By Mike Gurnis
With a trophy on the line, you need your best players to shine.
Montville’s Matt Trifari did more than that in Monday’s Charette Cup final.
The junior continued his remarkable season by netting five goals to lift top-seeded Montville to an 8-3 win over Newton-Lenape Valley in the Charette Cup final at Mennen Arena.
That performance now brings Trifari’s total to a remarkable 30 goals for the season after netting 13 last season during a two-win season for Montville. His breakout has been key for Montville as it went a perfect 10-0 in Charette play between the regular season and playoffs.
“Hard work. We always knew Trifari could score goals,” Montville coach Anthony Iannone said of Trifari’s improvement. “What Trifari couldn’t do for us last year was give us a little bit of grit and a little bit of a back check. He bought into that for us this year. I was on his club coach all year to make sure he was back checking. For us, he rounded his game off.
“Welcome to the Trif show. Any coach in the state would love to have Matt Trifari on their team. I don’t take him for granted. I put a lot of pressure on that kid. Every accolade he’s going to get he absolutely deserves.”
Early on, it was unclear if the “Trif show” was going to take place, as Newton-Lenape Valley jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the opening seven minutes of the game on goals from Aidan Urbano and Anthony Piccirillo. Trifari got his team on the board late in the period, before Nicolas Ponikowski and Aidan Engle scored to give Montville a 3-2 lead going into the second.
“We knew we came out a little weaker than we wanted to,” Engle said. “After that, we put the jets on and we started playing the game we should have from the start, playing more aggressively, making the passes, not playing selfishly and just not giving them any breathing room.”
Brayden Dabrowski scored early in the second to tie it back up for NLV, but that’s when Trifari went to work.
The junior put together a natural hat-trick- and then some. He scored three in the third period to help Montville pull away, before adding a fourth in a row early in the third.
“We were kind of in the moment,” Trifari said. “We were coming out slow and coach had enough. He said ‘let’s turn the jets on and keep going. No quit because this is it.’
He added, “On one goal I shot it, the goalie made the save but it flipped over his glove and trickled in. One was kind of a freebie there. The other ones, Marco (Van De Graaf) had a phenomenal pass and another time (Joe) Laino kept the puck in at the blue line and then Engle had a beautiful pass to me and I was wide open there.”
It marked Montville’s first Cup title since it won the Haas Cup in 2018. It’s been a long time coming for the program and its seniors, who experienced a two-win season in 2021 during the COVID-shortened season. Then, in Iannone’s first year as coach last winter, it went through a bit of a transition, and it was another two win season.
“Our freshman year we almost had a run, we lost in playoffs and that really hurt,” Engle said. “After two tough seasons, this really means a lot to us going undefeated in our division. It’s just something great for us especially us seniors who had to go through all of it, all the losses. It really means a lot that it led up to this.
“Last year we got Anthony (Iannone) as a new coach. That’s a transition and we lost a lot of talent. We had to figure out how to play as a team again. It was a learning curve. This year, we really got into it, got into Anthony’s plays and really made a season out of it.”
NLV — Aidan Urbano (Anthony Piccirillo) PPG 12:16
NLV — Anthony Piccirillo (Maksym Pastukh, Brayden Dabrowski) 8:58
MON — Matt Trifari (Connor Howard) 4:08
MON — Nicolas Ponikowski (Marco Van De Graaf) 2:48
MON — Aidan Engle 1:45
NLV — Brayden Dabrowski 13:46
MON — Matt Trifari (Aidan Engle) 10:19
MON — Matt Trifari (Aidan Engle, Joe Laino) 8:01 PPG
MON — Matt Trifari 1:15
MON — Matt Trifari (Aidan Engle) 10:30
MON — Aidan Stepien 7:08 PPG
Shots on goal: Montville 33, Newton-Lenape Valley 21