By Mike Gurnis
It didn’t take long for Delbarton’s top line to make its presence known in Thursday’s Gordon Cup final.
The trio of Trip Pendy, Duncan Stewart, and Nick Faccone have been dynamic together all season as Delbarton’s top three scorers.
It knew going into a game of this magnitude against a Christian Brothers team with a lot of firepower, that getting out to a quick start and making CBA chase the game early was key.
Twenty-nine seconds in, the trio combined for a goal which was finished off by Pendy. Then, 3:13 later, it was Duncan Stewart who extended the lead to two.
Despite a competitive, back-and-forth game the rest of the way, top-seeded Delbarton never looked back the rest of the way in a 4-2 win over second-seeded Christian Brothers in the 65th Gordon Cup final at Codey Arena in West Orange.
“We knew we had to have a hot start there, so we did exactly what we wanted and we came out strong,” Pendy said. “That’s what we needed for that game, for sure.”
He added, “I think we move the puck really well. Obviously, some of the three best players in the state, so it’s pretty hard to stop when we’re going and playing well. I just think it’s a huge help to have Duncan and Nick on my line, for sure.”
The trio was on the ice for three of Delbarton’s four goals in the contest. CBA got back into the game on goals from Sean Guinnessey and Christian Chouha in the second period, but Delbarton took a 3-2 lead into the third with freshman Liam Donnelly’s goal being the difference-maker.
After Delbarton had killed off a penalty late, it was once again the top line that struck, as Pendy finished off a feed from Stewart to get a key insurance goal with 3:24 left.
“They have great chemistry together,” Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel said. “They’ve been playing together since we started this year. It worked from the beginning and it’s still working. You have three highly skilled players, three seniors who are really competitive, and they look for each other. Fortunately, I think they might have been in the difference in the game tonight.”
It also got a strong performance in net from Jason Cai, who stopped 24 of 26 shots in this one. Delbarton was out-shot, 26-23 for the game, and 17-12 over the final two periods, but Cai came up strong by keeping the door shut in a tight third period.
He’s part of an 11-player senior class that lost in a shootout to Don Bosco in last year’s Gordon Cup semifinals, before losing in last year’s Non-Public final to CBA.
“I just think it’s the buy-in,” Cai said. “Everyone, especially since we have 10 seniors, everyone experienced what we experienced last year, and it was definitely painful. Everyone kind of gets it this year, and they want to win it.”
The win snapped Delbarton’s five-year Gordon Cup title drought, with its last one coming in 2018. It’s the program’s ninth Gordon Cup title since joining the conference in 2004-05, and this five-year stretch was its longest stretch without a cup title- between the Mennen and Gordon Cup- since the early 1980’s.
Shatel could not even recall how long it had been.
“I don’t remember, and it’s been too long,” Shatel said. “This is a special group. A ton of seniors have bought in, and they do the little things. We played a really good team tonight, a team that’s extremely explosive. But we payed attention to detail and were willing to block shots, and keep some of their big guns in check as much as possible. They rebounded nicely and made it 3-2, fortunately we were able to get one late there to give us some breathing room.”
While the Gordon Cup has been secured, Delbarton will turn its attention towards the Non-Public state tournament, which gets underway next week. It is the top seed, and CBA is the second seed, which means a fourth meeting between the squads is very much on the table.
So far, Delbarton has gone 2-0-1 against CBA this season, with the lone blemish being a 4-4 tie just a few weeks ago.
“They’re a great team. To beat a team twice and tie them once is extremely hard. They probably know a lot of our plays by now, so that’s not good,” Pendy said with a laugh. “Hopefully we’ll see them again in states, and I’m sure it’s going to be another great game.”
DEL — Trip Pendy (Nick Faccone, Duncan Stewart) 14:31
DEL — Duncan Stewart (Trip Pendy, Nick Faccone) 10:18
CBA — Sean Guinnessey (Christian Chouha) 14:10
DEL — Liam Donnelly (Max Pendy, Dante Rodriguez) 13:38
CBA — Christian Chouha (Leighton Biesiadecki, Michael Gravina) 10:59 PPG
DEL — Trip Pendy (Timmy Galvin, Michael Padula) 3:24 PPG
Shots on goal: CBA 26, Delbarton 23
E-mail Mike Gurnis at email@example.com
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