By Mike Gurnis
MORRIS TWP. — When Dave Renzulli and the rest of the Madison senior class first stepped on the ice in a Dodger uniform as freshmen four years ago, the team was coming off a Haas Cup championship, and the thought of even playing in the top-tier Mennen Division seemed unrealistic.
Fast-forward to four years later, and this senior class has been a major part of the program’s rise through the ranks of the MCSSIHL. They managed to win the Halvorsen Cup last season, and now, the second seed Dodgers will now get to play for the prestigious Mennen Cup title for the first time on Friday night, after a 6-0 win over third seed Morris Knolls at Mennen Arena on Wednesday.
Madison will take on the winner of top seed Randolph and fifth seed Chatham on Friday at 5:45 p.m. at Mennen Arena in the final. This was the team’s first season in the Mennen Division, and now it will get to compete for the top prize in the league.
“It definitely means everything to us,” Renzulli said. “When we won the Haas Cup, we never thought we’d make it to the Mennen. We always thought of that as a joke. Now that we’re here, it’s just unreal to us and we can’t wait to play.”
Renzulli had a big part in Wednesday’s victory, as he recorded three assists. Sophomore Jason Siedem finished with five points, including a goal and four assists, while Jett Tom had two goals and an assist.
It marked the first win in three tries against Morris Knolls this season. Morris Knolls defeated Madison in early December, 3-2, before the teams played to a 1-1 tie just weeks ago on Jan. 22. It ended a month-long eight-game unbeaten streak for Morris Knolls as well.
“I think this the first time we’ve played them where we had our full team,” Siedem said. “So we were more confident that we could play better than the first two games.”
The Dodgers wasted no time getting on the board, as Siedem scored off a feed from Jack Downs and Dave Renzulli just 1:15 into the game.
That goal spurred Madison on, as Jacoby Erickson capitalized on a 2-on-1 shorthanded opportunity just over four minutes later, doubling the Dodgers’ advantage to two. Jett Tom scored before the end of the period, which gave Madison a commanding three-goal lead going into the second.
“Momentum-wise, that got us going completely,” Renzulli said of Siedem’s opening goal. “That started off the goals. Once that went in, we knew we had a great chance and we just kept getting shots, getting to the net, and got goals.”
Ryan Catlin scored 4:41 into the second period as Madison built up a 4-0 lead, and chased Morris Knolls goalie Ty Franchi from the game. Morris Knolls called a timeout at that point, and it appeared to give the team a bit of a momentum boost.
Madison was in complete control with an 18-4 shot advantage prior to the timeout, but Morris Knolls went on to out-shoot Madison 18-8 for the remainder of the second period, and finished with a 37-31 advantage at the end of the game.
But Madison goalie Matt Ubertaccio made sure Morris Knolls could not get back into the game, as he came up with several key saves in a 37-save shutout.
“We knew they were gonna have a big push since they were running out of time,” Siedem said. “Our goalie really stepped up and stop a lot of shots. We just had a good team effort stopping their push, honestly.”
It managed to take back the momentum late in the second period, as Renzulli managed to block a shot from the point off his foot. While it was admittedly very painful for the senior, that pain turned into joy just moments later when he helped set up Jack Downs for a goal which extended the lead to five.
“I didn’t even know I was going to do it. It really got everyone going,” Renzulli said of his shot block. “The coaches were even yelling, but it just got the momentum going.”
Jett Tom capped off the scoring for Madison with a power play goal with 12 seconds left in the third period.
MAD — Jason Siedem (Jack Downs, Dave Renzulli) 13:45
MAD — Jacoby Erickson (Jett Tom) 9:31 SHG
MAD — Jett Tom (Jack Downs, Jason Siedem) 1:10
MAD — Ryan Catlin (Jason Siedem, Dave Renzulli) 10:19
MAD — Jack Downs (Dave Renzulli, Jason Siedem) 1:07
MAD — Jett Tom (Kyle Pruzick, Jack Flanagan) 0:12.4 PPG
Shots: Morris Knolls 37, Madison 31
Saves: Matt Ubertaccio (Madison) 37, Ty Franchi (Morris Knolls) 14, Andrew Rush (Morris Knolls) 11.