By Mike Gurnis
There were some tense moments in the end, but Morristown-Beard has its third-straight Mennen Cup title.
It saw a comfortable four-goal advantage trimmed to one in a span of 1:36 in the final two minutes of the game thanks to a natural hat-trick by Morris Knolls-Hills’ Luke Dickerson. But the third-seeded Crimson got the clear they needed in the final 10 seconds, and took down top-seeded Morris Knolls-Hills in the 47th Mennen Cup final at Mennen Arena in Morris Township.
Morristown-Beard led, 2-0 going into the third period behind goals from Andrew Low and Noah Jones. Nick Squashic and Low scored 27 seconds apart with just over five minutes to go in the game, and the Crimson appeared to be on their way to a comfortable victory for their 15th Mennen Cup title.
But Dickerson scored with 1:46 left, before scoring again with 41 seconds left. He added another with 10 seconds to go, but it proved to be too little, too late for Morris Knolls-Hills.
“I think we got a little ahead of ourselves looking at the clock and everything,” Low said. “But I think we just had to stick to our game in the last minute or so and just really bear down, get pucks out and keep it simple.”
Morristown-Beard was in that position thanks to the play of its top line of Low, Jones, and Humphries, but also due to some timely saves from freshman goalie Casey Connor. He turned aside 22 of 25 shots, and was on his way to a shutout before some breakdowns in the final two minutes cost that.
Perhaps his best save of the night came on a 2-on-1 early in the third period, when he got his left pad out to deny Morris Knolls-Hills’ Bryan McCarter to keep it a 2-0 game.
“I feel great. I’ve always said age means nothing to me,” Connor said. “I came into the game thinking I was the best, and that’s the mindset you have to have. It worked out for me.”
Low added of his goaltender, “He’s unbelievable. All this season he’s been a stalwart in net, and to be a freshman and to be that skilled, and be that confident in net, you don’t find that a lot. He’s going to be something real dangerous in the coming years.”
Despite the final two minutes providing a bit more drama than it hoped for, Morristown-Beard has now won five-consecutive games as it gets ready for the Non-Public state tournament.
“I think we were on-and-off with COVID and everything, battling sickness and whatnot,” Low said. “But once we kind of got our full roster back and we got practices in, it kind of got the wheels moving a little bit. I think we started doing film more, working on our game and practicing harder. It’s really doing what coach says and the boys really did bear down and realized that we have a really skilled group of guys here and we can really do something. Doing that is something really special, and we found a way.”
WILLMOTT HELPS WEST MORRIS END TITLE DROUGHT
West Morris always believed.
The Wolfpack, who went 0-14-1 last season, believed in themselves right from the start of the season. It has turned things around in a big way, going 14-6-1 and finishing in second place in the Haas Division. Now, it has some hardware to show for it, as the second-seeded Wolfpack pulled out a 2-1 win over top-seeded Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown in the 23rd Haas Cup final at Mennen Arena.
It marked West Morris’ first Haas Cup title since it shared the title with Park Regional in 2011. It is the third title overall for the Wolfpack.
“We have a big word in our locker room, and that’s ‘believe,” senior Max Michalski said. “We just kept believing and believing in ourselves. That’s how we got the job done.”
Freshman Ben Willmott scored both goals for the Wolfpack, which included the tying goal with three minutes left in the second period and the game-winner with 3:06 remaining in regulation. He has put on a show in the Haas Cup, as he buried five goals in its semifinal win over Vernon, before adding two more in this one.
“It’s electric. This is the best feeling,” Willmott said. “This was our goal from the start of the season. We knew we were able to get it done, and we knew it was going to be hard too, but we were just able to complete it and it feels great.”
Junior goalie Phil Togno stopped 26 of 27 shots for West Morris, making several big saves in helping shut down one of the more powerful offenses in the MCSSIHL. It was the first divisional loss for MO-HO-HA, which went 8-0-2 in the Haas Division this season and finished in first place.
“It feels amazing right now. I’m kind of shocked,” Michalski said. “I’m in tears. We went from 0-14-1 to Haas Cup champions. It feels really good.”
Michalski added, “We feel really good going into states now. Winning the Cup gives us a little boost and hopefully we can go to Prudential Center.”