By Mike Gurnis
MORRIS TWP. — Griffin O’Shaughnessy always has a little more incentive to score goals.
In addition to helping his team on the scoreboard, the Mountain Lakes-Boonton junior has a deal with his grandmother where he receives a dollar for every time he finds the back of the net.
And after scoring the biggest goal in program history on Friday night, he may have a case for a few extra dollars.
O’Shaughnessy’s point shot found its way through traffic with 1:04 left in regulation, and held up as the game-winner as second seed Mountain Lakes-Boonton claimed its first-ever Haas Cup title with a 4-2 win over fourth seed Gill St. Bernards at Mennen Arena.
“I got the puck. Honestly I didn’t even look, I just shot it and it went in,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Every time I score, my grandma gives me a dollar, so I’m thinking I’ve gotta put it in.”
He added, “We’re just so happy. With all the work we put in, it’s insane. I can’t believe it. It’s an amazing feeling right now.”
The goal capped a game which saw Mountain Lakes-Boonton fall behind, 2-0 on a pair of goals by Gill St. Bernard’s Logan Mote 44 seconds apart, with the latter coming with 28 seconds left in the first period. It appeared the Knights were going to ride that wave of momentum into the intermission, but Aiden Reidy’s shot crossed the line just before the clock hit zero, cutting Mountain Lakes’ deficit to one.
Just like that, Mountain Lakes took the momentum back, and tied it just 1:11 into the second period on Caz Kotsen’s goal.
“I’ve been telling the kids all year to never give up and always work hard,” Mountain Lakes-Boonton coach Clint McDonough said. “Even the first time we played these guys, we tied the game with I think 10 seconds left. That’s just been the mentality all year. Don’t give up, no matter what. If we face adversity, you’re there with your brothers backing each other up. The only way you win is as a team, with a complete team effort. It was good.”
Both teams had their fair share of opportunities the rest of the way, as both Mountain Lakes goalie Ben Polizzi and Gill St. Bernard’s goalie Alex Steinberg made big saves to keep the score knotted up at two. It appeared the game was destined for overtime, especially after the teams tied in both regular season meetings.
But O’Shaughnessy, who has been battling an ankle injury for the last week-and-a-half, would have none of that. He has spent a lot of time resting and rehabbing his ankle over the last week, and returned to action in Wednesday’s semifinal win over Mount Olive. Luckily for his team, he was on the ice on Friday to clinch the cup title.
“It was so important. I went to the trainer- Paul Biongiorno- he’s great. He’s the man,” O’Shaughnessy said of the importance of playing in this game. “He got me back to where I am. It’s still kind of injured, but I got through it. I honestly haven’t felt it during the whole game. Since this morning when I woke up, the adrenaline has been there.”
Aiden Reidy added the empty netter to seal it with 35 seconds left, which was his second of the game. Cameron Egan had three assists for Mountain Lakes, while Ben Polizzi made 21 saves.
It capped off a special season for Mountain Lakes in coach Clint McDonough’s third year behind the bench. McDonough, a former Mountain Lakes player, always dreamed of winning a cup title during his playing days, and it finally came to fruition on Friday night with him coaching.
“If these kids don’t buy in to what us coaches are trying to put out there, none of this is possible,” McDonough said. “I’ve been trying to implement a system for a couple of years here. We’ve had good teams the past couple of years, but if everyone doesn’t buy in, and everyone’s not on the same page, it’s tough to win championships. It’s a whole year of working hard and buying into the program, the system, and what the coaches are putting down. These kids did exactly that all year. It’s been a great year.”
GSB — Logan Mote (Christian Mote, Brenen Lavoie) 1:12
GSB — Logan Mote (Christian Mote) 0:28
ML — Aiden Reidy (Cameron Egan, Griffin O’Shaughnessy) 0:00
ML — Caz Kotsen (Kieran Christy) 13:49
ML — Griffin O’Shaughnessy (Cameron Egan) 1:04
ML — Aiden Reidy (Cameron Egan) 0:35
Shots on goal: Mountain Lakes-Boonton 28, Gill St. Bernard’s 23
Saves: Alex Steinberg (GSB) 24, Ben Polizzi (ML) 21