By Mike Gurnis
On Wednesday, both Morris Knolls and Randolph punched their tickets to Monday’s NJSIAA/New Jersey Devils State Championships with wins in their respective semifinal games.
Morris Knolls used a big third period to overcome an early deficit en route to a 4-1 win over Paramus-Lyndhurst-Hackensack in the Public A semifinals. Randolph’s win over Middletown South in the Public B semifinals was far less dramatic, as the Rams scored two early goals before scoring three times in the third period to secure a 5-0 win.
Morris Knolls trailed, 1-0 as Jonathan Reveille scored halfway through the second period to give PLH the lead. But Morris Knolls managed to tie it late in the second, as Sean Murray poked home a rebound with 1:20 left to send the Golden Eagles into the third with the score tied.
The momentum carried over, as Jacob Walsh scored 1:07 into the final period to give Knolls the lead for good. Kieran Regan scored a big insurance goal with 5:17 left, before Tikhon Ryerson put it away with an empty-netter. Ty Franchi stopped 20 of the 21 shots he faced to help his team advance to the Public A finals for the first time since 2014.
Morris Knolls will take on the winner of the other Public A semifinal between top-seeded Hillsborough and fourth-seeded Wayne on Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Prudential Center. Morris Knolls will be in search of the program’s third state title, with previous championships coming in 2005 and 2014.
James Mattson and Evan Xhumba each scored for Randolph in the opening six minutes of its contest. Then, Nick Gallo, J.T. Zangara, and Kyle Barbera each scored in the third period to secure the Rams’ spot in the Public B final. Gavin Einfeldt was perfect in net to earn the shutout.
The win put Randolph into the Public B final for the second straight season, after losing to Northern Highlands in last year’s final, 1-0. The Rams are making their fourth title game appearance in five years, and will look to claim their ninth state title and first since 2015. It will take on either third-seeded Westfield or second-seeded Ridge on Monday at 2 p.m. in Newark.
Come Thursday, there could be even more championship game participants from Morris County. Delbarton, in search of its fourth-straight Non-Public title, will take on Bergen Catholic at 6:30 p.m. at Codey Arena for a chance to earn yet another trip to the state finals. Chatham, fresh off an impressive 5-0 win on the road over third-seeded Lakeland, will face seventh-seeded Northern Highlands- last year’s Public B champion- in the Public C semifinals at 8:30 p.m. at Codey as well. Chatham will look to get back to the state finals a year after losing to Summit, 3-0 in last year’s final.