake, blocked all 22 Bridgewater-Raritan shots.

Things began quick for Morris Knolls with a rebounded goal from Alex Urbanski, assisted by Jonathan Kwestel 1:52 into the opening period. The fast opening score was the only in the first period for either team.

“We knew we had to get a jump on them early, which we did and once we did that we knew we had to sit back, play defense and eventually pop another one in,” senior defensemen and All-Tournament defensemen, Walt Keiper.

There were plenty of shots had by both teams, but dings off the post rang throughout the arena. Morris Knolls defenseman Walt Keiper had a chance to increase his team’s lead to two, but his shot taken from left point hit the post and was waved off because of a high stick. The Panthers also had good opportunities stopped by the goal post, causing the first to end 1-0 in favor of Morris Knolls.

The Golden Eagles’ Zach Flake continued to keep the Panthers off the scoreboard despite the increased pressure the defense faced from a revived Bridgewater-Raritan team. The Panthers managed to even up the shots on goal midway through the second, but it was Morris Knolls that continued to pull ahead. With 10:38 already taken off the clock in the second, Morris Knolls’ Danny Cangelosi scored off the rebound from Daniel Abaunza to end the period with the two-goal advantage.

“Usually we don’t have a great scoring punch on this team so we’ve been stressing team defense and to get a couple goals tonight from the guys who haven’t been scoring is great,” the Coach said.

Bridgewater-Raritan went on the man advantage 41 seconds into the third period off a Matt Mezik hooking penalty, but Morris Knolls help them off. The Panthers were given another opportunity to break into the game halfway through the third when the light went off signaling their first possible point. After a review by the refs and the goal judge, it was deemed no goal had been scored.

Reed Pelliconi hit the empty netter with 5.9 seconds left to play, signaling Morris Knolls would in fact be named the victors.

Christian Brothers Academy and Morristown-Beard Named Non-Public Co-Champions

Following a scoreless 15-minutes overtime Christian Brothers Academy (top) and Morristown-Beard (bottom) were named Non-Public Co-Champions. (Photo / Prudential Center)

For the first time since 1989, Morristown-Beard and Christian Brothers Academy were named Non-Public Co-Champions.

When the score remained tied at four in the third, a 15-minute over time situation began, but neither team beat the goaltender in extra time, forcing the tie.

According the NJSIAA governing body, when two teams tie in the tournament’s finals at the end of regulation, one sudden-death 15-minute overtime period will go into effect. If at the end of those 15 minutes there is still no change in the score, the two teams will be named co-champions.

“It’s an emotional let down, it doesn’t feel like a victory if anything it feels like a loss, but it is what it is and hopefully the kids will take this experience with them …,” said Morristown-Beard Head Coach Randy Velischek. “…That’s what we talked about in the locker room post game. Take this experience for what it’s worth. We’re playing in front of four or five thousand people, in front of your parents, the alumni and your peers and its an unforgettable experience but to not have a winner declared is a little bitter sweet.”

Though there was no distinct winner and loser, both teams played a hard fought game from the initial puck drop to the final buzzer.

With less shots taken on net than that of their opponents, Morristown-Beard was still the dominant team in the opening period of the Non-Public Championships. CBA opened scoring early with an unassisted goal at 1:51, but the Crimson quickly answered with four goals to add to the scoreboard.

Michael Meisenbacher began the scoring for the Crimson to tie the game, and a second goal by Michael Cernero from Isaac Davidson on the power play gave Morristown-Beard the lead. The team continued its dominance the rest of the period, scoring two more to make the score 4-1 in favor of the Crimson as the two teams headed into the locker rooms.

CBA head coach Ryan Bogan must have given the inspirational speech for the ages between periods. Down by three his team came back onto the ice and tied things up over a span of less than two minutes.

“Our character took over [in the first intermission], leadership took over, they knew the right words, they knew we were as good if not better then that team,” Bogan said. “We had to settle down. We had players trying to do too much again, back to where we were in December, but we got back into February hockey, march hockey and got back in the game.”

Colts captain Anthony Cusanelli, from Brenden van Riemsdyk and Bobby Hampton, cut the Crimson’s lead in half with a top-shelf goal scored 2:48 into the new period. Hampton continued his offensive presence with a rebounded goal off the pads of Morristown-Beard goalie Daniel Porth.

Down by just one, CBA’s Derek Contessa found the back of the net 22 seconds later, signaling the tie and causing the crowd of in navy and white to erupt in cheers. The game was officially tied 4:43 into the second period.

As the team’s second goalie, CBA’s Connor Silverstein was the player of the game. Coming in late in the first following Morristown-Beard’s four goals, he played confidently and kept Mo-Beard from scoring again.

Scoring quieted down after CBA tied things up and with no goals in the third period and final shot chances missed the teams headed into overtime.

Third Time's the Charm as Morristown Wins the Program's First Public B Championship

With 33.8 seconds left in the third, the Morristown Colonials scored on the Ramsey Rams to win the Public B Championship. (Photo / Prudential Center)

In their third straight finals appearance, Morristown has captured their coveted Public B Championship title. This is the first title for Head Coach Bobby Jones and his Morristown team.

“It’s been a goal of mine individually to get to this point,” the Head Coach said. “My brother won a state championship in high school at Knolls and I finally got mine tonight, which is nice, but more importantly this is for the kids and I’m so happy for them.”

The score was tied at zero with 33.8 seconds remaining in the third when Morristown’s captain Brian Begley took a shot and connected with the back of the net. Down by one, the Ramsey Rams chose to pull their goalie and skate with the extra man but there wasn’t enough time on the clock to make a tie.

“This is the best I ever felt. We knew it was a group of special guys at the beginning of the season and we made this our goal from day one. We wanted to win a state championship,” said Begley after the win. “The last two [are] the most disappointing things in the world because those seniors worked their tales off just to get to that special moment. Morristown coming up, is never a great team, just a bunch of blue collar guys, [but] the group of seniors [this year], we knew we could do something special with this team.”

Morristown did a good job at shutting down Ramsey’s Alex Whelan though the Rams outnumbered the Colonials in shots on goal, 22-16. However, senior Shane Brown stood firm in Morristown’s net and kept the Rams at zero for a shutout and overall championship win.

“We knew [Whelan] was a great player, a very talented kid,” Brown said. “We knew that he definitely likes to cut through the center so we figured we keep a stick on him, keep him in check the whole game and we’d be able to come out on top.”

The Colonials proved that one shot is all it takes. With just five shots taken on net over the last two periods, their final one proved to be the winner and the Colonials left the Rock as first time champions.

For more, head to NJ Youth Hockey Central.

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