By Mike Gurnis
MORRIS TWP. — The way the first period went for Morristown-Beard on Saturday night was certainly an ominous sign for a high-powered Crimson offense.
It trailed, 1-0 to Morris Knolls-Hills after the first period, and with the way it was playing, it appeared goals were going to come at a premium.
But in a span of roughly five minutes, Morristown-Beard showed that a team that averaged five goals per game going in cannot be held down for long.
The Crimson found the back of the net three times in the opening 4:20 of the second period, and scored six times in the middle frame as it turned a defensive battle into an 8-3 rout of Morris Knolls-Hills at Mennen Arena.
Luke Dickerson put Morris Knolls-Hills on the board with a power play goal 5:52 into the game. But just one minute into the second, Seth Kaplan put the Crimson on the scoresheet, and then just 50 seconds later Cam Fernandez buried a shorthanded goal to give his team a lead that it never relinquished.
Andrew Low scored with 10:40 to go to extend the lead to two, but Knolls-Hills’ Gehrig Eckoff cut it to 3-2 38 seconds later. That ended up being as close as it would get for the rest of the way, as Roman Berger restored the two-goal lead with 8:52 to go, before Cam Fernandez and Manu Verpoucke scored later in the period to make it a 6-2 game.
Jake DiLoreto brought Knolls-Hills within three in the final two minutes of the period, giving it some life going into the third. But Seth Kaplan delivered the dagger with one of the more impressive individual goals you’ll see at the high school level.
After a battle along the boards resulted in the puck kicking out to a Knolls-Hills defender in his own zone, Kaplan stayed aggressive and stole the puck, got around the defender creating space in front of the net. He finished it off with a backhander, extending the lead to four goals.
Logan Jaeger capped the scoring with 5:04 to go. Despite the lopsided final score, Morris Knolls-Hills actually out-shot Morristown-Beard 40-28. It was a team that showed off it’s ability to take advantage of opportunities, and also received a very strong game in goal from senior Luke McManus, who came up with 37 saves.
The win improved Morristown-Beard to 5-1-1 overall, with a 3-0 mark in the Mennen Division. Morris Knolls-Hills dropped to 4-4-1 with a 3-2-1 divisional record.
— Morristown-Beard was missing some key players for this game. Most notably, the top defense pairing of Noah Jones and Kareem Alazem, as well as forward Hollis Humphries, were all absent due to club commitments. But this is a team with tremendous depth, and it proved that no matter who is on the ice, it can find a way to win. Roman Berger took Humphries’ spot on the second line, and found the back of the net to make it a 4-2 game in the second period.
— It was senior night for Morristown-Beard’s seven seniors, which include Kaplan, Cam Fernandez, McManus, Chili Connell, Tristan Long, Logan Jaeger, and Manu Verpoucke. Aside from the goaltenders in McManus and Connell, all of the seniors were involved on the scoresheet.
— A big week lies ahead for both of these teams. Morristown-Beard will take on Princeton Day- who it lost to, 4-0 earlier this season- on Monday, before facing Chatham on Wednesday, followed by a rematch with this Knolls-Hills team on Thursday, as it tries to make up some key division games. Morris Knolls-Hills, on the other hand, will face Madison tonight, then will have the rematch on Thursday with Morristown-Beard, before capping its division schedule on Saturday against Chatham.
First star: Seth Kaplan, Morristown-Beard- 2 goals, 1 assist
Second star: Cam Fernandez, Morristown-Beard- 2 goals, 2 assist
Third star: Luke McManus, Morristown-Beard- 37 saves
MKH — Luke Dickerson (Andrew Ryan, Tim Kepler) 9:08 PPG
MB — Seth Kaplan (Andrew Low, Dylan Strauss) 14:00
MB — Cam Fernandez 13:10 SHG
MB — Andrew Low (Seth Kaplan, Jake Ochab) 10:40
MKH — Gehrig Eckoff (Andrew Ryan, Jason Kwestel) 10:02
MB — Roman Berger (Cam Fernandez, Henry Fernandez) 8:52
MB — Cam Fernandez (Andrew Low, Jake Ochab) 4:35
MB — Manu Verpoucke (Tristan Long) 3:23
MKH — Jake DiLoreto (Gehrig Eckoff, Bryan McCarter) 1:37
MB — Seth Kaplan 10:02
MB — Logan Jaeger (Cam Fernandez, Manu Verpoucke) 5:04
Shots on goal: Morris Knolls-Hills 40, Morristown-Beard 28