State finals tripleheader – live blog

March 9, 2012 on 5:25 pm | In breaking news | 1 Comment

I kept a running blog of Friday’s state championship games. It’s a little long, but hopefully it gives you some idea of the evening and perhaps some perspectives you might not get from newspaper recaps. Check it out after the jump:

5:24 p.m. – OK, 2:24 left in the first period of the Tenafly-Summit opener, and I’m finally online with a solid internet connection. The Devils don’t use the normal media facilities for these games – they’re curtained off with the upper deck – so the wireless is a little flaky. I’m on an ethernet cable now, so hopefully it carries me through the games. Tenafly goalie Jon Winawer has made two close-range stops so far – both on Jeff Wyckoff – but neither team has looked super dangerous.

5:25 p.m. – Before I go any farther, the pregame meal was delicious. I know I shouldn’t have put my stomach ahead of getting connected to the internet and live blogging, but I had to do it.

5:27 p.m. – OK, the first period just came to an end. Still scoreless between Tenafly and Summit; Tigers had an 8-6 shot edge in the period. Time for a double-zamboni ice cut, a staple of the finals since the Devils started hosting in the late 1990s.

5:44 p.m. – Both teams with standing student sections in opposite corners of the ice, but I have to give the edge to the Summit fans so far. Middle sections of the lower bowl are maybe 2/3 full, and the ends are naturally pretty much empty. I did enjoy the Tenafly “We believe that we will win” cheer.

5:48 p.m. – Midway through the second period, and Summit is starting to take over. Constant possession in the Tenafly zone.

5:56 p.m. – After Tenafly got a few chances at the other end, Summit talisman Mike Nyitray steps up from defense, rushes up the right-side boards, and wrists a low shot on goal that sneaks through Winawer. Nyitray and his teammates go nuts in the corner with the Summit fans on the other side of the boards. Nyitray has to go back to the corner after the next face-off to get his mouthpiece. The PA announcer reads Tenafly names instead of Summit names on the goal. 1-0 Summit.

5:59 p.m. – And Tenafly comes back to tie it right away! Senior Eric Shalek (6-foot-3!) one-times a feed from twin brother Scott Shalek (also 6-foot-3!) behind the net and goes nuts jumping up and down in the slot. Came with 1:06 left in the second period and ties the game 1-1! Now we’ve got action.

6:01 p.m. – At the end of two periods, the score is – you guessed it – a tie. Tenafly continues to play close, low-scoring games in the postseason (its last four games have gone to overtime), going 2-2, 2-1 in overtime, and 1-1 in the state tournament.

6:10 p.m. – Couple of notes between periods: Ryan Honig, one of the referees working this game, has been one of the best in the area since the last time I lived in New Jersey regularly in 2006. Great to see him working another big game. Watching the replays of the goals, a lot of credit should go to Tenafly senior Asaf Markowitz for making the steal that led to the Tigers’ tying goal. He’s not being credited with an assist at the moment, but I’d give it to him.

6:20 p.m. – Morristown fans filing into the section in front of us and already starting a “Let’s go Morristown” cheer 6 minutes into the third period. Second game is likely to be most exciting of the night.

6:23 p.m. – Mike Nyitray trudges off the ice, exhausted. He’s back on within 30 seconds. I’m not tracking his ice time, but it’s going to be significant. Best player on the ice without a doubt. Somehow only five minutes left in the game, still 1-1.

6:32 p.m. – And in perhaps the least surprising development of the evening, Tenafly and Summit are going to overtime, tied 1-1. Seriously, everybody I talked to before the game had that exact score.

6:38 p.m. – Overtime. Closest Public B final ever. Fans standing in several sections of the building. It would be more dramatic in a smaller venue, but there’s still palpable tension.

6:46 p.m. – A lot of tired legs out there. Multiple attempts at home-run passes resulting in icing. Possibility of co-champions (first since 1989 final was canceled) looming large.

6;50 p.m. – Best chance of overtime falls to Tenafly’s Eli Markowitz after a back-post feed from Brandon Bernstein, but Markowitz can’t control his shot, and it’s nowhere near the target.

6:52 p.m. – Summit wins! Mike Nyitray starts the decisive play with a rush up the left side of the ice, then stops on a dime on the left boards and places a pass on the stick of freshman Riley Flynn in the slot. Flynn whips a high wrister past Jon Winawer for the game-winner at the 9:59 mark of overtime. A great goal to decide a tense game, and one neither team will ever forget. Major props to longtime Summit head coach Keith Nixon, who wins his first state title.

7:00 p.m. – Great scenes for Summit, as they receive the Public B championship trophy and quickly take it to their students at the opposite boards, crash-landing against the boards to show off the hardware. Unforgettable night for them.

7:11 p.m. – The ice cut is over, and we’re awaiting warmups for the Randolph-Morristown game. Our media section is on the Morristown side, and it is packed over here on the concourse. Randolph side still filling up.

7:21 p.m. – Randolph and Morristown are on the ice warming up. It’s Randolph’s 10th state final (all since 1999) and Morristown’s first. For that reason, I think the first period is very important. If Morristown can get through the early jitters that come with playing in a professional venue, they might have an edge. On the other hand, the Colonials led on January 9 until Randolph scored twice in the third period for a 2-1 win. Should be a great intra-county game (and a rematch of the 1998 Mennen Cup final) coming up.

7:31 p.m. – We’re finally ready to start. Darn good thing I’m not on deadline. If some games don’t get into newspapers tomorrow, the late start times are why. They just introduced every kid, one by one. Think that made them more nervous? Interesting reactions from both cheering sections, too. Morristown fans chanted a word after each player; Randolph fans turned their backs.

7:36 p.m. – Randolph all over Morristown early and up 1-0. Shots are 4-0 Randolph, and they went on top with a rebound goal in a matchup of both teams’ third lines. Freshman Matt Bruno jammed the puck over the line for his fourth goal of the season.

7:40 p.m. – Morristown has responded well, forcing two good saves from Mike Pollio in the Randolph goal. Now the Rams take a penalty, and Morristown is on the power play.

7:43 p.m. – Well, Randolph killed the power play and blocked a lot of shots doing so, but Morristown has the momentum. Shots were 4-0 Randolph, now they’re 7-4 Morristown.

7:53 p.m. – First period comes to an end. Kind of blah last seven minutes of the period, to be honest, but Morristown is right back in the game. Randolph hasn’t had a shot since that opening flurry. Remember, the Colonials were down 2-0 to Morris Knolls until late in the second period on Wednesday night.

8:18 p.m. – I’m not going to lie: This period has been very ordinary. 4:46 left, and Randolph is now on its second power play of the period.

8:22 p.m. – Well, something happened. We’ve been making a few soccer jokes up here, but that was exactly what in soccer we call an own goal. Randolph, on the power play, made it 2-0 when Andrew Tucker’s shot, clearly headed wide, deflected off a Morristown knee and crossed the line behind Shane Brown. Rough luck for Morristown.

8:25 p.m. – Second period buzzer sounds with Randolph leading 2-0. Neither team did a whole lot in that period. Randolph had a 9-3 edge in official shots, mostly thanks to two power plays, but that fluky second goal was huge. Remember, Randolph has only had one game this year in which it allowed three goals or more, and that was a 6-4 win over Ridge. So the Rams are definitely in the driver’s seat, one period away from a sixth state title in the last 10 years.

8:36 p.m. – “The Final Countdown” playing at Prudential as the teams take the ice for the third period. Gut-check time. Let’s see if Randolph can run this one out.

8:46 p.m. – Morristown head coach Bobby Jones put his top three forwards on the same line for a shift just now, and Randolph’s third line pinned them down and held them without a shot fairly easily. That’s the difference between Randolph and every other public school in the state.

8:49 p.m. – 5:26 left in the third period, Randolph leading 2-0, but Morristown about to go on its second power play. Colonials need to score here to have a chance.

8:52 p.m. – There it is! Steven Windt’s point shot bounces past a screened Pollio for a power play goal. Pollio had made three saves on the power play before Windt’s shot got through traffic. Waiting to see if there was a tip. Randolph timeout. 2-1, 4:04 left. Now it’s buzzing!

8:55 p.m. – Randolph responds again! Nick Holowko buries a beautiful top-shelf shot after a drop pass from Connor Ryan to put Randolph up 3-1 with 2:59 left.

8:59 p.m. – The sticks and helmets go flying as Randolph celebrates its sixth state championship in the last 10 years! Morristown only got the puck far enough up ice to pull Shane Brown in the final 30 seconds, never seriously mounting a challenge to rally after Holowko’s tally. Great effort from Randolph’s deep squad, and Holowko finishes state tournament with seven of Randolph’s 20 goals. Amazing.

9:20 p.m. – Delbarton and CBA take to the ice for warmups. When did CBA go to light blue away uniforms? Very different look. I don’t have to tell you that everybody up here is taking Delbarton to cover just about any point spread you can imagine. We’ll see. State tournament finals often turn out to be closer than expected.

9:39 p.m. – Oh yeah, we’re underway in the private final. Um, unspectacular beginning. Delbarton (and its fans) looks sluggish. CBA (and its fans) looks energized, which works out to Delbarton having the better of play, but not ridiculously so. Couple of home-run passes attempted by CBA already.

9:55 p.m. – Wow, that was not much of a first period. Fast, yes. Skillful, maybe. Exciting, not much. Delbarton with a 9-3 edge in shots. Maybe this is why championship games shouldn’t start at 9 p.m.?

10:06 p.m. – As a Delbarton alumnus, it feels weird to admit this, but I have to be honest: CBA is killing Delbarton in the fan battle. Despite being at a major distance disadvantage, CBA has a lot more student fans, they’re making more noise, and they’re better coordinated. Not even close at the moment.

10:13 p.m. – Wow! CBA takes the lead on the power play. Great, great effort by James Martello, diving on the ice behind the net after missing wide, to keep the puck alive, and Brendan van Riemsdyk taps in from a bad angle. 1-0 CBA at 4:43 of the second period. Stunner on our hands?

10:17 p.m. – Well, we’ve got a game on our hands. Chris D’Alessio in the CBA goal made a great glove save on Delbarton’s Josh Melnick a few minutes ago, and then Colton Phinney stopped Anthony Cusanelli on a breakaway. Still 1-0 CBA, 7:02 to play in the second. Would this be the biggest upset in private state tournament history? Would it be bigger than Toms River South beating Randolph two years ago?

10:23 p.m. – Delbarton appears on a permanent power play at times, with CBA players focusing on getting in shooting lanes and not allowing anything to get to the net. The Colts have been dangerous at the other end, though.

10:24 p.m. – Crease violation against Delbarton rules out a Davis Agostino goal from the slot, and CBA goes the other way and scores on a rebound! 2-0 CBA, as Anthony Cusanelli does a great job to corral a rebound and flip it over Colton Phinney from a tight angle. 2-0 CBA. This is unbelievable.

10:28 p.m. – End of the second period with the score CBA 2, Delbarton 0. D’Alessio made a great stop on John Baicco (the only Delbarton player who has life in his step) on the doorstep in the final minute of the period, and CBA still leads 2-0 at the break. Seriously, this is shaping up to be one of the all-time upsets. Delbarton hasn’t lost to a New Jersey opponent since Feb. 24, 2010 in the Gordon Cup semifinals (46-0-1 record). As four-time defending champions, the Green Wave also have a 19-game state tournament winning streak.

10:47 p.m. – And Delbarton is back in it! A power play yields an odd-man rush, and Alex Hagerty puts a terrific finish on good puck movement to make it a 2-1 game with 9:19 left. You knew CBA needed to stay out of the box to keep Delbarton at bay, and that penalty could be the turning point. Still a long way to go.

10:55 p..m. – OK, we’re down to 4:21 left with CBA holding that 2-1 lead. Nothing much dangerous, except for a near-post Baicco shot, in the last few minutes. CBA just called its timeout.

10:58 p.m. – Oh wow. Delbarton just tied it with one of the prettiest goals you’ll ever see, as Tommy Muratore played a pass from the left point to the goal line. Baicco one-timed it into the middle, where Hagerty was posted up at the edge of the crease to one-time it between the legs of D’Alessio. Great goal. And just like last year, Delbarton has rallied to tie the game 2-2. The goal came with 3:20 left – can Delbarton get a winner?

11:02 p.m. – And it continues. Amazing comeback. Jordan Lederman’s point shot was blocked in the slot, but D’Alessio couldn’t find it, and Josh Melnick – stymied several times tonight – found it in the slot and swept it home. Delbarton up 3-2. Unbelievable comeback.

11:04 p.m. – 43 seconds left, Delbarton timeout. Face-off in the CBA zone. Colts are going to have to clear and pull their goalie in short order to try and tie it. Unreal given they’ve led most of the game.

11:05 p.m. – And Delbarton easily sees out the remaining seconds and celebrates a fifth consecutive state championship and a 20-game state tournament winning streak. Perhaps the least predictable of all its championship wins, as the Green Wave scored two goals in the final 3:20 to go from one of the biggest upsets ever to the most successful school ever. It may be relief more than anything else, but it’s hugs and a dogpile for Delbarton again. Valiant, valiant effort from CBA. You feel terrible to see a team lose in that way. I know we’re going to be talking about this one for a long time.

1 Comment

  1. wow, sounds like 3 great games. thanks for the recap, but what happened between 6:10 and 8:49?

    Jim – looks like I managed to accidentally delete it at some point. I promise I was posting the whole time but must have typed over that section. My fault! — Jon

    Comment by jim burke — 12 March 2012 #

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