Morristown-Beard 5, Randolph 4
No. 7 Morristown-Beard blew a 4-0 lead but recovered for a dramatic 5-4 win over No. 13 Randolph Tuesday in a Mennen Division game that featured a pulsating, seven-goal second period.
The Mennen Division heavyweights, both chasing No. 6 Morris Knolls for the top seed in the Mennen Cup tournament, played not-to-lose in the first period, going almost nine minutes without a single shot on goal. The period featured fast skating and good neutral-zone passing but no threatening offensive moves until late in the period. Crimson defenseman Bob Yannotta went high off the glass out of the defensive zone, finding brother and defense partner Pat Yannotta in the neutral zone. The elder Yannotta stepped up with a three-on-two rush and worked a quick give-and-go with forward Mike Jacquin, one-timing the return pass just inside the right post for the game’s opening goal. Randolph, rotating two different lines through its third spot in the rotation, had just one shot in the opening stanza, a dump-in from center ice.
Morristown-Beard stamped its authority on the game early in the second period, as Turner Paine fired a one-timer past Dan Swenson from the slot just three minutes in. The Crimson then took advantage of a line mismatch when its first line caught one of Randolph’s third lines deep in the offensive zone. Greg Alberti took advantage on the break, snapping a shot underneath Swenson from the right face-off circle. Finally, just past the halfway mark, Pat Yannotta appeared to sew things up with a blast from the point just under the left corner of the crossbar for a seemingly insurmountable 4-0 lead.
Despite showing no signs of an offense earlier in the game, Randolph now awoke with a physical forecheck, and Ed Keenan sneaked a pass from behind the net to Greg DaSilva cutting through the slot for a one-time tap-in behind normally dominant John Yanchek. Randolph scored again just 21 seconds later, as Rob Kral carried the puck into the zone and fired home a snap shot from the left circle. The Ram momentum was broken by a Beard power play, but Randolph picked up the play again for the final four minutes, dominating so much that Crimson coach John Puskar complained about the difference between a two-second and a five-second clock hold after it did not stop immediately. Randolph justified his fears by continually applying pressure in the right corner, in front of its fans, and DaSilva reacted quickly to a loose puck in the right circle to fire it through the legs of Yanchek and make it a 4-3 game. Remarkably, the Rams tied the game just 25 seconds later. Again working out of the right corner, Kral centered a pass for cutting defenseman Kyle Krannich. He was unable to control the pass, but the puck caromed to the right post, where John Beatrice popped up to bang it behind Yanchek for an emotional tying goal. Kral thought he had scored to take the lead with 18 seconds remaining, but Yanchek kept the shot out as players from both teams met in the crease.
Tied 4-4, the period break came at an unfortunate time for Randolph, which could not continue its momentum into the third period. Although the Rams had the better of play, Pat Yannotta rang the post on a slap shot with 9:45 remaining for the period’s best chance. The Crimson used their advantage as the home team to get another line mismatch on an offensive zone face-off late in the period, with its first line against Randolph’s other third line. As if on a power play, the face-off came back to Ryan Paradis on the right point. He swung a D-to-D pass to Matt Kruvant on the left pass, and he fired the puck back-door to Dan Shurts in the lower left face-off circle, where Shurts took his time before whipping a bad-angle wrist shot into the top of the net as Swenson tried to recover.
It was a fittingly dramatic ending to a memorable game that, given Randolph’s tie with CBA Friday, only serves to confirm both Beard’s potential to play with and beat Gordon Conference teams and its susceptibility to inconsistency against less-hyped opponents.
Morristown-Beard 5, Randolph 4
12:08 MB #10 Pat Yannotta (#17 Mike Jacquin)
2:51 MB #3 Turner Paine (#14 Rich Leonardis, #23 Corey Schneider)
5:02 MB #19 Greg Alberti (#21 Dan Shurts, #24 Bobby Yannotta)
7:39 MB #10 Pat Yannotta (#23 Corey Schneider)
8:15 Ran #26 Greg DaSilva (#16 Ed Keenan, #15 Matt Incledon)
8:36 Ran #9 Rob Kral (#22 Ricky Roma, #3 Kyle Krannich)
13:53 Ran #26 Greg DaSilva (#28 Paul Kusik)
14:18 Ran #19 John Beatrice (#3 Kyle Krannich, #9 Rob Kral)
12:18 MB #21 Dan Shurts (#5 Matt Kruvant, #15 Ryan Paradis)
#31 Dan Swenson (Ran) 19-14
#30 John Yanchek (MB) 18-14
Power plays: Ran 0-1, MB 0-1
I threw a baseball today. First time since September. It was that warm.
On the cold stuff, however, three teams clinched state playoff berths (assuming my powers of addition are still intact), running the current total of qualified teams to 43 (29 public, 14 private). Ridge breezed past Verona 7-1, Mountain Lakes beat Sparta 8-1, and WWPS beat Hamilton 10-0. Not exactly a lot of high drama, but results nonetheless. Brick Township picked up a crucial 5-2 win over Toms River East, leaving the Green Dragons at 6-7-3 with remaining games against Toms River North, Brick Memorial, and Old Bridge.
In the big games today, No. 12 St. Peter’s Prep got two goals from Tim Miller, including the game-tying goal with 49 seconds remaining and goalie Kevin Fox pulled for a sixth attacker, as the Marauders tied No. 2 Delbarton 2-2 at Pershing Field in Jersey City. In the first CVC game between its top three teams not to end in a tie, Steinert rallied from a 2-1 third-period deficit to beat Princeton 4-2 at IceLand. Mitch Wien scored the go-ahead goal before the Spartans added an empty-netter. Finally, MonDon beat Old Bridge 6-4 to snap the Knights’ 8-game unbeaten streak.
Tuesday’s limited schedule features a pair of great matchups in the South Jersey battle between CBA and St. Augustine Prep and the Mennen Division game between Randolph and Morristown-Beard.
Seton Hall Prep 5, Delbarton 2
No. 1 Seton Hall Prep took a big step toward an undefeated season Saturday with a 5-2 win over No. 3 Delbarton (8-5-1) in front of a standing-room crowd of 2,569 at South Mountain. Seton Hall Prep (14-0-2) is trying to become the first team since St. Joseph Montvale in 1984 to complete an undefeated season. Delbarton was unbeaten against New Jersey teams in the 2001 and 1989 seasons, and Bergen Catholic finished 21-1-2 in 2003.
The 2006 versions of the state’s premier programs took the ice for warm-ups a full 35 minutes before the scheduled 5:30 face-off. The game had three ice cuts, a jumbo video board, a red-carpet national anthem, and (eventually) plenty of fans. The game started around 5:25, and the Pirates needed just 15 seconds to stamp their authority on the game. First-line forwards Mike Cacciotti and Rem Vanderbeek worked a perfect give-and-go, with Cacciotti deking to his backhand to score past Delbarton starter Jeff Leone.
When Seton Hall Prep went on the power play three minutes later, it looked like the rout was on. But Delbarton forward Matt Schillings intercepted a D-to-D pass and took off with a breakaway. Although he was tied up by a defenseman, he got off a one-handed shot, and when Pirate goalie Zach Truesdell could not find the rebound, Dan Pressl was on hand to fire it into an open net and tie the game. Delbarton had a 6-1 shot advantage at that point, but Seton Hall Prep outshot the Green Wave 11-1 over the rest of the period, finally beating Leone on a point shot from Tim Margiotta at the 9:03 mark.
Trailing 2-1, Delbarton got two early power plays in the second period, and Truesdell had to be at his best to maintain the lead. But Seton Hall Prep was back on the attack and had almost continuous pressure for the rest of the period, thanks in part to three power plays. The Pirates finally cashed in at 12:22, when Cacciotti found a loose puck near the goal line and snapped it by Leone before he could react. The goal came just one second after a power play expired.
In the third period, Delbarton got back in the game almost immediately, when Alex Smigelski’s point shot deflected off a Seton Hall Prep stick to a wide-open Pressl in the lower left circle, who once again had no trouble finishing into an open net. The game’s intensity picked up, with several after-the-whistle skirmishes, but Delbarton never created any serious chances to tie the game. Seton Hall Prep essentially iced the contest on a power-play goal at the 8:06 mark. With most of the nine players on the ice clogged on the left side of Seton Hall’s offensive zone, Chris Preziosi won the puck and made a smart feed to Cacciotti in the right circle, who whistled a high wrist shot past Leone.
With the teams skating four-on-four late in the period and Delbarton pushing up, Cacciotti and Vanderbeek missed consecutive breakaways before Vanderbeek got another chance and beat Leone through his legs to truly seal the game.
Seton Hall Prep clinched its third Gordon Conference regular-season title in four seasons and faces St. John Vianney, St. Peter’s Prep, and Connecticut power Fairfield Prep in its quest for an unbeaten regular season. Delbarton dropped into a second-place tie with Don Bosco Prep and faces St. Peter’s Prep twice and Pope John in leaugue play down the stretch. Don Bosco will face Bergen Catholic, St. Peter’s Prep, and St. John Vianney as the pair vie for a first-round bye in the Gordon Cup tournament.
Seton Hall Prep 5, Delbarton 2
0:15 SHP #11 Mike Cacciotti (#17 Rem Vanderbeek)
3:31 Del (sh) #17 Dan Pressl (#8 Matt Schillings)
9:03 SHP #6 Tim Margiotta (#15 Jim Mahoney)
12:22 SHP #11 Mike Cacciotti (#15 Jim Mahoney)
0:18 Del #17 Dan Pressl (#9 Alex Smigelski)
8:06 SHP (pp) #11 Mike Cacciotti (#12 Chris Preziosi, #26 John Passantino)
13:19 SHP (4-4) #17 Rem Vanderbeek (unassisted)
#35 Jeff Leone (Del) 40-35
#30 Zach Truesdell (SHP) 21-19
Power plays: Del 0-4, SHP 1-7
At Mennen Arena, Chatham outshot Morris Knolls 34-18 but came away with only a 2-2 tie after 32 saves from Josh Ofner. Donnie Nichols and Dan Duda gave Knolls a 2-0 second-period lead before goals from Jeff Tompson and Jeff Chatterton pulled the Cougars level. In the second game, Mendham beat Jefferson 9-4.
The nightcap matched Halvorsen Division leaders Mountain Lakes and West Morris. The Lakers (9-6-1) clinched a Mennen Cup playoff berth with a 6-4 win over the Wolf Pack (7-8) behind Jacob Sutker (2 g, 1 a) and Dan Lio (1 g, 3 a). Lakes rotated seven forwards, with Lio’s second line making the difference. West Morris’ top line scored both even-strength goals through standout Kenny Hunt, while Todd DeVoid scored twice on the power play. The Lakers can clinch the division title and promotion to the Mennen Division with a win or a tie against Mendham Feb. 6.
CBA 1, Randolph 1
Defending private state champion CBA and defending public finalist Randolph played to a 1-1 tie Friday at Aspen Ice, although the Colts were without forward Mike Chilton and Randolph was without defenseman Ricky Roma.
No. 13 Randolph (10-3-2) had two power-play opportunities in the first period but could not capitalize. The Rams had the better chances in the period, and No. 6 CBA (3-5-7) used long shots to test Randolph goalie Dan Diamond and look for rebounds. But the Gordon Conference veterans began to wear down Randolph in the second period, pushing the play and getting closer to the net.
Randolph head coach Rich McLaughlin countered his team’s fatigue by rolling a fourth line at times, and that line got the game’s first goal late in the second period. Chris Wiggins set a pass from behind the net to Chris Maloney in the low slot, and he fought off one defender before slapping the puck through the legs of CBA’s Gary Kondler. The Colts responded in just 1:22, however, as Tom Mollica found Lou Amato in the slot for a one-time finish just inside the left post.
Randolph came out energized after the ice cut and went close to taking the lead on the power play early in the third period, but Kondler was able to stop John Beatrice from close range. CBA then dominated most of the period but rarely got enough traffic to the net to put Diamond in a tough position. The Colts got a late power play but had trouble with Randolph’s forecheck and only managed two shots. The Rams got two offensive-zone face-offs in the final minute behind efforts from Rob Kral but could not break the deadlock.
With the tie, Randolph joins the considerable number of teams linked to CBA through a tie, including every Gordon Conference team except Seton Hall Prep and Delbarton. CBA has not lost to a public school (excluding forfeits) since December 9, 2002, going 16-0-2 in that stretch.
CBA 1, Randolph 1
10:02 Ran #17 Chris Maloney (#23 Chris Wiggins)
11:24 CBA #13 Lou Amato (#18 Tom Mollica)
#36 Gary Kondler (CBA) 18-17
#1 Dan Diamond (Ran) 28-27
Power plays: CBA 0-2, Ran 0-3
Morris Knolls 4, Morristown-Beard 1
Goaltending and a strong power play look like they could be enough to win a state title this year. Defending Mennen Cup and public state champion Morris Knolls had both of those facets covered Thursday, scoring three power-play goals and getting a spectacular 44-save performance from Josh Ofner in a 4-1 win over Mennen Division rival Morristown-Beard.
Unfortunately, I missed the first period. Each team had two power plays, and No. 4 Morristown-Beard (13-3) held a 16-7 shot advantage. But No. 9 Morris Knolls (13-2) cashed in on both of its chances with the man advantage. Jimmy Timmins opened the scoring at the 3:56 mark, and Steven Jones made it 2-0 with 2:18 remaining in the period.
It was more of the same in the second period, with Morristown-Beard carrying play. The Crimson hit the post in the first minute of the period, and Jones, standing just outside the crease, was whistled for delay of game after throwing the puck into the corner. But Ofner rose to the occasion with a series of stops on the ensuing power play. Morris Knolls got two more power plays in the period, and the Golden Eagles ran their advantage to 3-0 on the second one when Dan Duda ripped a shot from the right point that whistled by a screened John Yanchek. Morristown-Beard got back in the game with 0:38 remaining in the period when Sam Altiero took a breakaway pass from Ryan Paradis, shrugged off a slashing penalty called on Duda, and roofed a wrist shot at the near post.
I saw Walt Keiper use 12 different forwards for Morris Knolls in the game, rotating seven of them through the four wing slots on his second and third line, and occasionally on the top line when Duda shifted to defense. John Puskar, by contrast, only used his third line for a few shifts. Despite the depth, Knolls was unable to wear Morristown-Beard down and had trouble even clearing its own zone to get a line change early in the third period. But the Crimson never really looked like getting back in the game, and Tommy Tomensky sealed the win for Knolls with a length-of-the-ice slap shot into an empty net with 57 seconds remaining.
Knolls has won three straight and is unbeaten in five straight against Beard after winning last year’s Mennen Cup final and the first meeting this year. The Golden Eagles sit alone atop the Mennen Division with a 9-1 league mark. Beard, which is 2-0 against the Gordon Conference, dropped into a third-place tie with an 8-3 league record. Knolls gets a chance to avenge one of its losses on Saturday against Chatham, while the Crimson will face Randolph in a crucial game Tuesday.
Morris Knolls 4, Morristown-Beard 1
3:56 MK (pp) #10 Jimmy Timmins (#14 Dan Duda, #41 Tommy Tomensky)
12:42 MK (pp) #44 Steven Jones (#14 Dan Duda, #10 Jimmy Timmins)
6:58 MK (pp) #14 Dan Duda (#41 Tommy Tomensky)
14:22 MB #9 Sam Altiero (#15 Ryan Paradis)
14:03 MK (sh, en) #41 Tommy Tomensky
#30 John Yanchek (MB) 21-18
#33 Josh Ofner (MK) 45-44
Power plays: MB 0-6, MK 3-5
Toms River North 3, Bridgewater-Raritan 2
I got my first look at No. 17 Toms River North Wednesday at the Rock Ice Pavilion in Dunellen. And although the Mariners were outplayed most of the game by No. 19 Bridgewater-Raritan, TRN rallied from a 2-0 deficit with three goals in the game’s final 4:40 for a dramatic 3-2 win that could relegate the preseason public favorite Panthers to a No. 7 seed, at best, in March’s NJSIAA public state tournament. Center Chris Moser scored two goals, including the game-winner with just 14 seconds remaining.
TRN (11-5) was without sophomore forward Sean Betterly and seemed intent on keeping its shifts ridiculously short in the first period; both teams’ third lines were used sparingly, but Bridgewater’s probably saw a bit more ice time. After some hard hits in the early going, the Panthers picked up play in the middle of the period and pressured Mariner goalie Dan Labbate into six saves by the middle of the period. But Bridgewater-Raritan (11-3-1) struggled on its first power play, as TRN forward Nicco Palmero had a breakaway saved by Gary Biggs. Late in the period, a Palmero shot deflected off a Bridgewater stick and rang the post.
The game continued scoreless through the second period, with each team exchanging completely fruitless power plays. Although Bridgewater-Raritan appeared to have slightly more depth at forward, TRN received superior play from its defensemen, and that would prove critical in the final minutes.
But the game was still scoreless into the third period, when Bridgewater-Raritan emerged from the ice cut with new intensity. The Panthers dominated the first nine minutes of the period and got the breakthrough at the 4:21 mark. After a period of pressure in the TRN zone, the puck cycled to the lower left face-off circle, where second-line forward Chris Tommins ripped a slap shot that snuck between Labbate’s shoulder and the near post for a 1-0 lead. BR continued to push forward, doubling its advantage four minutes later when Nick Loughlin, who assisted on the first goal, jammed in a rebound.
It looked like Bridgewater’s forward depth had worn down TRN, but the Mariners increased the physical part of their forecheck and pinned the Panthers in their own zone on the next shift. Finally Chris Moser picked up the puck in the right corner and flipped a cross-ice pass to the back edge of the crease, where Frank Crea knocked the puck down with his body before lifting it over Biggs’ blocker and under the crossbar at the near post to make it a 2-1 game. Two minutes later, Moser wrapped around and tried to feather a pass into the high slot for Crea. Although Crea could not reach the pass, he tracked it down near the blue line and dropped the puck back down to a wide-open Moser for a one-timer past Biggs to stun the once cruising Panthers.
The game’s next twist came after a Bridgewater timeout and 18 seconds of play. The officials whistled TRN goalie Labbate for playing without a mouth guard, a 10-minute misconduct. A skater served the penalty, and Labbate stayed in the game. North then used its timeout with 0:45 remaining and a face-off in the Bridgewater zone. As time wound down, Alex Cohen wristed a point shot that Biggs saved, but both Paul Daley and Moser were alone on the doorstep, with Bridgewater hoping to break out of the zone, and Moser slid the puck underneath the sprawling goalie for the winning goal with just 14 seconds remaining.
Bridgewater-Raritan had no way back after that blow, and TRN skated away with an emotional victory just two nights after losing 7-5 to Southern White leader Old Bridge. The Mariners scored three goals in 4:26, each from the edge of the crease with Bridgewater defensemen nowhere to be found. Based on recent results, you have to assume Morris Knolls, Randolph, Montgomery, Hillsborough, Old Bridge, and Toms River North will all be seeded ahead of Bridgewater-Raritan. The NBIAL and CVC schools are pushing to be there too.
Toms River North 3, Bridgewater-Raritan 2
4:21 BR #18 Chris Tommins (#9 Nick Loughlin)
8:12 BR #9 Nick Loughlin (#18 Chris Tommins, #2 Kevin Wetmore)
10:20 TRN #10 Frank Crea (#21 Chris Moser, #11 Paul Daley)
12:15 TRN #21 Chris Moser (#10 Frank Crea)
14:46 TRN #21 Chris Moser (#11 Paul Daley, #19 Alex Cohen)
#35 Dan Labbate (TRN) 26-24
#23 Gary Biggs (BR) 21-18
Power plays: TRN 0-1, BR 0-2
Also, a nice role reversal at Mennen Arena tonight … No. 20/wb Mount Olive avenged a 7-1 loss to No. 15/wb Park Regional with a 2-0 win behind a pair of goals from … you guessed it, John Bellamente. Regional will still win the Charette Division title if it wins its remaining two league games.
Clifton and Middletown South played to a 2-2 tie tonight, a result that will probably see most of the Northern Red Division relegated below a host of southern teams. And in the Gordon Conference, CBA ran its division record to a remarkable 1-5-6 with a 1-1 tie against St. Peter’s Prep.
Mountain Lakes (7-6-1) took a big step toward a top-two finish in the Halvorsen Division of the MCSSIHL with a 4-2 win over Pingry (5-6-3) Monday behind 30 saves from Matt Lowell. Pingry hit three posts in the first period and outshot the Lakers 28-15 over the final two periods. Mountain Lakes was able to skate healthier lines than in the past few weeks, and Jacob Sutker and Carl Dagger sandwiched first period goals around a Dan Ambrosia tally for Pingry.
The Big Blue applied pressure for most of the second period, finally tying the game at the 10:30 mark on a Dan Weiniger goal. But Mountain Lakes responded with the game’s most crucial goal, an accurate wrist shot from second-line forward James Putney, just 2:18 later. Clint McDonough sealed the game with a blast of a slap shot midway through the third period. Lowell was outstanding for Mountain Lakes, which hopes to get an additional boost with the expected return of forward Danny Lio from junior hockey. Could we see Mountain Lakes with three lines?
In other action at Mennen Arena, No. 4 Morristown-Beard (13-2) was sluggish in a 3-0 win over Mendham (3-8-2), which got 25 saves from Troy Hermann. In the nightcap, No. 20 Chatham (13-3) wore down Morris Hills (5-10) in a 5-2 victory. The Scarlet Knights dressed just 14 players and were without their top two scorers but did take a 1-0 lead. Ilya Schuf stopped 39 of 43 shots.
Around the state, No. 14 Bishop Eustace (9-4-1) rocked the Gordon Conference picture with a 5-2 win over No. 8 St. Peter’s Prep (6-5-2) … that’s sure to shake up next week’s rankings, especially considering the three-goal margin of victory is superior to that of Don Bosco Prep (2-1), St. John Vianney (5-3), CBA (1-0), and Pope John (2-2). Old Bridge (9-2-2) played its first non-league game since the Cron Tournament in December and upended No. 17 Toms River North (10-5), 7-5. I really want to say ‘I told you so,’ on this one, but I didn’t even have Old Bridge in my 21-32 category. And No. 1 Seton Hall Prep (11-0-2) rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to beat Princeton Day 5-3 at South Mountain. If one wants to compare scores, note Morris Knolls lost to the Panthers 5-4; who says we shouldn’t have an overall championship game?
Finally, in completely unrelated news, Freddy Adu made his full debut for the U.S. men’s national team last night and, at the age of 16, became the youngest player in U.S. history. Also, in case you were wondering, Nigeria edged Ghana 1-0 and Senegal beat Zimbabwe 2-0 in the African Nations Cup.