Park Regional stuns Bernards-Somerville-Middlesex in OT to advance to Haas Cup final

By Mike Gurnis

After a three-game losing streak to close out the regular season, Park Regional needed a tiebreaker to go its way just to get into the Haas Cup playoffs.

On Sunday afternoon, it got word that it earned the fourth seed by virtue of its 1-0-1 head-to-head record against Gill St. Bernard’s.

It was a new lease on life for the squad, and it wasn’t going to let the opportunity be for naught.

Things haven’t been easy for the co-op of Whippany Park and Hanover Park all year, and once again it wasn’t on Wednesday night when it took on the Haas’ top regular season team in Bernards-Somerville-Middlesex. After taking an early lead, Park surrendered two third period goals to fall behind, 2-1, and once again it found itself right on the brink of elimination.

It turned out, that’s right where its most comfortable.

Freshman Chase Olszewski scored the game-tying goal with 1:06 left, before senior Stanley Gelman buried the game-winner 1:27 into overtime to lift fourth-seeded Park Regional to a stunning come-from-behind upset of top-seeded Bernards-Somerville-Middlesex, 3-2, in the Haas Cup semifinals at Mennen Arena.

“We knew we were underdogs from the beginning since we heard we got the fourth seed a couple of days ago,” Gelman said. “Coming into this game we had a feeling that it was just meant to be. We hustled our butts off, we just played to the final minute. We just worked as a team. We were one, we were good as a unit and as a whole team, and I think that’s what gave us that victory. We never gave up and we kept pushing.”

Olszewski, the freshman, buried two goals to extend his team-leading total to 26, while freshman Michael Capozzi also dished out two assists.

The game-winning goal originated on a keep-in at the blue line by Capozzi while BSM tried to break out. Gelman picked it up and fed it back to Capozzi who was in all alone, but his initial shot was stopped. But he picked up the rebound and fed it in front, and the puck found its way to Gelman who had nothing but a wide-open net to shoot at.

“I was pretty much in the right place at the right time,” Gelman said. “I was in the perfect spot, right in the slot. Michael Capozzi just made a hell of a play centering it to me, and I just had an open net. I just had to tap it in and that’s it.”

He added, “Only job I have to do is just tap it in, can’t mess that up.”

But even more impressive was the team’s defensive performance. It held a high-powered BSM squad, which scored 111 goals this season, off the scoreboard for two periods and held it to just two goals.

Sophomore goalie Dylan Marion was the standout in this one, as he stopped 33 of 35 BSM shots. The defensemen in front, led by Wyatt Lieto, Mat Lasota, Jason Harty, and Andrew Steinberg, did a good job of not giving up many quality looks- and when they did, Marion was there to make the big save.

“All of my defensemen…I can’t say anything more…I don’t even have words,” Marion said. “They’re so amazing. They keep everything away. They give me all the shots that I can save. One, two maybe that are tough shots, but they did an amazing job and that’s what really kept us in this.”

It was Marion’s first career postseason start after not having a single varsity minute last season. He shined throughout the game, and his toughness was evident as well. With 2:31 left in the game, he appeared to suffer an injury which at the time appeared to be serious.

It turned out to be just a cramp, and there was no doubt he was going to finish the game.

“I feel amazing. I’ve been hurting myself all season pretty much,” Marion said. “I got a cramp in my leg in the middle of that game, I have a giant welt on my leg from getting the puck against the same team. It feels great to be able to do that.”

He added, “I had to be there. The only reason I would take myself out of a game at that point is if I literally can not play. I had to be there.”

His ability to stay in the game also provided an emotional lift to his team, which struggled to generate quality looks to tie the game in the final minutes. But it was just 1:25 later when Olszewski scored the game-tying goal to force overtime.

“That says a lot about who he is as a player,” Gelman said. “I gotta admit I was the one who accidentally knocked him from behind, because I was way down in front to block a shot, and I pushed him over so that was my fault. Just his resilience, and his strength to keep going…he’s a heck of a player and a strong player, and he really helped us out. He’s the backbone of this team.”

As good as Marion was, just as good at the other end of the ice was BSM goalie Baylyn Shankman. Park outshot BSM, 41-35 in the game, and she stopped 38 shots- including a legitimate save of the year candidate with just over four minutes left in the third when she was able to get her right pad out to make a save on a loose puck.

But in the end, it was Park that prevailed. A team that wasn’t sure what its future held after losing to this same BSM team 6-2 last Saturday, now will get the opportunity to win its first Haas Cup since 2016 when it faces second-seeded West Morris on Monday at 6:15 p.m. at Mennen Arena.

“We haven’t been to the finals in, I don’t know how many years,” Gelman said. “Last time we won it was 2016. We know we have a strong group. We may not have the most skilled team, we may not have the most depth, but I think how much we want it, and how much we try, the effort we put in day and night…every minute of the game, that’s what helps us get the victory, I feel like.”

First period
PARK — Chase Olszewski (Michael Capozzi, Stanley Gelman) 10:50
Second period
No scoring.
Third period
BSM — Jimmy Hathaway (Taylor Favreau, Tanner Clemson) 9:07
BSM — Dylan Leonard 4:10
PARK — Chase Olszewski (Mike Monahan, Jason Harty) 1:06
PARK — Stanley Gelman (Michael Capozzi) 13:33

Shots on goal: Park Regional 41, Bernards-Somerville-Middlesex 35

E-mail Mike Gurnis at

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