By Mike Gurnis
In past years, Delbarton has seemingly been able to find an answer against Don Bosco Prep in the postseason, especially in the last two Non-Public state finals.
The Green Wave had won three-straight state titles- including the last two, which were victories over this same Don Bosco squad. But a fourth title in a row was not in the cards for the second-seeded Green Wave on Monday night, as it dropped a 3-1 decision to top-seeded Don Bosco in the NJSIAA/NJ Devils Non-Public final at Prudential Center in Newark.
It marked the fourth-consecutive loss to Don Bosco this season, which included two regular season losses, as well as a loss in the Gordon Cup final. It also was the first-ever title for Don Bosco Prep.
Delbarton trailed, 1-0 after Liam McLinskey’s goal with 6:44 left in the first period gave Don Bosco the early advantage. But Delbarton picked up some momentum with 2:54 left in the second period, as Michael Balzarotti finished off a one-timer from James Falivene to tie the game.
Or so it seemed.
It took only nine seconds for Don Bosco Prep to respond, as McLinskey scored his second of the game on the ensuing shift, and the goal proved to be the game-winner.
“That was the difference in the ballgame,” Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel said. “(The goal) was seven seconds after we scored. For one reason or another, we didn’t take care of one of the best players in New Jersey. He gets a heck of a shot off, and it goes in the back of the net. It’s a terrific way to answer for them, and it’s an unfortunate thing that happened to us. It happens. You don’t want to see it happen. We talked about the shift after the goal, as soon as we scored, our guys I think got a little too high, and we needed to be a bit more composed.
“But I can’t blame them and I’m not blaming them, because what they showed tonight and throughout the season was, they were full of grit, full of character. We gave Don Bosco- who’s a terrific team- everything they wanted.”
Don Bosco’s defense, anchored by players such as T.J. Schweighardt and goalie Max . Schwarz, simply did not yield much time or space to Delbarton in this game, as well as the previous meetings between the squads. Aside from Delbarton’s three-goal performance in a 5-3 loss in the Gordon Cup final, Delbarton was held to one goal twice and was shut out in a regular season game against the Ironmen this year.
It was out-shot, 27-20 in the game.
“Tonight, we threw a few different looks at them, but when you have the kind of skill that they have, you can throw the kitchen sink at them,” Shatel said. “But players win games, and obviously guys like McLinskey, Schweighardt, and Sedlak hurt us all year. At the same time, our guys did a really good job in my opinion.”
While the loss will certainly sting for awhile for the Delbarton players, it certainly was not for a lack of effort on Monday night. It had some solid opportunities late in the third period, but was unable to solve Schwarz. Eventually, Tyler Sedlak iced the game with an empty-netter with 31 seconds left.
It marked the end of the road for Delbarton’s 10-man senior class, which included the likes of key players such as Michael Balzarotti, James Falivene, and Max Williams, among others. Even though it came up empty-handed on Monday night, it does not diminish a great season for Delbarton, which still got back to the state final despite heavy graduation losses from last year’s championship team.
“You guys did a really good job and I’m proud of you,” said Shatel of the message to his team after the game. “Everyone thinks and was saying that Delbarton was in tough shape this year. But in my opinion, the sun is still shining on the Green Wave and we’ll find a way back here at some point in time. My guys are blessed with great a senior class, and they understand what it takes to win. They competed their rear-ends off, and I’m very proud to be the coach of this team.”
DBP — Liam McLinskey (Zach Hammond, Robbie Greenleaf) 6:44
DEL — Michael Balzarotti (James Falivene) 2:54
DBP — Liam McLinskey (Hunter McGee, Damien Carfagna) 2:45
DBP — Tyler Sedlak 0:32 ENG
Shots on goal: Don Bosco 27, Delbarton 20
Saves: Brett Cleaves (Delbarton) 24, Max Schwarz (Don Bosco Prep) 19