48TH MENNEN CUP FINAL
1-Randolph (13-2-4) vs. 2-Chatham (12-3-5)
Wednesday, 5:45 p.m. at Mennen Arena
Previous meetings: Randolph earned a 3-1 win over Chatham on Jan. 7, before Chatham rallied from a three-goal deficit to secure a 4-4 tie on Jan. 18.
— Randolph has won five Mennen Cup titles in its history, with the last coming in 2018. It is in the final for the first time since 2020, when it lost to Morristown-Beard.
— Chatham has won five Mennen Cup titles, but has not won one in 42 years- the last one came in 1981 (Chatham Township). It is in the championship game for the first time since 2015.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jase Zangara (16 g., 18 a.), Zach Gallo (16 g., 15 a.), Jack Rueff (9 g., 7 a.), Daniel Sharkey (8 g., 7 a.), Andrew George (7 g., 8 a.), Ashton Feinberg (1 g., 13 a.), Ryan Potanovich (12 a.)
Goalie: Connor Thomas (13-2-4, .911 sv%)
Nikita Konevych (22 g., 9 a.), Ronan Curry (14 g., 16 a.), Matt Nacinovich (12 g., 19 a.), Doyle Curry (9 g., 10 a.), Ryan Burke (6 g., 17 a.), Isaac Suh (3 g., 3 a.), Luc D’Costa (3 g., 11 a.)
Goalie: Nate May (.862 sv%)
HOW THEY GOT HERE
After a COVID-shortened six-game season in 2021 followed by an up-and-down rebuilding year in 2022, Randolph has re-emerged as one of the premier public school teams in the state and has seemingly returned to its old self.
Led by a dynamic duo up front in Jase Zangara and Zach Gallo, and a strong defense headlined by defensemen Ashton Feinberg and Ryan Potanovich, along with goalie Connor Thomas, Randolph posted an impressive 6-1-1 Mennen record this season.
It comes into this game riding a four-game winning streak and has lost just one time since the end of December- a 5-0 loss to Morristown-Beard on Feb. 1. But it bounced back from that and picked up a 5-2 win over the Crimson in the semifinals to get to this game. Zangara had two goals and three assists, Jacob Campbell added two goals and an assist, while Thomas stopped 18 shots in that win. Most notably, it won that game without Gallo being available in the lineup.
Chatham is a program that went through injuries and illnesses last winter, and had one of its worst seasons in recent memory with a 5-14-1 record. This year, although it has dealt with some injuries, it has not been to the same extent as last year. It has gone 12-3-5 this year, and like Randolph, has re-established itself among the state’s best.
A big reason for that? Sophomore defenseman Nikita Konevych. He’s the team’s top goal-scorer with 22 goals, and has established himself as perhaps the most dynamic player in the conference. But Chatham has plenty of depth- the Curry brothers, who both missed most of last season, have been largely healthy this year. Matt Nacinovich has had yet another fantastic season after a big freshman year.
It also got a big boost in the team’s semifinal win over Morris Knolls-Hills, when Isaac Suh returned to the lineup after suffering an injury during the first win of the season. Suh scored the game’s opening goal, while Ronan Curry scored two goals- including the game winner late in the third period- to lift Chatham to a dramatic 4-3 win. The Cougars also did not have Konevych or Nacinovich available for that game, making the win that much more impressive.
Picking against a Rich McLaughlin-coached Randolph team in a game of this magnitude is generally not a good idea. Randolph plays to their defensive structure better than anyone in the state, and usually if they get on the board early in the postseason, they’re able to stifle the opposition the rest of the way. It’s a talented group that will be boosted by Gallo’s return after missing its semifinal game.
Chatham, on the other hand, is going to play with their full roster for the first time since the first week of the season. Doyle Curry missed a few weeks- including both match-ups with Randolph- and Isaac Suh had been absent from the lineup since early December.
Both meetings between these teams were extremely competitive and entertaining, which makes picking this one even tougher. There’s plenty of good reason to like either side in this one, it is truly a battle of the heavyweights. But Chatham has been waiting all year to play with their full roster, and since they will have that on Wednesday, look for them to break the program’s 42-year Mennen Cup drought in a close, hard-fought game.
Chatham over Randolph
E-mail Mike Gurnis at email@example.com
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