By Mike Gurnis
MORRIS TWP. — After a strong first period which saw Morristown-Beard hold a three-goal lead over Morris Knolls-Hills, it didn’t have to look too far into its past to know how fragile a multiple-goal lead can be.
Just 48 hours earlier, Morristown-Beard was down by four goals to Livingston late in the second period, before scoring three quick goals to get back in it before ultimately losing, 4-3.
Sure enough, even though it knew the push was coming from Morris Knolls-Hills, it was unable to prevent it, as it struck for three goals in a span of 2:17 to tie the game. Freshman Jake McCloud scored the first three for Knolls-Hills, before Matt Kuglin’s power play goal ultimately tied it.
But rather than allowing that momentum shift to ruin the game, Morristown-Beard recomposed itself after a timeout. Noah Jones responded with a go-ahead goal just 1:20 later to restore the lead, and was the first of five unanswered goals in the Crimson’s 9-4 win over Morris Knolls-Hills at Mennen Arena.
“Same thing happened against Livingston in the game prior,” junior forward Hollis Humphries said. “We were down 4-0 going into the third. We came back and scored three. Coming into the locker room after the first period, we said that teams are capable of putting three in unanswered like we did. We knew it was possible. We let it happen, but we ended the period strong.
“Just keep our composure, go back to the game plan. We were cheating defensively and trying to get offense, so we just stuck to good defense, and that led to great goals.”
Morristown-Beard essentially turned the tables on Morris Knolls-Hills, which it lost to, 7-1 back in the first meeting on Dec. 3. The Crimson were without several key players that night, including Noah Jones, Evan Jones, Andrew Low, and Billy Moloney.
Those players were back on the ice this time around, and all had a major impact. Noah Jones tallied two goals and three assists for a five-point night. Andrew Low had two goals and two assists, while Evan Jones and Billy Moloney each had an assist.
“(It was) definitely on our mind,” Morristown-Beard coach Scott Greene said. “The guys that weren’t here for that game, I think they felt pretty bad. Going into that, we knew it was going to be a tough game without those guys, but I don’t think they ever expected (that). I think they thought hey, I’m going to go to this, you guys hopefully will win or keep it close. They were a little bit embarrassed and they felt bad about it. I think tonight to have all those guys get a little bit more support, that was huge.”
It turned out to be an offensive performance reminiscent of the last two years for Morristown-Beard, which was one of the highest scoring teams in the state during that time. It has struggled to find consistency on offense throughout the lineup during the team’s up-and-down 7-5 start to the year, but Monday night’s performance saw balance throughout the lineup.
Four different players scored two goals, with six having multi-point nights and 10 players finding the scoresheet in total. Dylan Strauss had two goals and an assist, Charlie Guida had a goal and two assists, and Hollis Humphries buried two goals. Hutch McDonald dished out three assists.
“It just shows how much depth we have in this lineup,” Humphries said. “Guys like Dylan Strauss scoring two big goals for us tonight, it shows that it’s not always the first line that’s going to get the goals. We have guys in the lineup who are going to get goals for us, and it just shows how skilled this lineup is. Anyone can score.”
Even in spite of the team’s inconsistent season, Morristown-Beard put itself in great position in the Mennen Division with this win. With three divisional games remaining against Randolph, Madison, and Chatham, if it wins all three remaining games, it would win the regular season title and clinch the top seed for the Mennen Cup.
Monday night’s performance is one that it hopes it can build off of, with games against Gordon Conference teams in Pope John, Don Bosco Prep, and Seton Hall Prep all on the schedule before the end of the month. The schedule is only going to get tougher and the stakes will get higher with the Mennen Cup and state tournament on the horizon next month, but this is a team that feels it is on the verge of putting together its best hockey.
“I think the boys were a little upset in the beginning of the year after having two very successful seasons, we weren’t used to losing and we don’t want to be used to losing,” Greene said. “It certainly sometimes can get demoralizing. When you look at your record and you’re barely .500, some of the captains and myself just said listen, we can’t focus on what our record is. We want to just give a good effort every night, pay attention to little details, and win when it matters.
“I think these types of wins and even the loss the other day, coming back and fighting through, those are the things championship teams have in them. You can be an eight seed and win the Stanley Cup. That’s kind of the message- it doesn’t matter where you’re seeded, but those little things you can’t just wait until the last minute and then go out in the playoffs and win. You have to work towards them now.”
First star: Noah Jones, Morristown-Beard, D, Sr.- 2 goals, 3 assists, game-winning goal
Second star: Andrew Low, Morristown-Beard, F, Sr.- 2 goals, 2 assists
Third star: Jake McCloud, Morris Knolls-Hills, F, Fr.- 3 goals
MB — Hollis Humphries (Evan Jones, Andrew Low) 12:29
MB — Noah Jones (Hutch McDonald, Dylan Strauss) 10:12
MKH– Jake McCloud (Bryan McCarter, Luke Dickerson) 7:25
MB — Charlie Guida 6:40
MB — Andrew Low (Charlie Guida, Billy Moloney) 1:17 PPG
MKH– Jake McCloud (Luke Dickerson, Michael Simone) 7:15 PPG
MKH — Jake McCloud (Luke Dickerson, Kyle Thornton) 6:12
MKH — Matt Kuglin (Dante Tironi, Jack Martinez) 4:58 PPG
MB — Noah Jones (Hutch McDonald, Jake Ochab) 3:38
MB — Andrew Low (Noah Jones, Charlie Guida) 1:37
MB — Dylan Strauss (Brendan Tartaglione, Hutch McDonald) 12:01
MB — Hollis Humphries (Noah Jones, Andrew Low) 7:54
MB — Dylan Strauss (Noah Jones) 4:13 SHG
Shots on goal: Morristown-Beard 33, Morris Knolls-Hills 29
Saves: Casey Connor (Morristown-Beard) 25, Aidan Marvin (Morris Knolls-Hills) 6, Aiden Chominsky (Morris Knolls-Hills) 18
Team records: Morristown-Beard 7-5 (4-1 Mennen), Morris Knolls-Hills 8-4-1 (4-1-1 Mennen)
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