Mennen Cup semifinals

February 23, 2006 on 10:16 pm | In game recap | Comments Off on Mennen Cup semifinals

Morristown-Beard 5, Randolph 2
Morristown-Beard will get yet another shot at a Mennen Cup championship Saturday after a 5-2 semifinal win over Randolph Thursday night sent the Crimson to their 11th championship game in the last 16 years. Beard is 0-9-1 in those games.

In a period that typified Randolph’s play against top teams, the Rams enjoyed more possession but created fewer chances than the Crimson, and Morristown-Beard took the lead with a shorthanded goal at the 6:17 mark. Corey Schneider gained the zone on the right side, juked around a defender, and snapped a shot past Dan Swenson, returning from injury in the Randolph goal, for a 1-0 advantage.

Randolph had the advantage most of the second period as well, with Chris Maloney hitting the post, but only a save by Swenson on a Greg Alberti breakaway kept it a one-goal game. The Rams finally broke through at the 9:33 mark, once again scoring in front of their student fans. After outmuscling a defender for a loose puck at the red line, Rob Kral broke into the offensive zone on the right wing and wristed a shot past John Yanchek to tie the game. Randolph scored again within two minutes, as they have done so often this year, when Chris Tamminga blasted a slap shot in the high slot that trickled through Yanchek. But the Crimson netminder redeemed himself by holding strong in the final 3:26 to keep the game 2-1 entering the final period.

Morristown-Beard came out fired up, forcing Swenson into three saves in the first 50 seconds. Then came the penalties. Randolph was first whistled for pushing Yanchek behind the net, and again only 11 seconds later for a slashing penalty at center ice. Morristown-Beard needed only 16 seconds to convert, as Ryan Paradis blasted a point shot past Swenson to tie the game. The Crimson cashed in on the other half of their power play as well, but not without controversy. Paradis’ point shot sailed high, and Sam Altiero redirected it with the definition of a borderline high-stick call. Swenson made the save but could not find the rebound, and Dan Shurts slotted it home for a 3-2 lead. The Crimson continued to be more aggressive, with Swenson stopping Turner Paine in front before Jake Lewis finally got the fourth goal, swiping home a shot from the slot after being left wide open. Randolph got a late 6-on-4 advantage, but Shurts scored into an empty net to complete Beard’s most comprehensive win over Randolph this season.

It marked the sixth time in eight years that Morristown-Beard eliminated Randolph in the Mennen Cup semifinals. The Crimson have not won an outright Mennen Cup title since 1983, although they did tie with Delbarton in the 1994 championship.

Chatham 2, Morris Knolls 1
Chatham continued to have Morris Knolls’ number in a pulsating late game, knocking off the defending Mennen Cup and public state champion for the second time this year with a 2-1 decision. The Cougars are now 2-0-1 against Knolls on the year and will play in their first Mennen Cup final since 1989 on Saturday. Chatham has not won a Mennen Cup as one high school, but Chatham Township’s last title came in 1981.

Despite reigning as the state’s top public for the entire season, Morris Knolls had been outshot in all six games against its three main Mennen Division rivals, and the Golden Eagles held true to form in the early going Thursday. Knolls took advantage of an early power play, as Tommy Tomensky snapped a shot from the right face-off circle past Michael Infante just 1:40 into the game. But it was all Chatham from then on in a hard, fast, chippy first period. Josh Ofner made 13 saves in the period to keep the score 1-0.

Infante had to make more saves (3) in the first 40 seconds of the second period than he had in the entire first period (2), but the Cougars withstood the trademark Knolls barrage and recovered to dominate the period. Chatham mixed in a 1-1-3 trap at times but could not solve Ofner, who had every fan in the arena turning to his neighbor in amazement that the state’s top public team was being dominated yet remained in the lead. He stopped Jeff Tompson twice on a shorthanded breakaway and later Rob Curcio on a breakaway to keep it a 1-0 game. The equalizing goal, from a Chatham counterattack, was slightly fortuitous. A pass out of the right corner found an unmarked target in front, but Ofner’s pokecheck deflected the puck high in the air toward the back post. Tompson, stepping up from defense, gloved the puck in mid-air but found himself behind the net. So he blindly backhanded the puck over a diving Ofner into the crease, where it deflected off a frantically arriving Dan Duda and into the net to tie the game 1-1.

Still, Ofner’s 28 saves had Knolls, with only seven shots, in a 1-1 game heading to the third period. Instead of the Golden Eagles on the initial attack, however, Chatham’s Jeff Chatterton won the face-off and whistled a shot wide of Ofner just five seconds into the period. As play continued, a Knolls dump-in attempt from center ice hit one of its own players trying to get out of the zone, and the face-off came all the way into the Knolls defensive zone. Chatham’s second line then scored the winning goal out of nothing, as Andrew Fabian’s shot from the left boards was deflected in front of the net, and Rob Curcio’s turnaround shot slipped past Ofner, still searching for the puck, at the near post. Any second-line goal was clearly going to be decisive, but Knolls had plenty of time to recover.

Although Fabian hit the post soon after, Knolls eventually settled in to control the period, but its top line of Tomensky, Duda, and Steven Jones looked tired much of the period and could not find its normal magic. The period kept fans on both sides on the edge of their seats, and the possibilities for strategy – matching lines to earn a power play, how many shifts to skate the third line, when to call time-out – were limitless. Infante made three saves on the period’s only power play, and the Cougar defense did a good job of limiting Knolls to one shot per possession on the power play. Infante really came to the fore in the middle-to-late part of the period and made 14 saves in the final stanza. His biggest came from point-blank range on Tomensky with 4:31 left, and Tomensky fired the rebound wide. The game’s final 1:10, with Ofner on the bench for a sixth skater, was breathtaking stuff, with the entire arena standing and all 12 players crammed into the space below the face-off circles, but Chatham held on for a well deserved victory.

The loss snapped a 14-game Knolls winning streak in tournament play and makes the defending public state champions appear especially vulnerable entering the state tournament. Three of Knolls’ four losses to public schools in the last two years have been against Chatham, and the teams could meet again in the public semifinals if both teams advance. The win was Chatham’s second high-quality win of the year, both against Knolls, and the Cougars will have to prove they can beat somebody else in Saturday’s final and the state tournament. But Chatham essentially battled Morristown-Beard to a tie last week, losing only because the Cougars pulled their goalie while going for the win, and are playing with sky-high confidence at the moment.

Morristown-Beard 5, Randolph 2


Ran 0 2 0 2
MB  1 0 4 5


Ran  5 10 4 19
MB   5 4 10 19

6:17 MB (sh) #23 Corey Schneider
9:33 Ran #9 Rob Kral (#22 Ricky Roma)
11:34 Ran #12 Chris Tamminga (#10 Derek Ranger)
2:12 MB (pp) #15 Ryan Paradis (#10 Pat Yannotta)
3:26 MB (pp) #21 Dan Shurts (#9 Sam Altiero, #15 Ryan Paradis)
7:04 MB #2 Jake Lewis (#4 Mikey Minskoff)
14:55 MB (sh, en) #21 Dan Shurts

#31 Dan Swenson (Ran) 18-14
#30 John Yanchek (MB) 19-17

Power plays: Ran 0-3, MB 2-3

Chatham 2, Morris Knolls 1


Cha 0 1 1 2
MK  1 0 0 1


Cha 13 16 8 37
MK  3 4 14 21

1:40 MK (pp) #41 Tommy Tomensky (#14 Dan Duda, #44 Steven Jones)
11:07 Cha #36 Jeff Tompson (unassisted)
0:37 Cha #8 Rob Curcio (#14 Andrew Fabian, #19 Paul Ughetta)

#1 Michael Infante (Cha) 21-20
#33 Josh Ofner (MK) 37-35

Power plays: Cha 0-1, MK 1-3

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