MORRIS TWP. — Morristown had waited a long time for Friday night.
The Colonials, who have mostly struggled since winning its last state title in 2015-16, finally got its elusive win over its cross-town rival in Morristown-Beard. Behind a two-goal performance from senior Nick Romano, the Colonials defeated the Crimson, 3-2 for the first time since that 2015-16 season at Mennen Arena.
“They’ve always been a tough team to play against in the Mennen Division,” Morristown coach Bobby Jones said. “I know that (Morristown-Beard) is a little young this year, but they still have a ton of skilled players. I’m just proud of our guys for doing the right thing and coming together and playing big. All of our guys, no matter what age they were, they were playing big tonight.”
Since a 3-2 victory on Jan. 11, 2016, Morristown had suffered 10-straight defeats to Morristown-Beard. Many of those games have been lopsided- especially for the last three years- with Morristown-Beard out-scoring the Colonials by a 40-9 margin in last three seasons.
A move from the Mennen Division down to the Halvorsen meant Friday’s game would be the only opportunity for Morristown’s seniors, such as Romano and Harry Santen, to get that elusive win over its rival. The two made the most of it, as they scored a pair of goals just 16 seconds apart early in the second period to build a 3-1 lead.
“It’s been five years since we beat them. They never had our respect. Those kids over there, they never respect us,” Romano said. “We knew coming out of the gate it was going to be a hard battle and we had to fight hard. We knew whoever fought harder was going to win the game, and that was it today. It was awesome.”
That lead held all the way until late in the third period, when Morristown-Beard’s Brendan Tartaglione put home the rebound of freshman Evan Jones’ shot to cut the deficit to 3-2. But Morristown defended well down the stretch and kept the puck away from the Crimson as much as possible, not even allowing it to pull its goalie until 40 seconds were left in the game.
Morristown’s defense, in total, held Morristown-Beard to just 18 shots in the game, and goalie Dylan Peck came up with 16 saves.
“We wanted to stay disciplined, but also aggressive at the same time,” Romano said. “We knew going into a 1-2-2 passive down low, and keep forcing them to the outside, we knew our goalie (Dylan) Peck would save the puck outside, and clear out the rebounds, and that’s what happened, it was awesome.”
Romano also scored the game’s opening goal on the power play with 10:34 to go in the first period. Morristown-Beard responded just 1:34 later, though, as Hollis Humphries’ shot from along the boards found its way into the net, tying it up at one.
It was an impressive win for a Morristown team that at 3-0-1, appears to be the class of the Halvorsen Division and certainly has the look of a team that could play deep into the state tournament. It has already knocked off two Mennen teams in Madison and Morristown-Beard, along with perhaps its top Halvorsen competitor in Mendham.
“We (have to) keep our confidence up,” Romano said. “We have a lot of younger guys on the team and a huge senior group, and if we keep playing with confidence, with the right mindset, we’re going to keep coming to win games.”
Morristown-Beard, considered the favorite in the Mennen Division after back-to-back Mennen Cup titles, is still finding its way in the early part of the season. While it is 3-2 after Friday’s loss, it has yet to find the next gear that made this team so dominant for the past two seasons.
It was without star defenseman Noah Jones along with a key defender in Will Sgro on Friday due to injury. It has also been missing one of its top forwards in Andrew Low, who is recovering from surgery for a broken collarbone. Low was medically cleared for Friday’s game but did not see any ice time, instead providing a spark for the team on the bench.
Luckily, there is still a lot of hockey left to be played for Morristown-Beard. It has only played one Mennen Division game thus far (a 7-1 loss to Morris Knolls-Hills), but has a big week ahead in facing a strong public school team in Westfield on Monday, followed by Mennen games against Randolph and Chatham on Wednesday, and Friday, respectively.
“I think in talking with the group, it’s about trying to game plan for the long haul and fixing the areas of their game that we need to fix,” Morristown-Beard coach Scott Greene said. “Not so much focusing on the outcomes of the games, but just the little details. Once we can finish that, everything else will take care of itself. Obviously we’re not happy with the loss, but we’re just trying to look at things and take care of little things. Hopefully we’ll keep building and growing that way so we can finish strong to the year. It wasn’t the start we wanted to the season but I think we certainly have a group of guys that we’re confident in. We just kind of have to all get on the same page and move forward.”
First star: Nick Romano, Morristown, F, Sr.- 2G
Second star: Harry Santen, Morristown, F, Sr.- 1G, 1A
Third star: Dylan Peck, Morristown, G, Sr.- 16 saves
MOR– Nick Romano (Jack Langan, Liam Wilson) 10:34 PPG
MB — Hollis Humphries (Dylan Strauss) 9:00
MOR — Harry Santen (Liam Wilson, Francis Zaklukiewicz) 10:15
MOR — Nick Romano (Harry Santen) 9:59
MB — Brendan Tartaglione (Evan Jones) 4:51
Shots on goal: Morristown 19, Morristown-Beard 18
Saves: Dylan Peck (Morristown) 16, Julian Melendez (Morristown-Beard) 16
Team records: Morristown 3-0-1, Morristown-Beard 3-2
E-mail Mike Gurnis at email@example.com
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