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New Jersey State Semifinals: Ramsey, Randolph, Morristown reach title games

Public B – Ramsey 1, Middletown North 0

The first game of Wednesday’s semifinal tripleheader at Mennen Arena may have been the most dramatic, as Ramsey (24-2-2) – one-goal losers in each of the last two Public B championship games – upended defending champion Middletown North (19-3-1), which boasts two Division I recruits at forward and had lost only to defending private state champion CBA during the regular season.

With the teams meeting in the semifinals because Ramsey surprisingly finished second in its regular-season division and was thus seeded fourth, behind division winner Lakeland, the Rams relied on senior defense standout Brandon O’Callahan and typically stellar goaltending from junior Tyler Harmon to shut down the high-powered Lions, who entered the game averaging 7.2 goals per game. Harmon made 23 saves as Ramsey shut out Khristian Acosta (Quinnipiac, 39-31-70) and Bobby Hampton (Northeastern, 15-29-44 in 14 games prior to Wednesday) for the first time all season.

Ramsey’s large and experienced senior class had plenty of motivation for revenge, and the versatile Garrett Mast, who logged shifts at forward and on defense, finished off a 3-on-2 rush in the third period with an accurate shot for the game’s only goal.

Mid-Atlantic-Festival-Ad-300x250Ramsey will face either Glen Rock, who they edged 3-2 in last year’s semifinals, or Mahwah, who they have beaten four times already this season, both fellow Bergen County teams, in Monday’s Public B championship game.


Public A – Morristown 3, Ridge 2

It seems to follow a different model every season, but Morristown (23-3-1) has made it a habit of excelling in the state tournament, and the Colonials served up their own dose of revenge at home on Wednesday, holding off Skyland Conference champion Ridge (23-3-4) to reach a fourth state championship game in the last five years.

The Red Devils had ended Morristown’s season in the quarterfinals last year, and they held a 23-10 shot advantage for the game, limiting the Colonials to just three shots in the final two periods. But Morristown’s goaltending edge and strong start proved decisive, as junior Evan Szary held firm in goal. The first-period barrage came courtesy of Teddy Dolan just 40 seconds into the game and goals separated by only 31 seconds late in the period from Nick Swiontkowski and Jakob DeFares.

Like Ramsey, which it beat in the 2014 Public B final to claim its only state title, Morristown has an enormous, skilled, and motivated senior class, and they held their one-goal lead through a tense third period that saw Ridge hit the post twice and attack 6-on-4 over the final minute.

Ridge, trying to reach its first state final since 2009, got goals from Marc DelGaizo and Gary Prince.


Public A – Randolph 6, Montclair 1

Unbeaten through their first 20 games of the season, the question always remained: Could Montclair hang with the state’s top public-school programs?

Bryan Early Randolph

Bryan Early

The answer, despite the Mounties’ best team in 14 years, came in emphatic fashion in Wednesday’s late game.

A faster, more experienced, and considerably deeper Randolph (19-4-3) squad ended the run of Montclair (19-2-3) with a dominant 6-1 win, sending the Rams to a remarkable seventh Public A championship game in the last eight years.

The Rams have won four of the last five state titles and eight overall since 2003, so it was no surprise that they were able to wear down Montclair and pull away. Seniors Chris Holowko and Dan Janson both scored twice for Randolph, with each tallying in the first period as Randolph outshot Montclair 12-2.

Defenseman Bryan Early and goalie Alec Swedlund helped lead the way, while Montclair – skating just eight forwards due to injuries and depth concerns – struggled to keep up with Randolph’s four-line assault.

A four-time state champion that won the first public state championship back in 1995, Montclair had not played in the state semifinals since 2002, but forward Remy Parker and goalie Ondrej Smalec led the Mounties to a terrific season, one soured only by both defeats coming in postseason play, denying them a league or state title.

Randolph will play division rival Morristown in Monday’s state final for the second time in five years, having downed the Colonials 3-1 back in 2012. This year, however, features an entirely different cast of characters, and Morristown recorded 4-1 and 3-0 wins over the Rams during the regular seasons. Both teams enter peaking at the right time, with Morristown 16-1 in its last 17 games and Randolph 13-2-1 in its last 16.

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