We were all kind of wondering how folks up north would respond to the 5-1 shellacking Delbarton handed out to Catholic Memorial last weekend. I managed to track down a local article on the game, and I was more than a little surprised to see Catholic Memorial coach Bill Hanson – as well-respected a coach as you will find in the high school game – say that Delbarton was flat-out a better team. I was similarly surprised that the article’s author would suggest that New Jersey hockey might be better than Massachusetts hockey.
So give the article a read. There are plenty of things a naysayer could point out, but 10 years ago, a New Jersey school beating the No. 2 school in Massachusetts – and the most storied hockey program, at that – would not be believed. I didn’t even think it could happen this year. Interesting to say the least.
I’ve stuck to my Morris County roots on this trip home, watching games at Mennen Arena both Saturday and Monday. Tonight’s second and third games were further examples of why we all love the sport (and high school sports in general). In less than four hours, I got plenty of entertainment from both games and got to see some great friends from the sport.
On the ice, I was first entertained by a game that saw Roxbury rally from a 4-1 deficit against Mountain Lakes to forge a 5-5 tie in the third period, only to see the Lakers respond with a goal of their own in the final four minutes for a 6-5 win. Roxbury is struggling a lot more than I had anticipated in the Halvorsen Division, although they carried play in the second and third periods. Mountain Lakes struggled in its own zone but seems to know how to finish a high percentage of its chances (see its 7-5 win over Morris Knolls as further evidence).
In the nightcap, we got one of those classic upsets. Mendham kept the game scoreless with Morris Knolls until late in the second period. After killing off a Knolls power play and dodging a bullet when a deflected shot trickled just wide, Mendham forward Chris DiMaio chipped the puck around a defenseman at the blue line and skated in on a bad-angle breakaway, scoring on his forehand with just six seconds left in the period. Knolls goalie Tyler Rideout left the game injured between periods, and Mendham greeted his replacement, Tim Kutnetsov, in the same fashion, as Anthony Santomo found space in the slot to whip in a wrist shot just 41 seconds into the third period. From there, Mendham held on for a 2-0 win.
Senior goalie Troy Herman was outstanding in posting the shutout, as he was credited with 24 saves (on a low night for shot totals at Mennen). I remember seeing Herman starting as an easily rattled freshman and allowing a fluke goal from the far blue line three years ago; tonight he shut out a perennial Public A power.
Hats off to Mendham for the win, but this game only reinforced what previous results had been saying … Morris Knolls just doesn’t have it at the moment. Rideout seemed back in relatively strong form tonight, and Albert Abaunza is an above-average forward, but the Golden Eagles don’t seem to have that jump or crisp offensive moment as they’ve had in the past. It is, however, still early.
That may be all the high school hockey I get to see on this trip home – I’m heading to the Prudential Center for the first time tomorrow night – but tonight certainly came through with some quality hockey.