It seemed like Morris Catholic was destined for a storybook finish to its remarkable turnaround season.
It finished in first place with an impressive 6-2 divisional record, after opening its season by snapping a 41-game unbeaten streak.
But a Newton-Lenape Valley squad, which had been competitive all season, looked to write an underdog story of its own as the fourth seed in the Charette Cup. It took advantage of an early five-minute power play with two goals, and received an impressive performance in goal from Trey Kaplan, as fourth-seed Newton-Lenape Valley hung on for a 3-2 victory over top seed Morris Catholic in the semifinals of the inaugural Charette Cup at Mennen Arena.
Newton-Lenape Valley earned a Friday night meeting with the winner of second-seed Bernards-Somerville-Middlesex and third-seed High Point-Wallkill Valley in the final, slated for a 5:45 p.m. start at Mennen Arena.
Morris Catholic dominated possession early in the game, but it was called for a five-minute major with 7:23 to go in the first period, which gave NLV a golden early opportunity. Despite hitting two posts early in the man-advantage, it was undeterred, as Hunter Givone tipped Michael Cinotti’s point shot to give the squad the early lead with 4:13 to go.
Then, just 10 seconds before the major was set to expire, Kyler Kane deflected a shot from Givone, which gave NLV a two-goal cushion going into the second.
A very evenly-played second period saw the lead expand to three, when Ryan Lynch- with two defenders on him- managed to get his stick out to deflect Aidan Urbano’s shot.
Morris Catholic, however, was not going to see its remarkable season end without a fight. It struck just 1:17 into the third period as Aldino Guadagnino put home the rebound of an Averee Acuna shot. It kept the pressure up for the entire period, and did not allow a single shot on goal from NLV.
Guadagnino created some nervous moments for NLV late, as he put home the rebound on a face-off to cut it to 3-2 with 1:30 to go, with the goalie pulled for the extra attacker.
Luckily for NLV, it received a tremendous performance from Kaplan in goal, who finished with 28 saves, including 13 in a third period in which his team was out-shot 15-0. And after surrendering the second goal to Guadagnino, players such as Ryan Lynch, Cameron Cherry, and Matthew Murphy managed to keep the puck in the offensive zone for most of the remainder of the game, not allowing Morris Catholic to pull its goalie once again.
Newton-Lenape Valley will look to claim the program’s second MCSSIHL Cup title, after last winning the Haas Cup in 2016-17.
First star: Trey Kaplan, Newton-Lenape Valley- 28 saves.
Second star: Ryan Lynch, Newton-Lenape Valley- Game-winning goal
Third star: Hunter Givone, Newton-Lenape Valley- 1 goal, 1 assist
NLV — Hunter Givone (Michael Cinotti, Cameron Cherry) 4:13 PPG
NLV — Kyler Kane (Hunter Givone) 2:33 PPG
NLV — Ryan Lynch (Aidan Urbano) 4:38
MC — Aldino Guadagnino (Averee Acuna) 13:43
MC — Aldino Guadagnino (Evan Lord, Hayden McGuigan) 1:30
Shots on goal: Morris Catholic 30, Newton-Lenape Valley 12