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New Jersey HS Hockey: Cup Tournament championship reviews

There were upsets aplenty during cup-tournament week in New Jersey, with only half of the titles available won by top seeds, leaving plenty of question marks heading into the state tournament.

Here’s how the cup championship games, almost all determining league titles, played out:


Gordon Cup: CBA 3, Delbarton 1

After going 0-4 against Delbarton (21-3-2) and Don Bosco Prep (18-5-2) in the regular season, CBA (22-4) beat both in succession by identical scores in the postseason to claim its fourth Gordon Cup title in the last 10 years. The defending private-school champion Colts got a power-play goal in the first period from Derek Contessa and focused on protecting the lead after that. Contessa scored twice more, one an empty-netter with 31 seconds remaining, to seal the win. Michael Cernero only needed 17 saves behind a defense that effectively limited Delbarton’s transition opportunities.

Mennen Cup: Morristown-Beard 4, Kinnelon 1

In one of several tournaments that saw a semifinal upset of the top seed overshadow the final, upstart Kinnelon (9-12-3) was denied a magical three-game run to the title, with second-seeded Morristown-Beard (18-4-2) winning a third straight Mennen Cup. Sophomore Brayden Patricia had a hand in all four Crimson goals, scoring two and setting up two, while Isaac Davison scored twice and Dan Porth made 19 saves. The Colts had been the story of the tournament, rebounding from a 1-8-1 division record to dominate fourth-place Morris Knolls 5-0 in the first round and knock off division winner Morristown (20-3-1) in the semifinals by a 2-0 score. Goalie Sean Hofmann led the way by stopping 73 of 77 shots in the three games.

Handchen Cup: Middletown North 8, Rumson-Fair Haven 6

In a wild final, one of two in the Shore Conference, defending Public B champion Middletown North (17-2-1) edged a desperate Rumson-Fair Haven (13-4-2) team playing for its season after disqualifying itself from the state tournament for accruing too many game disqualifications during the regular season. Middletown North opened up a 5-1 lead more than halfway through the game, only to see the Bulldogs come flying back and tie the game 5-5 with a shorthanded goal early in the third period. But two assists from Justin Skelly made it 7-5, and Middletown North held on for the win. As usual, Northeastern recruit Bobby Hampton (2-2-4), Quinnipiac commit Khristian Acosta (1-3-4), and Kevin Felice (2-1-3) led the way for the Lions, while Connor Deverin (2-2-4, 37-23-60 on the season), Robbie Gravente (3-0-3), and standout Brendan Ban (0-2-2, 20-55-75) helped keep Rumson in it.

Mid-Atlantic-Festival-Ad-300x250Dowd Cup: Southern Regional 5, Middletown South 4

In the other Shore Conference tournament, the state’s Southernmost public school, Southern Regional (16-4-4), won its first cup title thanks to a big second period and 34 saves from Cameron Conrad. The Rams had finished the regular season 3-3-3 and dropped out of first place in Shore A South, but their three tournament wins, including a semifinal victory over last year’s Public A finalist Howell, gives them a six-game winning streak headed into the state tournament. Nick Godfrey scored twice in the final for Southern, both in a three-goal second period that put Southern up 4-2. Gavin Gulash had two goals and an assist for Middletown South (11-6-2). The Eagles had reached the final with a 7-5 semifinal upset of two-time defending Shore champion Red Bank Catholic (13-9-2) behind Gulash, Ryan Lambert, and Deven Ralph.

McInnis Cup: Verona / Glen Ridge

Verona/Glen Ridge (13-8-4) won its first cup title since 2009 in unlikely fashion, knocking off previously unbeaten Montclair (17-1-3) in a dramatic semifinal Thursday night, then taking down two-time defending champion Montclair-Kimberley Academy (14-8-2) in Saturday’s final. The Hillbillies scored both regulation goals on the power play in the semifinal win over Montclair, and 37 saves from Liam Blaney helped them reach overtime, where Owen Gleeson ended the Mounties’ unbeaten run with his second goal of the game. In the final, Verona / Glen Ridge left little doubt, jumping out to a 4-1 lead behind two more goals from Gleeson and a goal and an assist from Kevin White.

Skyland Conference: Ridge 6, Hunterdon Central 1

Perennial power Ridge (20-2-4) went wire-to-wire No. 1 to win the Skyland Conference’s regular-season and cup titles, sewing things up with a routine win over third-place Hunterdon Central (11-9-5). Gary Prince scored the first of his two goals just 46 seconds into the game to set the tone, and Marc Del Gaizo struck for three goals and an assist for the Red Devils, who won their second league cup title in three seasons.

Big North Liberty: Ramsey 8, Mahwah 0

Despite being edged by Lakeland (20-2-2) for the regular-season title, Ramsey (20-2-2) won a fourth consecutive tournament title with an overwhelming effort that saw them outscore three opponents by a 20-0 count. The big story came in the semifinals, where Mahwah (13-8-3) knocked off top-seeded Lakeland, which had only lost once all year, 5-3. Jared Moss made 29 saves for the Thunderbirds in that win, with Marty Kapoian (2g, 1a) and Brody Selman (0g, 3a) combining to set up Luc Roberts for the go-ahead goal with 5:30 remaining. Mahwah could not replicate those unlikely heroics in the final, losing to Ramsey for the fourth time this season. Defenseman Brandon O’Callahan assisted on four of the eight goals, while Dale Cheyne, Garrett Mast, and Frank Steffe scored twice each and Kyle DeBel recorded three assists.

HNIB-Ad-for-MassHShockey_2016Big North Freedom: Glen Rock 4, St. Joseph Montvale 2

Second-seeded Glen Rock (19-2-3) beat top-seeded St. Joseph Montvale (16-4) in a cup final for the fourth consecutive year, but it was anything but straightforward. St. Joseph took a 2-1 lead late in the second period, only for Glen Rock’s Eddie Corvelli to answer back just 9 seconds later. Corvelli then completed the momentum swing by striking with 19 seconds remaining in the second period. The Panthers held on from there, with Corvelli completing his hat trick via empty-netter with 5 seconds remaining. Justin Rosario had two assists and Matt Rosario made 25 saves.

Big North Patriot: Ridgewood 3, River Dell/Westwood 0

Ridgewood (14-7-1) skated off with a third consecutive cup title behind a goal and an assist from Ryan Carius, but if the championship game lacked drama, it was only because the two finalists used it all up in the semifinals. Ridgewood finally overcame an epic 55-save performance from Clifton (7-11-3) goalie Tyler Gibson to win 1-0 in overtime on a Cooper Telesco goal. River Dell/Westwood (15-6-3) had advanced to its first cup final since 2008 with a second win in 12 days over Paramus Catholic (15-6-1), with Matt Ajello making 29 saves and Joey Ragno and Justin Butcher providing the goals.

Mercer County Tournament: Hun 6, Notre Dame 2

Independent school Hun (15-7-3) became the first school to win three consecutive Mercer County titles with a dominant win over Notre Dame (15-7-3). One of two teams competing in the tournament from outside the Colonial Valley Conference, Hun beat Notre Dame in the final for the third consecutive year; Notre Dame had won the two previous titles and had gone for a three in a row on three occasions, only to be foiled each time. Blake Brown struck for a hat trick, RPI commit Jon Bendorf had two goals and two assists, and Diesel Pelke made 24 saves for the Raiders, who do not compete in the NJSIAA, while Kyle McQuillan stopped 40 shots for the Irish.

Union County Tournament: Cranford 3, Summit 2

Summit had won five of the last six Union County titles, but this was Cranford’s year. After winning the division by a game during the regular season, the Cougars won their first cup title since the 1996 Handchen Cup with a tight win. Cranford jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead, but Summit (10-13-1) had the momentum when Dan Hicks tied it with 6:42 to go. Cranford (12-7-1) had the final laugh, however, as Elliott Goga scored with just 1:07 left to decide the title.

Halvorsen Cup: Roxbury 2, Madison 1

In the final matchup of a season-long battle, Roxbury (14-8-3) edged regular-season division winner Madison (13-11-1) to win its first cup title since the 2008 Haas Cup. The teams had split the season series, but Madison won the division by a clear two games thanks to Roxbury’s slow start. The Gaels had been coming on lately, however, going 8-1-1 heading into the postseason, and it paid off. A.J. Pisani made 20 saves, and Nick Zaragoza and Brendan Sanderson struck for goals in the final.

GMC Cup: St. Joseph Metuchen 4, Woodbridge 3

It was way, way closer than expected, but St. Joseph Metuchen (14-3-3) did emerge with a fifth consecutive GMC Cup title after a one-goal win over Woodbridge (16-4-2). The Falcons had won the last two title games by a combined 16 goals and had beaten the Barrons 12-2 earlier this season. But that was back on Dec. 2. In Saturday’s final, Woodbridge led 1-0 and 3-2, late in the second period, before St. Joseph rallied to win. Adam Godfrey made 26 saves for Woodbridge, but two goals from Thomas Bauer, both from Mike Nisky assists, and 23 saves from Mike Sabella lifted the Falcons to the title.

Kelly-McMullen Cup: West Essex/Caldwell 4, Scotch Plains-Fanwood 3

Having split the series and shared the division title during the regular season, it was only fitting that West Essex / Caldwell (12-10-2) and Scotch Plains-Fanwood (11-11) go down to the wire in the first title game in the NJIHL’s Liberty Division. Ultimately, Cole Dahlin’s 29 saves and a third-period winner from Jeremy Augustitus were enough to lift the Knights to victory.

Haas Cup: Park Regional 4, Vernon 2

No team has stamped its imprint on Morris County’s third-tier Haas Cup more than long-time co-op program Park Regional (11-10-2), which won its sixth outright and a share of its seventh title in 17 years on Friday. Denied an at-large bid to the state tournament after finishing below .500, the regular season Haas Division co-champions made the postseason look easy, beating Cinderella story Morris Hills 3-1 in the quarterfinals, coasting to a 7-3 semifinal win over Mountain Lakes/Boonton in the semis, and jumping out to an early lead against Vernon (17-6-1) before holding on for the win. Penn State commit and Delbarton transfer Steven Agriogianis (17-8-25 after becoming eligible in January) struck inside the game’s first three minutes, Lucas DeMetro added a goal and an assist, and Ryan Levine made 21 stops in net for the Park.

Jonathan Yardley
Jonathan Yardley has been covering high school ice hockey in New Jersey since 1996. A native of Morristown and a Delbarton alumnus, he graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas in 2005. A radio and television broadcaster, he has called games for the 2003 NCAA championship Rice baseball team (2002-05), the 2011 Major League Soccer Eastern Conference champion Houston Dynamo (2008-11), and ESPN3 (2012-13), among other teams and outlets. He grew up watching hockey at Mennen Arena and for five seasons (1996-97 to 2000-01) wrote a weekly newsletter and ran the webpage for the MCSSIHL, the Morris County high school league. He now writes for Hockey Night in Boston in addition to website and blog maintenance.
Jonathan Yardley