Morris Knolls-Hills and Randolph are without question two of the biggest rivals in Morris County, to go along with being two of the top teams in the state.
The teams are so evenly matched, in fact, that neither have been able to come up with a winner in recent meetings.
The squads met on Wednesday for the first time in the 2021 season, and it played out much like their meetings last season, as a wild back-and-forth game ended in a 5-5 tie at Aspen Ice in Randolph.
It marked the third-consecutive draw between the schools, as they tied 3-3 back on Dec. 17 of last season, before a 1-1 finish on Jan. 24.
Randolph’s Luke Spagnuolo netted the tying goal on the power play with 3:32 left, just 19 seconds after Knolls-Hills’ Andrew Ryan gave his squad the lead with a slap shot from the top of the slot.
Early on, it looked like it was going to be all Knolls-Hills (1-1-1), as it built a 2-0 lead in the opening minutes behind goals from Jason Kwestel and Dylan Idland. Randolph (1-0-1) came on strong towards the end of the first period, though, as Andrew Iglar and Ben Yurchuk scored in the final three minutes to even up the score going into the break.
Idland then netted his second with just under 10 minutes to go in the second to restore the Knolls-Hills lead. But Zach Gallo scored a pair of power play goals late in the period to give Randolph its first lead of the day at 4-3, going into the third.
Ryan tied the game 7:55 into the third with his first of two goals.
The teams are scheduled to meet again in roughly 48 hours, as they will battle on Friday night at 8 p.m. at Mennen Arena.
— There will almost certainly be an emphasis on staying out of the penalty box for both teams ahead of Friday night’s rematch. For Morris Knolls-Hills specifically, the final three goals in which it surrendered in this game came on the penalty kill, with the backbreaker being a penalty shortly after Andrew Ryan’s go-ahead goal, which it took Randolph all of six seconds to capitalize on. Randolph, on the other hand, surrendered two power play goals.
— The sophomore tandem of Zach Gallo and Ben Yurchuk is as good as you’ll find in the area. At least one of the two was involved in all five of Randolph’s goals in this one, with Gallo recording two goals and an assist, and Yurchuk registering a goal and three assists. Through two games, they’ve emerged as Randolph’s top two scoring threats with five points apiece. Randolph’s biggest question mark going into this season was on offense after graduating roughly 3/4 of its goals from last season, but if those two are going to play like this, it’s going to be just fine.
— This was Morris Knolls-Hills’ first game in 12 days after a brutal 2-1 last-second loss to Chatham on Jan. 22. While it certainly came out strong early in this game, it probably will feel like another missed opportunity to pick up two points after having a lead late. It is now 0-1-1 in the Mennen Division.
First star: Andrew Ryan, Morris Knolls-Hills- 2 goals, 3 assists.
Second star: Zach Gallo, Randolph- 2 goals, 1 assist
Third star: Ben Yurchuk, Randolph- 1 goal, 3 assists
MKH — Jason Kwestel (Andrew Ryan) 11:31
MKH — Dylan Idland (Andrew Ryan) 9:40 PPG
RAN — Andrew Iglar (Jack Roeff, Zach Gallo) 2:39
RAN — Ben Yurchuk (Adam Fienberg, Matt Cislo) 0:24
MKH — Dylan Idland (Andrew Ryan) 9:43
RAN — Zach Gallo (Ben Yurchuk, Jordan Cross) 5:29 PPG
RAN — Zach Gallo (Ben Yurchuk, Jordan Cross) 2:47 PPG
MKH — Andrew Ryan (Tim Kepler) 7:05 PPG
MKH — Andrew Ryan (Jason Kwestel) 3:51
RAN — Luke Spagnuolo (Scott Kudriza, Ben Yurchuk) 3:32 PPG
Shots on goal: Morris Knolls-Hills 26, Randolph 16
Saves: Joe Yutsus (Randolph) 21, Aidan Marvin (Knolls-Hills) 11.