March of the Champions

March 23, 2008 on 10:51 pm | In Uncategorized | No Comments

I got phone and e-mail updates from Saturday’s state championship tripleheader, and it sounds like I missed something special (yet again). A record crowd, even if it was for three games, and a new arena created an awesome environment and a day three teams and their fans will never forget, even if none of the games quite lived up to their billing.

I’ve been busy with my new job and whatnot, but I’ll see if I can get around to posting some final thoughts for this season and some historical perspective later this week.

For now, my Top 10

FINAL TOP 10

1. Delbarton (27-1-1)
2. St. Augustine Prep (18-7-2)
3. CBA (19-4-2)
4. Bishop Eustace (15-8-4)
5. Bergen Catholic (12-10-5)
6. Seton Hall Prep (6-10-5)
7. Don Bosco Prep (9-11-5)
8. Kinnelon (24-2-2)
9. Ridge (23-4-3)
10. Randolph (15-5-5)

Where does this upset rank?

March 4, 2008 on 2:32 pm | In analysis | 4 Comments

Obviously, Monday was a huge day for CVC hockey. Nobody picked CVC teams to go 4-0, and the biggest upset of the day came courtesy of Steinert.

Bill James has been telling me all year his team was underrated, but there really wasn’t much to back it up. The Spartans did so in a big way on Wednesday and in a surprising way, upsetting Fair Lawn 9-7. (Recaps: FL | Ste) I was surprised not so much by the result (remember, Steinert lost 4-3 to Randolph last year in this round) but by the score: 9-7.

Fair Lawn has two of the best public goalies in the state in Dan Ivanir and Collin Lemay and plays a sound system. I thought there was no way that could be the correct score. In 24 games, the Cutters had only allowed more than two goals on six occasions, and never more than four goals (that includes games against Portledge, Ramsey and Northern Highlands). So I was shocked to see a 9-7 score.

Now, to look at a question I was asked last night: Is this the biggest upset in state tournament history?

My short answer is no. But let’s look at some of the biggies and make some comparisons. For the sake of this discussion, I’m only going to consider public tournament games played since 1995. This list ended up being way longer than I thought it would be. I’ll address five of the biggies and Monday’s and leave the rest open to your comments and memories:

2000: Semifinals: (4) Summit 3, (1) Brick Twp. 2 – I could go in any order with most of the others, but this is and will always be No. 1 for me. Consider that, entering this game, Brick Township had won 19 consecutive public state tournament games, including 10 of its last 11 by a margin of at least five goals. The Green Dragons had won the public state title in 96, 97, 98 and 99 and won the overall championship in 97. It was a Gordon Conference team that was, in all actuality, a private school team that dominated public minnows without even thinking about it. I can’t tell you how shocking this was for the whole state. To be there at Mennen and watch Summit, its fans and just about everybody else in the state except Brick go berserk was amazing. Hands-down, the most surprising upset.
2003: First Round: (25) Fair Lawn 2, (8) Montclair 1 – I picked this one to represent the three upsets that happened in the same round that year. The Nos. 23, 24 and 25 seeds ALL won their first round games. (23 was Middletown South, 24 was Rumson-Fair Haven, as you can see below), and Fair Lawn wound up in the quarterfinals. Lowest seed ever to get that far.
1998: Quarterfinals: (12) Toms River East 3, (4) Toms River North 2, OT – I don’t know or remember a lot about this one, since I was pretty Morris County-centric at the time, but it sure was an emotional win. I remember watching TRE come to Mennen and get hammered by Brick, but just getting there, and beating TRN in the process, was a huge deal.
2007: Round of 16: (17) Steinert 9, (1) Fair Lawn 7 – A huge surprise because it is the earliest a No. 1 seed has ever lost in the public tournament and because Fair Lawn was so good defensively. Nobody had really seen Steinert step out of South and Central Jersey until the state tournament, but the Spartans pulled it off with back-to-back shorthanded goals in the third period to break a 6-6 tie.
2005: Quarterfinals: (7) Middletown South 4, (2) Ridge 3 – This was one of those seriously legit Ridge teams that failed to win the public state title that continues to elude the Red Devils. South had lost to Bayonne and finished behind Middletown North, so the Eagles weren’t expected to do much. Ridge was riding a long win streak (can’t remember how long), and it was a big surprise.
2000: Round of 16: (14) Ridgewood 3, (3) Montclair 2, OT – I didn’t see this game, but Ridgewood upset TRN in the next round to reach the semifinals at Mennen, where I saw the Maroons lose to Dave Bodson and Bayonne. This was an absolute shocker, because Montclair was still a power and Ridgewood was a nobody.

Best of the rest, chronologically:
1996: Round of 16: (14) Roxbury 4, (3) Bayonne 3, OT
1996: Round of 16: (12) West Essex 2, (5) Clifton 1, OT
1997: First Round: (20) Old Bridge 2, (13) West Essex 1
1997: Round of 16: (12) Hightstown 4, (5) Roxbury 3, OT – Joel Kulina, anybody?
1997: Semifinals: (6) Brick Memorial 7, (2) Bayonne 6 – Unbelievable game with Kiernan in goal for BM.
2000: First Round: (22) Livingston 4, (11) Hopewell Valley 2
2001: Round of 16: (21) Chatham 2, (5) Paramus 1, OT – At-large Cougars reached the quarterfinals.
2001: Semifinals: (6) Clifton 3, (2) Brick Township 1 – Beating Brick was still a huge deal.
2001: Semifinals: (4) Bayonne 2, (1) Toms River North 0 – Year of the Upset, and TRN was legit.
2002: Round of 16: (19) Brick Memorial 3, (3) Clifton 2
2002: Round of 16: (13) Paramus 3, (4) Bayonne 2
2003: First Round: (23) Middletown South 8, (10) Paramus 3
2003: First Round: (24) Rumson-Fair Haven 4, (9) Hopewell Valley 3, OT
2003: Quarterfinals: (7) Brick Memorial 3, (2) Brick Township 2 – Brick as defending champ again, AND a rivalry.
2004: First Round: (22) Fair Lawn 3, (11) Chatham 1
2005: Round of 16: (22) Tenafly 3, (6) Bayonne 3, OT (Ten 4-3 SO)
2006: Round of 16: (13) Clifton 3, (4) Chatham 2

Chime in here with your thoughts on these games or other memorable public state tournament upsets.

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