Newton-Lenape Valley rallies in 3rd to reach Charette Cup final

By Mike Gurnis

It may be a cliche that regular-season records are thrown out the window once postseason play begins.

But it has been proven time-and-time again that no matter what happens in the regular season, it does not necessarily mean that it will continue in the postseason.

It was proven once again by Newton-Lenape Valley on Thursday night.

Third-seeded Newton-Lenape Valley- which started the season 1-7 and lost both of its regular-season match-ups to High Point-Wallkill Valley-Kittatinny by lopsided scores- used a big third period to top second-seeded High Point-WV-K, 5-4 in the Charette Cup semifinals at Mennen Arena.

The win means it advances to Monday’s championship game, where it will face top-seeded Montville at 4:15 p.m. at Mennen Arena.

“I think the difference was, when we played them early on in the season, I think we were still getting our legs underneath us,” Newton-Lenape Vally coach Ryan Sevean said. “We didn’t have everybody there, and it was just a matter of over the course of the past couple of weeks of putting everything into place. High Point is a great program, Mike (Beltran) is a great coach, and I think they were reliant on one or two guys that we were able to shut down.

“But it was a good, fun, close game. If you’re a hockey fan, that was a fun game to watch. For Sussex County hockey, all-around it was a great game win or lose, I would’ve taken it either way to be honest with you.”

NLV lost both of its regular season meetings to HPWVK by scores of 5-0 and 10-4, seeing its rival win the Sussex Cup for the first time. But it has picked up its play in recent weeks, winning four of its last five games, and it proved to be a much different squad than the one from earlier this year.

“It’s electric. I don’t know how to describe it,” Brayden Dabrowski, who scored two goals, said. “We go out there after losing both of the games in the regular season…today was our revenge game. So (we just wanted to) go out there, do our best, the best we can.”

He added, “Sussex County is our home, and we have to keep it that way.”

Dabrowski had a big role in this one, burying two goals and adding an assist. He scored a shorthanded goal early in the second period to tie the game up at one. Then, in the third period, NLV broke a 2-2 tie 43 seconds in on Martin Murphy’s goal, before Dabrowski scored with 7:10 left to extend the lead. Sophomore Maksym Pastukh scored 1:06 later to make it a 5-2 game.

High Point-Wallkill-Kittatinny was not going to go down easy, though. Just when it seemed like things were going to unravel, Anthony Tokar netted a goal 20 seconds later to cut it to 5-3. Jake Henningsen then set up Michael Sadowski for a goal with 3:03 left to bring the deficit to just one.

“Both the third periods in our previous two games (against High Point), we lost it,” Dabrowski said. “They scored at least five in that second one, three in the first one, so we had to show them that we’re not out of it.”

In the end, despite the tense moments, NLV was able to hang on in the final minutes to secure the victory as Ryan Salerno (25 saves) was able to come up with some big saves.

Once again, it will look to turn the tables on a team that it struggled against in the regular season- this time, with a trophy on the line. It lost to Montville by scores of 5-0 and 5-2 on Jan. 9 and 21, respectively.

Either way, it’s a major opportunity for this program to earn a Cup title for the first time since it upset Vernon for the Haas Cup in 2017. It reached the Charette Cup title game in 2021, when it lost a heart-breaker, 4-3 to Bernards-Somerville-Middlesex.

“Big, big excitement, the first time we’re back in two years after losing to Bernards my freshman year, and our seniors’ sophomore year,” Dabrowski said. “Today was the day that it could’ve been our seniors’ last game, and we didn’t want that to happen. Now we get to play again and hopefully get them a championship.”

Sevean added, “It feels real good to be back, and it feels good to have another successful season. Even if god forbid we lose, we made it to the finals again which was nice, considering how our season was going. I was not confident that we were going to be anywhere near where we are right now. This was huge. It’d be nice to have another Cup win, the last one was in 2017…so we’ll see what happens on Monday.”

First period
HPWVK — Alexander Mizak (Joshua Custode, Michael Sadowski) PPG 0:34
Second period
NLV — Brayden Dabrowski SHG 12:39
HPWVK — Anthony Tokar (Alex Sonvico) 9:53
NLV — Justin Zappe (Maksym Pastukh) 2:28
Third period
NLV — Martin Murphy 14:17
NLV — Brayden Dabrowski 7:10
NLV — Maksym Pastukh (Brayden Dabrowski) PPG 6:04
HPWVK — Anthony Tokar (Joshua Custode) 5:44
HPWVK — Michael Sadowski (Jake Henningsen) 3:03

Shots on goal: High Point-Wallkill Valley-Kittatinny 29, Newton-Lenape Valley 26

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