Sisti’s 51-save performance lifts Kinnelon-Jefferson-Sparta past Mendham

When the news broke early on Tuesday night that standout Kinnelon-Jefferson-Sparta goalie Rylan Gibbons would be unavailable for a crucial game against Mendham, it would be easy to think Mendham would have the advantage.

But Brian Sisti, who had faced one shot on goal all season prior to Tuesday, was called upon for KJS United.

He was quick to prove that anyone believing Gibbons’ absence would lead to a drop-off in play was mistaken. He stopped 14 shots in the first period en route to a 51-save effort in leading KJS United to a 4-2 win over Mendham at Mennen Arena.

The win improved KJS’ Halvorsen Division record to 6-0, and guaranteed that it will finish the season no worse than tied for the division title. It can win the division title outright with just one tie or win in its final two games. It also snapped Mendham’s eight-game unbeaten streak.

Mendham controlled play in the first period, and held KJS without a shot until the final minute. But that final minute flurry proved to be a turning point, as KJS’ Joey Kopec put home his own rebound with 9.6 seconds left to give his team a 1-0 lead.

Anthony Prunty doubled the lead midway through the second period, and after two periods- despite a 34-8 shot advantage for Mendham- KJS had the advantage on the scoreboard at 2-0.

Freshman Cormac Gibbons scored the first goal of his varsity career 17 seconds into the third to make it a 3-0 game. However, Mendham made things interesting in the third, as Ian Tamboowalla scored just seconds later to get the Minutemen on the board.

There would be plenty of stress to follow for KJS, as it was called for a five-minute boarding major, and at one point faced a 5-on-3 during that major.

Mendham capitalized on the power play with 6:23 to go on a goal from Michael Gionco, but it was not without some controversy. As per the replays on Morris Sussex Sports’ broadcast, it appeared the puck was headed into the net. However, after a discussion, the referees called it a goal.

Mendham had several opportunities to tie it down the stretch, including a pair of posts hit by Michael Gionco around the five-minute mark. But in the end, KJS was able to hang on behind a strong defense and a memorable performance from Sisti.

It iced the game on an empty-net goal from Connor O’Neill at the buzzer.

KJS can win the Halvorsen Division title outright on Friday when it hosts Mountain Lakes-Boonton at Skylands Ice World at 4:40 p.m.

SCORING SUMMARY
First period
KJS — Joey Kopec (Michael Pandiscia) 0:09
Second period
KJS — Anthony Prunty (Adam Stefancik) 6:08
Third period
KJS — Cormac Gibbons (Anthony Prunty) 14:43
MEN — Ian Tamboowalla (Blake Stevens, E.J. Gleie) 14:18
MEN — Michael Gionco 6:23 PPG
KJS — Connor O’Neill 0:01 ENG

Shots on goal: Mendham 53, KJS United 13
Saves: Brian Sisti (KJS) 51, Brendon Eigner (Mendham) 9

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