MORRIS TWP.– For the first 19 minutes of Randolph’s game against Morris Knolls on Tuesday, it appeared that Randolph was doing just about everything right- except for scoring.
Despite putting over 20 shots on goal through the first period and opening minutes of the second period, Randolph could not find a way to solve Morris Knolls’ senior goalie Ty Franchi.
Finally, 4:16 into the second period, it was sophomore Luke Spagnuolo who broke through for Randolph. His first career varsity goal ended up being the game-winner as Randolph scored three more times in the third period en route to a 4-0 win over rival Morris Knolls at Mennen Arena.
It marked Randolph’s third victory in as many games this season, after knocking off Morristown and Chatham to open up league play. It also meant that Randolph was able to extend its unbeaten streak against Morris Knolls to four (3-0-1) dating back to last season.
“It’s always fun when you beat Knolls,” Spagnuolo said. “That rivalry between Randolph and Knolls is always there. It’s good to jump out to 3-0, but we just have to keep it up. When I put it in the net- I might not be able to swim- but I can shoot the puck and it just felt good getting that first varsity goal. I just hope we can keep it up.”
Randolph certainly had to feel its share of doubts as it played a dominant opening period of the game, where it outshot Morris Knolls 21-3. But it went into the locker room without any goals to show for it, and it was clear that it was going to have to do even more to be able to beat Franchi- one of the top goalies in the area- in this one.
Finally, Spagnuolo broke into the offensive zone with the puck, and took a shot from the left circle that found its way into the net, giving his team the lead that it didn’t relinquish.
“First and foremost I want to give a shoutout to Ty (Franchi),” Spagnuolo said. “He’s a phenomenal goalie and he made a ton of saves today. We’re talking 44 saves, so credit to him. But I was just came down the win, we practice that all the time, just shoot the puck. I don’t know if it hit off a stick or something but hey, it entered the back of the net and that’s all we need.”
Even after Randolph got on the scoreboard, there appeared to be no letdown from the Rams in any manner. The team continued to control the puck, and like it has done to many opponents over coach Rich McLaughlin’s long tenure- it made it nearly impossible to get through the netural zone and generate any type of rush.
“We like to go hard to pucks,” J.T. Zangara said. “That’s our gameplan. We go hard to pucks, we go hard to the net, we make kids mess up with the puck. They throw up the puck and we go hard to the net every single time. We work hard and we grind out goals, and we’re able to just feed it to the front and put it in.”
The team’s tenacious play in all zones helped limit Morris Knolls to just nine shots on goal in the game, including just four through two periods. In total, it outshot Morris Knolls 48-9 in the game.
In the third, with Randolph still holding just a 1-0 advantage, Morris Knolls had a big opportunity to get back into the game with a power play. But just seconds after the penalty, J.T. Zangara earned a shorthanded breakaway, and finished it off for a big insurance goal with 10:44 to go.
It added two more goals in the final five minutes of the game, as Joe Theobald and James Mattson each got on the scoresheet to effectively seal the victory. Gavin Einfeldt stopped all nine shots he faced to pick up the first shutout of his career.
There is certainly much to feel good about for Randolph in the early part of the season, as it has picked up a critical six points in three key Mennen Division wins over Morristown, Chatham, and Morris Knolls. It has also scored 18 goals in three games, and has surrendered just four to this point.
It’s all positive signs for a Randolph team that is looking to defend its Mennen Cup title from a year ago, even after losing several key players to graduation.
“We’re happy with where we’re at, but we’re not done yet,” Spagnuolo said. “We’re nowhere near done. We’re just going to keep going, keep pushing, and hopefully we can win another Mennen Cup like we did last year.”
R — Luke Spagnuolo (Chris Civetta, Austin Cross) 10:20
R — JT Zangara (Nick Gallo) 10:44 SHG
R — Joe Theobald (Luke Spagnuolo) 4:43
R — James Mattson (Evan Xhumba) 1:06 PPG
Shots: Randolph 48, Morris Knolls 9
Saves: Ty Franchi (MK) 44, Gavin Einfedlt (R) 9
Team records: Randolph 3-0, Morris Knolls 2-1