By Mike Gurnis
MORRIS TWP. — After a 7-2 start to the season, Morris Knolls-Hills hit a bit of a rough patch recently, as it went 0-2-2 in its last four games.
Going nearly three weeks without a win was more than enough motivation as it went into Saturday’s Mennen Division contest against Morristown. After a sluggish first period and an even second period, Morris Knolls-Hills broke through in the third to score three unanswered goals and take down Morristown, 4-1 at Mennen Arena.
The win improved Morris Knolls-Hills to 8-4-2 overall and 3-3 in the Mennen Division. It officially clinched its spot in the upcoming Mennen Cup playoffs, and currently sits in third place in the division.
“For our team it was great, it was literally great,” said sophomore Jake McCloud, who scored two goals. “We’re just working out there. The first period was a little bad, but we just got together as a team and as a family, and just did what we had to do and came out with the win.”
The first period saw Knolls-Hills fall behind with just under five minutes left on a goal from Morristown’s Clark Smith. But just a few minutes later, Bryan McCarter completed a nice stretch pass which sprung Michael Simone for a breakaway, and he buried it to tie the game up at one.
The game remained tied until the third period. Just moments after a pair of big saves from senior goalie Aidan Marvin, Dylan Williams put home the rebound of a Jake McCloud shot to give Knolls-Hills the lead.
McCloud scored on his own just a minute later as he took advantage of a turnover and used his speed to create a breakaway. He finished it off to extend the lead to 3-1, before adding an empty net goal with 1:30 left.
“We went into the locker room and that definitely helped,” McCloud said of the third period. “We were talking about the mistakes, and then we just came out and flew.”
Aidan Marvin added, “I like to think that it’s practice. We work on skating all the time. I think we have the legs on them, so the energy was there and we came out in the third looking to win and not drop another game. That was important to us.”
McCloud’s three-point night (two goals, one assist) gave him a total of 25 points on the season, which is a team-high.
Marvin, on the other hand, put together another strong performance in goal. Nicknamed “Money” by his teammates, he has been exactly that this season, posting an eye-popping .931 save percentage in starting every game for his team. In this game specifically, he stopped 26 of 27 shots and came up with several timely saves.
Marvin’s been a solid netminder in starting for Knolls-Hills the last two seasons, but he has taken his game to another level this year. His save percentage jumped from .890 last winter to .931 this year, which is a substantial 41 point jump.
“I just try to keep my team in it and get a W every time,” Marvin said. “That’s all that matters to me.”
Morris Knolls-Hills has a very difficult schedule down the stretch in which it will be tested by several strong teams, such as Rumson-Fair Haven, Chatham, Hillsborough, and St. Joseph of Metuchen before Mennen Cup play begins.
But the first step was getting back in the win column, and now it will look to continue to build towards the most important time of the season: the postseason.
“I feel like we definitely should be a little higher in the standings,” McCloud said. “But again, just have to watch out for us in the playoffs. That’s all that really matters at this point.”
MOR — Clark Smith (Jackson Byrne, Charlie Dvorscak) 4:23
MKH — Michael Simone (Bryan McCarter, Luke Dickerson) 1:22
MKH — Dylan Williams (Jake McCloud) 10:09
MKH — Jake McCloud (Ryan Walter) 9:07
MKH — Jake McCloud 1:30 ENG
Shots on goal: Morris Knolls-Hills 30, Morristown 27
Saves: Aidan Marvin (Knolls-Hills) 26, Thatcher Neville (Morristown) 26
Team records: Morris Knolls-Hills 8-4-2 (3-3-0 Mennen), Morristown 5-11-1 (0-6-0 Mennen)