By Mike Gurnis
MORRIS TWP. — For Madison’s seven seniors, Thursday night capped the final triumph of one of the most successful runs in program history.
After starting their high school careers in impressive fashion with a Halvorsen Cup title in 2018, followed by a Mennen Cup in 2019, last year’s team finished in last place in the Mennen Division, and despite an upset win over Morris Knolls-Hills in the first round of last year’s Mennen Cup, it resulted in a move to the Halvorsen Division.
But with the disappointment of 2019-20 fresh in its minds, Madison came out motivated for the abbreviated 2021 season, outscoring opponents by a wide margin. It finished off that trend on Thursday, as it picked up a 5-0 win over Roxbury in the 14th Halvorsen Cup championship game at Mennen Arena.
In total, it is the program’s fourth cup title, which also includes the 2015 Haas Cup title.
“It feels awesome,” senior Aidan Niceberg said. “Even with all of the uncertainty going around about the season, everybody worked hard, everybody bought in and that all led up to this moment. We’re just so glad to have this opportunity.”
Niceberg added, “I just think that we’ve had a great team. Everybody’s fought for each other. For all four years we’ve had such a strong bond. We were all playing for each other and I just think it shows.”
Niceberg scored three times in the game, as the top line of Niceberg, Johnny Hamwee, and Jacoby Erickson was involved in all five of the team’s goals. Hamwee finished with five points, including two goals and three assists, while Erickson chipped in with a goal and two assists.
“It was cool to see it all come together,” Hamwee said. “We’ve been playing since we were very little and I was prying our coach to let us play together. He finally came through in the second or third game. We just clicked right away and I knew we’d have a great season.”
It’s a team that- like all others- had to deal with the uncertainty of whether there would even be a season for its seniors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team even encountered a shutdown of its own for two weeks this season, but thanks to the leadership group of this team, it never lost sight of the ultimate goal. It finished unbeaten in Halvorsen Division play.
“I can’t say enough about these guys,” first-year Madison coach Joe Cecala said. “First and foremost, the leadership amongst that group. We have four captains this year, we could have easily had seven captains. And the talent level. You see our first line with Niceberg, Erickson, and Hamwee. Those boys have been playing together a long time and it shows. They know where each other are going to be on the ice. They anticipate each other so well. It’s so hard to plan against them because they’re one step ahead of everyone.”
Cecala added, “It’s just an amazing senior class. It’s been such an honor to coach them. I’m going to miss them like hell. They’re a great group of kids and athletes. They set quite the legacy for the rest of these boys to follow.”
Keaton Tom finished with the second-straight shutout of the postseason, and stopped all 14 Roxbury shots he faced.
Hamwee added, “It’s definitely pretty awesome. We were chasing a state title, hoped to get a chance this year but obviously didn’t. The cups in my opinion are just as big as the state titles and we couldn’t be any happier.”
First star: Johnny Hamwee, Madison- 1 goal, 4 assists
Second star: Aidan Niceberg, Madison- 3 goals, 2 assists
Third star: Jacoby Erickson, Madison- 1 goal, 2 assists
MAD — Jacoby Erickson (Aidan Niceberg, Johnny Hamwee) 14:02
MAD — Johnny Hamwee (Aidan Niceberg, Matty Gero) 8:55
MAD — Aidan Niceberg (Jacoby Erickson, Johnny Hamwee) 14:27
MAD — Aidan Niceberg (Liam O’Hearen, Johnny Hamwee) 10:19
MAD — Aidan Niceberg (Jacoby Erickson, Johnny Hamwee) 10:03
Shots on goal: Madison 38, Roxbury 14