By Mike Gurnis
MORRIS TWP. — With everything on the line in a winner-take-all game, it was Parsippany Regional sophomore David Zilinskis that stole the show.
Saturday’s regular season finale between Parsippany and Morris Catholic was not just a battle between two teams searching for their first divisional win of the season- it was essentially a play-in game for the Haas Cup, as the winner would clinch the eighth seed. A little over a week since the teams skated to a 5-5 tie, Parsippany Regional made all the necessary corrections- and got a big four-goal performance from Zilinskis- to earn a 7-2 win over Morris Catholic at Mennen Arena.
“David is the kind of kid, who if I tell him to run through a wall, most kids would be like which one, when, do I have to do it now? David just goes,” Parsippany Regional coach Anthony Egidio said. “He’s become a phenomenal leader and he’s only a sophomore. He brings physicality and an attitude to the team. He’s super positive. He’s not a guy who’s an individual, he wants us to win. He goes as hard as he can for these seniors. He’s a kid who you love having in the program.”
Nicholas Sabillo, Suveer Singh, and Jake Weiss all found the back of the net for Parsippany in the win, while Justin Wellman turned aside 17 of the 19 shots he faced.
The win puts Parsippany Regional into the Haas Cup as the eight seed, where it will take on top seed Park Regional in the first round this week. While it has certainly been a difficult season for the squad, which now holds a 4-15-2 overall record, Saturday was a great opportunity for the team to play in a playoff-type atmosphere, which in addition, happened to be the team’s senior night.
“Aside from senior night, we made it kind of like a fan appreciation night,” Egidio said. “We gave out like 100 t-shirts tonight, any student from Kindergarten through 12th grade that came, we gave a t-shirt out to. First of all, we’re just trying to build a program and trying to get the community involved. Secondly, we wanted as many people here as possible for these seniors, which is important.”
Egidio added: “Those last two goals were two seniors who started the last four years and are captains of our team. It was nice that they were able to get on the scoreboard. They’ve worked hard all year. It’s nice just to get everyone involved. Everyone played tonight.”
It was the type of night that Egidio hopes will help springboard Parsippany Regional as he sets out to rebuild the program, starting at the youth levels. He mentioned that there were middle school-aged kids who made up Parsippany’s first P.A.L. team in over 10 years in attendance, and those who attended got a glimpse of what’s to come.
“Being able to do it in front of them, and see what they’re looking forward to, seeing our seniors on senior night- and seeing our performance on the ice- I thought that was huge,” Egidio said. “They saw a complete hockey game played the right way, and they saw us having fun and enjoying each other. Aside from wanting to rebuild the youth program when I got hired, I also wanted to create this family-type atmosphere. I think they’re able to see that.”
Egidio added: “The talent will come. It’s about building your principles and the foundation in what you stand for as a program. You just build from there. Everyone’s accountable. We love each other. Everyone was there hanging out, playing knee hockey, it’s cool to be around. It really is.”
Now, Parsippany will look to prolong its season when it takes on Park Regional in the Haas Cup. Park Regional is having one of its best seasons in program history, as it holds a 16-1-4 record, which included victories of 10-0 and 5-0 over Parsippany this season.
It knows it has a monumental task in front of it, but having a standout goalie like Wellman is something that gives Parsippany a chance to win on any given night.
“We’ve seen them twice. They’re a great team. They’re really-well coached, Tom (Levis) does a great job with that team,” Egidio said. “We have to trust Justin, as we always do. We trust that every game he’s going to stand on his head. It’s probably not fair to him, but that’s just kind of what he does regularly. We’re probably going to see 40-45 shots, we understand the reality.
“But we have to minimize the quality shots by being in positions defensively. But if we play within our system, keep the puck wide, and force shots from the outside so Justin can see them, we have to give him a chance. If we do that, and we make the most of our opportunities, who knows? You want a one-goal game going into the second to give us a chance.”
PAR — David Zilinskis 7:27
PAR — David Zilinskis 3:53 PPG
MC — Aldino Guadagnino 3:47
PAR — Nicholas Sabillo (Kyle Kirk) 2:03
PAR — David Zilinskis (Jake Weiss, Timothy Coppinger) 0:24
MC — Averee Acuna (Nick Layhan) 13:40 PPG
PAR — David Zilinskis (Suveer Singh, Nicholas Sabillo) 11:43
PAR — Suveer Singh 0:52
PAR — Jake Weiss (Suveer Singh) 0:07
Shots on goal: Parsippany Regional 24, Morris Catholic 19
Saves: Justin Wellman (Parsippany) 17, Jason Briant (Morris Catholic) 17
Contact Mike Gurnis via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org