Just three teams remain from Morris County on the Road to the Rock.
Chatham, Delbarton, and the Morristown-Beard girls are the last three remaining teams from Morris County that are still alive in their respective brackets heading into Wednesday and Thursday’s semifinals. A win for any of these teams mean they’ll get to play in Monday’s state finals at Prudential Center.
Below is a look at all three games involving Morris County teams in the next two days.
Public B: 4-Chatham vs. 1-Northern Highlands, Wednesday, 4:30 p.m. at Codey Arena
After a dramatic late goal from Isaac Suh in Monday’s quarterfinals against Summit, Chatham finds itself in the state semifinals for the first time since 2019. Coincidentally, it earned its last state finals appearance that year with an overtime win over Northern Highlands.
The two squads- albeit much different-looking than the ones which met in the semifinals four years ago- are set to meet again on Wednesday.
Chatham, this year’s Mennen Cup champions, has shown a flair for the dramatic in postseason play thus far. It defeated Morris Knolls-Hills in the Mennen Cup semifinals on a late goal from Ronan Curry, before winning the Cup against Randolph on a goal in overtime from Matt Nacinovich. After a 7-0 win over West Morris to open the state tournament, it needed dramatics again, this time with Suh scoring the game-winner with 12 seconds left to top Summit, 3-2.
The Cougars are also playing at full strength for the first time since the early weeks of the season with the late-season returns of Doyle Curry and Isaac Suh from injuries. It has gone 4-0 since Suh’s return to the lineup in the Mennen Cup semifinals. There was an altercation at the end of the Summit game which led to a Summit player receiving a DQ, but there were none given to Chatham, so it should have its full lineup on hand once again on Wednesday.
However, they’re running into a Northern Highlands team that has done nothing but win for the past two seasons. It won the Public B title last winter, and finds itself just two wins away from repeating. It has gone an impressive 21-1-1 this year, with its only loss coming to Bergen Catholic in the Bergen County Tournament semifinals. It has played a tough schedule, facing the likes of Middletown North, Seton Hall Prep, Suffern (N.Y.), Rumson-Fair Haven, and Ramapo- and it has come away with wins in all of those games.
Like Chatham, it has shown a propensity to thrive in the clutch as of late. It needed a pair of late goals from Will Brown and J.T. Gandara to defeat Ramapo, 4-3 in the Big North Gold Cup final, before Brent Beswick had a four-goal performance- including a natural hat trick in the third period to break a 2-2 tie- to defeat Rumson-Fair Haven in its Public B quarterfinal match-up.
Simply put, there isn’t a thing that Northern Highlands doesn’t do well. It has more than enough offense led by Beswick (27 g., 31 a.), Vincenzo Capano (22 g., 26 a.), and Will Brown (22 g., 19 a.). It plays strong defense headlined by blueliners Peirson DeBruyn (2 g., 6 a.), Daniel Kulbanskiy (11 a.), and Constantine Manos (7 g., 8 a.). To top it off, it has one of- if not the best- goalies in the state in Daniel Moor, who has posted an otherworldly .947 save percentage this year.
The pressure will be on Chatham’s defense, led by Nikita Konevych, Ryan Burke, and Doyle Curry, as well as goalie Nate May- to keep Northern Highlands off the board and get pucks out quickly so it can put as much pressure on Moor as possible.
Non-Public: 1-Delbarton vs. 4-Gloucester Catholic, Thursday, 4:30 p.m. at Mennen Arena
Delbarton is back in the semifinals once again, with hopes of getting to the state final for the second-straight year.
It downed St. John Vianney, 5-1 in the quarterfinals. It will face a Gloucester Catholic team for the fourth time this season and will be in search of its fourth win against them. It won, 6-5 back on Dec. 27, before picking up a 3-1 win on Jan. 2. Then, in the Gordon Cup semifinals, it won convincingly by a score of 7-0.
Delbarton is here largely due to the play of its top line of Trip Pendy, Nick Faccone, and Duncan Stewart. The last time these teams met, Pendy had two goals and two assists, Stewart had a goal and two assists, while Faccone had two assists.
Gloucester Catholic has been a team that has been up-and-down all year, but is trending upward with a 5-2 record in its last seven games. It defeated St. Joseph (Met.) 7-2 in the first round, before taking down Princeton Day, 8-4 in the quarterfinals.
It is led offensively by Billy Sheridan (15 g., 15 a.), T.J. Pisano (12 g., 16 a.), and Casey Johnson (11 g., 11 a.). Two-way defenseman Mike Hoffner (14 g., 15 a.) leads the blue line, while goalie Billy Stuski has posted a .908 save percentage this year.
When Gloucester Catholic is successful, it’s because its offense is leading the way. In three of its four postseason games between the Gordon Cup and Non-Public tournament, it has scored at least seven goals. The one time it didn’t? It was this Delbarton team which shut it down in a 7-0 victory. So, if Delbarton can shut down Gloucester Catholic’s offense, it will be in good shape to make its second-straight Non-Public title game appearance.
Girls: 1-Morristown-Beard vs. 4-Princeton Day, Thursday, 4:30 p.m. at Twin Oaks Ice Rink
The Morristown-Beard girls have their sights set on a third-straight state title and remaining the only state champion in the short history of the girls state tournament.
In order to get back to Prudential Center, it will have the challenge of beating Princeton Day for a fourth time this year. It has wins of 2-1 (Jan. 23), 3-1 (Jan. 30), and 3-0 in the Librera Cup semifinals on Feb. 13.
Morristown-Beard got a bit of a scare in the quarterfinals, when it defeated eighth-seeded Trinity Hall 2-1. But like it often does, much like in the Librera Cup final, Morristown-Beard found a way to win.
Goalie Gracie Meyers has been more than solid for the Crimson in postseason play, posting a .953 save percentage and giving up just three goals in three games between the Librera Cup and state tournament. She’s also held Princeton Day down in the three meetings, giving up just two goals and posting a .971 save percentage. With as much firepower as Morristown-Beard has between Lilli Warnock, Jessica Sperling, Kailin Kane, and Julie Jasaitis, Meyers has been just as important this season and has shined when the games have been the biggest.
Princeton Day, which made the finals last year, is here after a dramatic 1-0 overtime win over Summit in the quarterfinals on a goal from Lily Ryan. It has struggled to score this season, averaging 2.46 goals per game, but its defense and goaltending, led by junior Brigid Milligan (.925 save percentage) gives it a chance to win almost every night. The key for Morristown-Beard will be to spend as much time in the offensive zone as it can and to play as strong defensively as it did in the first three meetings.
E-mail Mike Gurnis at email@example.com
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