The season started with over 120 teams between the boys and girls sides of ice hockey in New Jersey back on Dec. 8.
It’s down to 10 teams going into Monday’s NJSIAA state championships at Prudential Center.
There will be five state champions crowned throughout the day Monday. Public A, B, and C, along with Non-Public, and Girls will all have champions of each bracket come Monday night.
Three of those games will involve teams from Morris County. The Morristown-Beard girls will look to remain the only Girls state champion as it goes for a three-peat, while Chatham (Public B) and Delbarton (Non-Public) will each look for titles.
Below is a preview of each game.
Girls: 1-Morristown-Beard vs. 2-Pingry, 1:15 p.m.
This is a rematch of the Librera Cup final just a couple of weeks ago, in which Morristown-Beard edged Pingry, 3-2, on a late goal from Kailin Kane in the third period.
It will also be the fourth meeting between these two sides this year, with Morristown-Beard taking all three thus far. It won by scores of 4-1 and 5-2 in December/early January during the regular season, but Pingry has taken its game to another level since then and will make a fourth win in a row for Morristown-Beard a very tall task.
Pingry started the year 1-3, with two of those losses coming to the Crimson, and then went 12-1 the rest of the way, with that one loss being to Morristown-Beard in the Librera Cup final. It’s the Big Blue’s first title game appearance in the three-year history of this tournament. Its a team with some solid scorers in Alexis Glasofer (14 g., 9 a.), Charlotte Diemar (18 g., 3 a.), and Charlie Bush (7 g., 10 a.), and has a solid goalie in junior Kate Niccolai (.904 sv%). In fact, its defense is probably the most impressive part of its game, as it has allowed just 15 goals in 13 games since the 1-3 start.
Pingry will need to play air-tight defense to slow down Morristown-Beard’s Lilli Warnock (26 g., 18 a.), Jessica Sperling (26 g., 14 a.), and Kailin Kane (19 g., 11 a.), and will want to hold the Crimson to three or less goals to have a chance to win. Slowing them down will be tough, and its proven to be just as tough to break down Morristown-Beard’s defense, backboned by perhaps the top goalie in New Jersey in Gracie Meyers (.915 sv%).
This game will more than likely come down to the wire like it did in the Librera Cup final. The question we will find out is, will Morristown-Beard be victorious for a fourth time over Pingry, or will Pingry break through to win its first state title?
Public B: 4-Chatham vs. 2-Middletown North, 3:30 p.m.
After Chatham found out it would be without its top scorer in Nikita Konevych due to a supsension going into its semifinal match-up with Northern Highlands, not many people would have given the Cougars a shot against what was- at the time- the consensus top public school team in the state.
But this is a Chatham team that has played- and won- games without its full lineup regularly this year, with players such as Doyle Curry and Isaac Suh missing significant time in season. It was next-man-up, and Chatham ended up coming away with an impressive 4-1 win over the Highlanders to reach the state final for the first time since 2019.
Now, Chatham has its sights set on its third state title and first since 2013. Even more, it will look to become the first team to win both the Mennen Cup and a state title in the same year since Morristown-Beard did it in 2014, when it was co-champs with CBA in Non-Public. The last team to win both outright was Randolph in 2007.
The Cougars are expected to be without Konevych again on Monday, but its depth has been key all year. Matt Nacinovich, for one, is a player who showed up big time against Northern Highlands, potting two goals and an assist, including setting up a shorthanded 5-on-3 goal. It hasn’t lost since Isaac Suh made his return to the lineup in the Mennen Cup, and its defense- led by Doyle Curry, Ryan Burke, and Evan Thomas- has plenty of depth. Goalie Nate May has also been solid in the state tournament, stopping 63 of 66 shots for a .954 save percentage.
Middletown North, though, is a team that has had its sights set on getting back to Prudential Center and finishing the job after losing to Northern Highlands in last year’s final. It is looking to capture its second state title and first since 2015.
They’re coming off a dramatic win over Ramapo in the semifinals, in which goalie Luke Chrzan (.925 sv%) stopped 37 of 38 shots in a 2-1 win. Jack Turner buried the game-winner on an end-to-end rush late in the third. Chrzan has been a huge part of Middletown North’s back-to-back state finals appearances, but this is also a team that can get contributions from just about anyone offensively. Andrew Gross (15 g., 21 a.), Jimmy Mullarney (17 g., 12 a.), and Ryan Cook (14 g., 19 a.), all lead the way for a team that has nine players with over 10 points this season.
The teams met once earlier this season, when they skated to a 4-4 tie back on Jan. 12 in a back-and-forth game. With the way both teams are playing right now, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see a similar, evenly-played game.
Non-Public: 1-Delbarton vs. 7-St. Augustine, 8 p.m.
Delbarton is one win away from snapping a five-year state title drought, but this year’s Cinderella team is standing in its way.
St. Augustine is the lowest-seeded team to ever reach a Non-Public final in the 27-year history of the bracket, and has done so in impressive fashion as it took down second-seeded (and two-time defending champions) CBA in the quarterfinals, before defeating third-seeded Don Bosco Prep in overtime in the semifinals. The Non-Public championship has included at least one of those teams every year since 2011, and the Hermits managed to take both of them down.
However, the Hermits’ run isn’t overly surprising given its results from the regular season. It went 7-0-1 against Gordon-National Division competition, and was competitive with the likes of Delbarton (4-1) CBA (6-3 and 2-0) and Gloucester Catholic (2-1) in its four in-state losses this year. Junior goalie Bobby Kennedy is on a scorching run right now, having allowed just one goal in the state tournament and owns a .955 save percentage this year. While it doesn’t have any players with eye-popping offensive numbers like Delbarton has, it plays a very strong defensive game in front of its goalie and has proven it can slow anyone down.
Jack Fidicaro and Nick Faccone each scored twice in Delbarton’s 4-1 win on Jan. 17, and while it is worth noting that Kennedy was not in goal for that game, it shows the type of firepower Delbarton has. Its top line of Trip Pendy, Nick Faccone, and Duncan Stewart includes three players which all have over 40 points to their respective names this season. It has depth too, with five others with at least 10 points, and that was on display when the Green Wave scored five-unanswered in the third period to beat Gloucester Catholic, 7-3, in the semifinals. It can flip the switch and turn a game around on a dime, which is exactly what it did in that game. Throw in perhaps the best goalie in New Jersey in Jason Cai (.933 sv%), and Delbarton is a very, very difficult team to beat. It has not lost to a single NJSIAA opponent this season.
Delbarton will look to win its 14th state title with a win in this game. Since its third state title in 2002, it has won 10 since then, with its longest drought previously being three years from 2003-05, so it is mired in a five-year title drought.
E-mail Mike Gurnis at email@example.com
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