By Mike Gurnis
MORRIS TWP. — Morris Knolls-Hills’ top line of Kyle Thornton, Luke Dickerson, and Jake McCloud has emerged as one of the more dynamic combinations in the state this season.
On Thursday night in the team’s state tournament opener, that line once again made its presence felt. It was directly responsible for four of the team’s six goals, as top-seeded Morris Knolls-Hills took down 16th-seeded Bernards-Somerville-Middlesex, 6-2 in the first round of the NJSIAA Public C Tournament at Mennen Arena.
Thornton, a senior, had four points, including two goals and two assists. Dickerson had two goals, while McCloud had two assists.
“I think the chemistry has just grown over time,” Thornton said. “It’s just gotten better and better and we’ve been finding each other. There’s obviously a ton of skill, so there’s no need to keep the puck to yourself, just move the puck around and make plays.”
With the win, Morris Knolls-Hills advances to the quarterfinals on Monday, where it will host the winner of tomorrow’s game between eighth-seeded Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown and ninth-seeded Woodbridge Township.
Dickerson scored 5:56 into the first period off a feed from freshman Jake McCloud. But 12 seconds later, Bernards-Somerville-Middlesex got the response it was looking for, as Jimmy Hathaway put home the rebound of a Taylor Favreau shot to tie it up at one.
B-S-M was seconds from going into the first intermission tied up at one despite spending the majority of the first in the defensive zone. But goals in the final minute of a period can always shift momentum, and it was Dickerson who ripped home a shot from the slot off a feed from Kyle Thornton to give his team the lead.
“It was huge,” Thornton said. “Going into that period tied, it’s not what we’re looking for. It gives them a little bit of hope. Putting one in there at the end there, that not only gives us confidence, but hopefully it takes a little bit of wind out of their sails.”
Junior Alan Williams netted the first goal of his career in the second period to make it 3-1. Then, 10 seconds into the third, Thornton extended the lead to 4-1 as he fired a shot top-shelf.
Bernards got a goal from Ryan Leonard with 8:27 left in the game to close to within 4-2, but that was as close as it would get as Morris Knolls-Hills’ defense shut things down in the final minutes.
Thornton and Jack Martinez each scored insurance goals late to seal the win. Aidan Marvin made 16 saves to secure the victory.
“I think we just got more aggressive,” Thornton said. “They started to wear down a little bit, they got a little tired, so we kept our pace up, kept our tempo high and just wore them down.”
The loss ended an impressive season for Bernards-Somerville-Middlesex, which finished 15-4-3 and won the Charette Cup title for the second-straight winter. This team, which graduates just three seniors, represented itself very well in a rare match-up between the Charette Division and the Mennen Division.
Goalie Baylyn Shankman stopped 28 of 34 shots for Bernards.
MKH — Luke Dickerson (Jake McCloud) 9:04 PPG
BSM — Jimmy Hathaway (Taylor Favreau, Tanner Clemson) 8:52
MKH — Luke Dickerson (Kyle Thornton, Bryan McCarter) 0:32
MKH — Alan Williams (Dante Tironi) 9:56
MKH — Kyle Thornton (Jake McCloud, Ryan Murcer) 14:50
BSM — Ryan Leonard (Dylan Leonard) 8:27
MKH — Kyle Thornton (Matt Kuglin, Jake McCloud) 2:35
MKH — Jack Martinez 0:59
Shots on goal: Morris Knolls-Hills 34, Bernards-Somerville-Middlesex 18
Saves: Baylyn Shankman (BSM) 28, Aidan Marvin (Morris Knolls-Hills) 16
Team records: Morris Knolls-Hills 14-8-1, Bernards-Somerville-Middlesex 15-4-3