Back in Jersey; has it always been this cold?

December 17, 2009 on 12:21 am | In game recap | Comments Off on Back in Jersey; has it always been this cold?

I have a long-running love affair with the Cron Tournament, always held in the first three weeks of December at Warinanco Rink in Roselle. (For more on our shared history, check out my post from 2006, the first year I missed an edition entirely). Anyway, after missing the last three tournaments, I saw my first Cron action in four years tonight.

The short version is that in the third-place game, Summit and Westfield played to a 0-0, overtime tie that was, to me, exactly what the score reflects: evenly matched teams with trouble scoring. In the final, Morris Knolls reclaimed its title (the Golden Eagles’ six-year winning streak was snapped last year) by pounding Johnson (the team that snapped it) by a 13-4 score. Dillon Garritty won the MVP award for Knolls. More after the jump …

After sitting in traffic (if you were sitting in traffic on 24 West, you have my sincere condolences tonight) and eating at the Sunrise Dinner in Roselle, I arrived in time for the third period of the Summit-Westfield game and watched from ice level. Not a whole lot to speak of, even though I got to see two whole periods as the teams went scoreless through a 15-minute overtime.

I was more intent on the second game, with Nick Villaverde and Johnson taking on Albert Abaunza and Morris Knolls. Abaunza was tournament MVP as a sophomore in 2007 when Knolls won its sixth title, while Villaverde led Johnson to a 5-3 upset of Knolls in last year’s final.

This year was no contest. It got off to a bizarre start, however, as Morris Knolls began the game with a two-minute bench minor penalty, apparently for entering the ice for warmups before the referees had taken the ice. A rule I’m well aware of, but not a call I’ve ever seen for a penalty.

Morris Knolls killed the penalty easily and then took the lead at the 2:31 mark. After failing to take advantage of their chances throughout the first period (I can now see why they’ve been relying on these big third periods), the Golden Eagles made it 2-0 late and then 3-0 really late, as Abaunza fired a last-second shot that snuck through with 0.8 seconds on the clock.

Even though it was only a three-minute break, Johnson made the most of it, coming out with renewed intensity and purpose in the second. Villaverde set up Sal Demarzo for a goal just eight seconds in, and the Crusaders stayed within 4-2 as late as halfway through the game. But as usual, Knolls pulled away and eventually breezed to the 13-4 win despite a rash of penalties at the end of the second period. The official shot count was 47-21.

I was impressed with Knolls for its skill, depth, and physicality, but a little disappointed it didn’t take over the game earlier. There were numerous close-range chances, including an Abaunza breakaway, that went unconverted, and similar mistakes will cost them against more evenly matched teams. But Walt Keiper was able to skate a deep cast of forwards and get them important minutes throughout. Abaunza and Garrittycertainly lead the way offensively, but I was also impressed with Brian Manning. While I haven’t seen anybody else, I would definitely say they’re a Public A contender.

On the other side, Johnson only dressed 14 players and, as expected, relied on Villaverde for most of its offense. They’re not going to hit 20 wins again, and they probably won’t win the UCIHL, but they’ll certainly be competitive and be dangerous on the Public B side of things.

As usual, it was fun to be back at Warinanco for traditions like tournament stats posted on the bulletin board, coming inside to get warm by the fire, strangers offering pretzels, wearing multiple socks and still struggling to feel your toes, and fans yelling at refs about almost anything.

Here’s how I anticipate my remaining holiday hockey schedule shaking out:

Thursday – Mennen Arena, Kinnelon-Mendham
Friday – Ice Vault, Wayne Hills-Wayne Valley, Bergen Catholic-Don Bosco Prep, Northern Highlands-Ramsey
Saturday – Aspen Randolph, Bishop Eustace-Delbarton
Monday – Mennen Arena, Don Bosco Prep-Morristown-Beard
Wednesday – Mennen Arena, Morristown-Mountain Lakes, Morris Knolls-Morristown-Beard

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