Delbarton rallies past Gloucester Catholic in 3rd, returns to Non-Public final

By Mike Gurnis

Through two periods, Delbarton threw seemingly anything and everything towards Gloucester Catholic goalie Billy Stuski.

But it found itself trailing after surrendering three straight goals between the end of the first and the start of the second period. The state’s No. 1 team found itself in unfamiliar territory, and was suddenly playing for its playoff lives against a goaltender that seemingly had its number.

The response came quick for Delbarton, though. Michael Padula finished off a feed from Trip Pendy to tie it, before Jack Gerne gave the Green Wave the lead just seconds later. It was all top-seeded Delbarton the rest of the way, as it scored five unanswered in the third to take down fourth-seeded Gloucester Catholic, 7-3 in the Non-Public semifinals at Mennen Arena.

“I thought we were playing fine,” Gerne said. “In the locker room we were saying to keep playing our game and we’re going to find a way. We’ve been a resilient team all year. We just tried to keep playing our game and we knew that we would come out with the win.”

Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel added, “You’re going into the third period down a goal…3-2 in an elimination game, the biggest thing is keeping your composure and believing in one another. Gloucester Catholic is a very good team with good goaltending. Very explosive, they can hang a bunch of goals on you in a hurry. But I think we have a little bit of that ourselves. Our guys made plays in the third period. Once we evened it, I felt like the morale was much better than it was between periods.”

It all came after a wild opening period, which saw Delbarton jump out to a 2-0 lead behind a goal 30 seconds in from Trip Pendy, before Duncan Stewart added another. Gloucester Catholic answered right back, when Mike Hoffner and T.J. Pisano scored before the end of the opening frame to tie it up. Then, Billy Sheridan gave the Rams the lead 28 seconds into the second.

“I thought in the first two thirds of the game, we were playing to a style that was conducive to (Gloucester Catholic),” Shatel said. “They’re a very explosive team that likes to run-and-gun. We were trying to match that with them. We have to play with more structure. I thought in the third period we were better in our shapes. We played a little bit heavier than we did in the first two periods. As a result, I think it paid off.”

After it took the lead, Gerne sprung Max Pendy for a breakaway which he finished off to make it 5-3. Pendy added an empty-netter with 2:20 to go, before Duncan Stewart added another in the final minute.

The focus this season has been on Delbarton’s top line of Duncan Stewart, Trip Pendy, and Nick Faccone, as perhaps the most dynamic top line in New Jersey. But this game showed that it isn’t just about the top line for the Green Wave, with players like Padula, Max Pendy, Gerne all coming up with big goals in the third period.

“Of course we rely on that line every game,” Gerne said. “When we have depth like this, you feel confident that any line will put one in at any time. I think that’s just huge for our confidence and that’s been huge for us this year.”

Delbarton will aim for its 14th state title on Monday, when it plays in the Non-Public final for the second-straight year. It will take on the winner of Thursday night’s semifinal between seventh-seeded St. Augustine and third-seeded Don Bosco. The final is slated for 8 p.m. at Prudential Center in Newark.

It comes just weeks after the Green Wave snapped a five-year Gordon Cup title drought, which is an eternity by its standards. It will look to snap the same-length drought for a state title, after losing to Christian Brothers, 3-0 in last year’s final.

“Anybody who follows this closely understands how difficult it is to win the Gordon Cup,” Shatel said. “On top of it, to come back two weeks later and almost repeat that tournament with a couple of other teams sprinkled in, it’s a challenge. We have a great senior class that understands the tradition here. They’ve bought in, and fortunately we’ve been successful.”

Max Pendy added, “We’re super pumped. Most of this team is seniors, so this could be their last game and biggest game of their lives. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got and hopefully win.”

E-mail Mike Gurnis at

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