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A true sign of sportsmanship

by Mike G. Morreale
One of the feel-good stories of the 2010-11 New Jersey scholastic ice hockey season was witnessing Delbarton Prep senior Peter McMullen score the game-winning goal in overtime to lead his team to a state Non-Public championship at Prudential Center in Newark on March 13.

McMullen, rated No. 144 on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings, is the grandson of the late Dr. John McMullen -- the man responsible for bringing professional hockey to the Garden State in 1982. He finished the season as the leading scorer for the state's No. 1-ranked team, with career-highs in goals (25) and points (45).

But, the story didn't end after McMullen connected 4:41 into the extra period of a 3-2 victory over St. Augustine Prep of Richland, N.J.

In one of the greatest displays of sportsmanship that you'll see at any level of any sport, St. Augustine senior goalie Joe Pantalone presented McMullen the puck the latter put behind him when the two got together during the ceremonial handshake.

"I thought about it being a player's dream to score a goal in overtime like that to win a state championship," Pantalone told Paul Bruno of The Star-Ledger. "Even though we had lost, I felt I had to get that puck and give it to Pete (McMullen). He made a great shot and he deserved to have that puck."

Pantalone, who made 37 saves in the loss, isn't projected to be drafted by an NHL team this June. It certainly doesn't discount the noble gesture that any NHL scout or General Manager would appreciate, however. He was named The Star-Ledger's Hockey Sportsman of the Year.

When told of Pantalone's courtesy, Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel was thrilled.

"It was a tremendous gesture of sportsmanship during a very difficult moment for an athlete," Shatel told Bruno. "It really was pretty extraordinary for him to do that, and it says a lot about that young man's character. It goes to show what (St. Augustine coach) Tim Fingerhut is teaching his players and it's a credit to the entire St. Augustine program."

The victory gave Delbarton (24-3-2) an unprecedented fourth straight Non-Public championship. In the OT, McMullen charged the cage and swept home a pass from John Baiocco past Pantalone. McMullen will attend Boston College in the fall. According to The Ledger, Pantalone might continue his career at Middlebury or Merrimack, or he might play junior hockey next season.

"We lost the game and it was a huge disappointment, but I think it shows nothing is ever as bad as it seems," Pantalone said. "You can always turn something negative into a positive. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Things get thrown at you in life, so you can either pack it in or work harder and make it a positive. I feel like the friendship that Pete (McMullen) and I can have now is something to gain from this."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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