freezing at the Cron Tournament

December 15, 2005 on 12:05 am | In game recap | Comments Off on freezing at the Cron Tournament

I bundled up in a turtleneck, two fleeces, and a jacket, and I still froze my butt off at the Cron Tournament Wednesday night. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I fought through an hour of traffic to get there for the last two periods of Mendham’s surprisingly lopsided 7-1 win over West Essex. Sean Hermann scored twice for Mendham to finish as the tournament’s leading scorer with six goals and four assists. During the break, I enjoyed some real hot-stove baseball (fireplace baseball, if you want to get technical) fireside while reading Five Seasons, by Roger Angell. I’m only partway through it, but so far I highly recommend the series of pieces on the 1972-76 baseball seasons. His elocution is amazing.

Morris Knolls 3, Old Bridge 1
This was an intriguing contest between two teams with a combined record last year of 44-6-5. Pregame focus centered on enigmatic Old Bridge forward Nick Geraci, who was on the roster but not the ice to start the game. With Geraci absent and Old Bridge dressing just 13 players, Morris Knolls (4-0) looked to be strolling along after a persistent rebound goal from Tommy Tomensky just 55 seconds into the game. But Old Bridge did not back down for the rest of the period, and the game exploded into life at the 10:32 mark. Golden Eagle forward Justin Lewandowski knocked an Old Bridge defenseman into goalie Travis O’Brien at the whistle, and O’Brien remained on the ice as tempers started to flare. Geraci picked this moment to arrive, and, 10 seconds later, he drew the first of three Morris Knolls penalties in the period.

Set to open the second period with 40 seconds of 5-on-3 action, Old Bridge (3-1-1) was slow to line up for the face-off, huddling for a team cheer, and was assessed a delay-of-game penalty. Still, the difference in the Knights was readily apparent, as Geraci’s presence made defenseman and captain Ryan Melis (who showed some class by shaking hands with all four Knolls coaches before the game) more willing to go forward and the whole team more assertive. This aggression led to penalties, however, and Morris Knolls had five virtually consecutive power plays in the early part of the period. The Golden Eagles finally cashed in at 6:44, with Dan Duda patiently waiting for a lane to clear before dropping a great backdoor pass down low to Steven Jones, who slotted it behind O’Brien.

The penalties continued immediately, as Knolls took a five-minute boarding penalty just 10 seconds later. For the period, Knolls skated 5-on-3 for almost 2:30, while Old Bridge had 3:49 of consecutive power play time thanks to the major penalty. Yet the Knights were unable to get a single shot on Morris Knolls goalie Josh Ofner during the lengthy power play, even against Knolls’ second-line penalty killers. Old Bridge got one more power-play chance in the period, and Ofner truly rose to the occasion as the difference in the game, although he did get some help when Geraci wrang a wrist shot off the post. By my unofficial tally, Ofner made at least nine saves in the game on Geraci alone.

Morris Knolls essentially put the game away just 34 seconds into the third period on a brilliant individual goal from Dan Duda, who stepped up perfectly to intercept a pass at center ice, sped around one defenseman, and beat O’Brien with a high wrist shot. Old Bridge had four more power plays late in the game, finally breaking Ofner’s shutout bid with an even-strength goal at 14:14. Melis made an excellent pass from the right point to Geraci in the lower left circle, and he one-timed a high shot past Ofner. But Knolls hung on, despite nine Old Bridge power plays, for the win.

Morris Knolls won its fourth consecutive Cron Tournament title, a feat surpassed only by the five consecutive championships St. Joseph Metuchen won from 1993-97. Ofner was named MVP for the second consecutive year, this time stopping 25 shots in the championship game and 47 of 49 for the tournament. Knolls extended its winning streak against public schools to 12 games. The loss broke an 18-game regular-season unbeaten streak for Old Bridge, which lost in the public round of 16 to Middletown North last year and was eliminated in the Southern Blue cup on a shootout.

Morris Knolls 3, Old Bridge 1


OB  0 0 1 1
MK  1 1 1 3


OB 7 14  5 26
MK 7 10  5 21

0:55 MK #41 Tommy Tomensky (#44 Steven Jones)
6:44 MK (pp) #44 Steven Jones (#14 Dan Duda, #11 Danny Coiro)
0:34 MK #14 Dan Duda (unassisted)
14:14 OB #12 Nick Geraci (#22 Ryan Melis)

#33 Travis O’Brien (OB) 21-18
#33 Josh Ofner (MK) 26-25

Power plays: MK 1-5, OB 0-9

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