By Mike Gurnis
MORRIS TWP. — Injuries and illness sunk Chatham during the 2021-22 season.
Brothers Doyle and Ronan Curry were right in the middle of that, as two of Chatham’s top players both spent more time watching from the stands due to injury, than being on the ice last season.
“A lot of us missed the season last year with COVID and injuries and everything like that,” Doyle Curry said. “Watching the games from the stands last year was something I did my fair share of, and I was just wasn’t going to let that season happen again. I know my brother and a couple of the other guys feel the same way.”
As disappointing as it was for the two to watch most of a five-win season from the stands, imagine how it must have felt for both of them to play a large role in one of Chatham’s biggest regular season wins in recent memory on opening night.
Ronan Curry netted the tying goal with 8:29 left in the third, before Doyle’s point shot took a fortunate bounce through traffic with 4:12 to go to give Chatham the lead for good, as it erased a 4-1 second period deficit to take down Morristown-Beard, 6-4, at Mennen Arena.
It came on an important anniversary for Ronan. It was just one year ago to the day, in a win over Mountain Lakes-Boonton, where he broke his collarbone, which ended his season.
“It’s great,” Ronan said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a year. It’s a year ago to this day, I broke my collarbone and went to the hospital. I think it’s a great sign of things to come that we’re all healthy and we’re all back.”
Chatham scored five unanswered goals, including an empty-netter from Luc D’Acosta (first career goal) to seal it with 1:13 to go.
Even though it trailed early, as Morristown-Beard built that 4-1 lead behind three goals from Hollis Humphries (who set the school’s career goal-scoring record with his 60th career goal), Chatham was not deterred, as it had several quality looks throughout the game. The game very much could have gotten away from the Cougars when Humphries netted his third to make it 4-1, but Matt Nacinavich scored off a feed from Ronan Curry 40 seconds later to cut Chatham’s deficit to just two.
It opened up the third period with a goal from Isaac Suh on an end-to-end rush 1:12 into the period, and it was all Chatham from that point on.
“Going into that third period from the second period, we talked in the locker room and we knew the bounces were going to fall, it’s just a matter of time,” Ronan Curry said. “We had our opportunities all game. To see those bounces go in, topped off by that goal by my brother felt great.”
It hopes that this win will be a major confidence boost for a Chatham squad, which has a good amount of returning talent after a five-win season last year, in which it missed the state playoffs for the first time in years.
“It’s important for the team as a whole, and it’s important for our attitudes moving forward,” Chatham coach Brendon Herr said. “Last year was tough on us. It was the toughest year as far as coaching that we’ve had in the eight years we’ve been here. I think to get this win here and really confident about ourselves is a good start.”
It was also Chatham’s first win over Morristown-Beard since the 2018-19 season, when it defeated the Crimson twice, including in the Mennen Cup first round. A win like this, over the three-time defending Mennen Cup champions, is one the Cougars believe is a statement to the division and to the state.
“A lot of great things to come,” Ronan Curry said. “I think it shows everyone in this league and everyone in this state that Chatham hockey is back.”
MB — Hollis Humphries 11:03
CH — Matt Nacinovich (Isaac Suh) 5:44
MB — Hollis Humphries (Ryan Tartaglione) 4:06
MB — Nick Squashic (John Gonnella, Peter Cross) 9:14
MB — Hollis Humphries (Evan Jones) 8:02
CH — Matt Nacinovich (Ronan Curry, Isaac Suh) 7:22 PPG
CH — Isaac Suh 13:48
CH — Ronan Curry (Matt Nacinovich) 8:29
CH — Doyle Curry 4:12
CH — Luc D’Costa 1:13 ENG
Team records: Chatham 1-0, Morristown-Beard 0-1
Saves: Casey Connor (Morristown-Beard) 24, Nate May (Chatham) 19.
E-mail Mike Gurnis at firstname.lastname@example.org
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