Back-to-Back! Morris Knolls Edges Montclair in Overtime, 3-2, in NJSIAA Public A Final

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NEWARK, NJ — They say winning never gets old, and if you ask any one of the young men on the Morris Knolls hockey team – they’ll say the same thing.

Jason Kwestel tipped in a shot flung toward the goal by Dylan Idland to send Morris Knolls to their second straight NJSIAA/New Jersey Devils Public A championship with a 3-2 triumph in over Montclair in sudden-death fashion Monday evening at Prudential Center in Newark.

Kwestlel scored twice for the Golden Eagles and Jake Quinn hit late in the third period to account for the Morris Knolls scoring.

(Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

“I thought (Idland) was going to hit me for a one-timer out of the corner, but he kept going out into the slot,” Kwestel said. “I just put my stick out and got a little piece of it and it went in.”

The celebration is nothing new to Morris Knolls, but even they admit the feeling of winning the championship game in an overtime session feels so much sweeter. It’s a moment every high school athlete dreams about.

“There’s a big difference between winning one in overtime compared to 6-1,” Morris Knolls head coach Tim Kepler said. “I told the guys that were here last year; I’m not taking away from that, but this beats having a few goal cushion in the final minutes.”

“This feels great; I don’t know how else to say it,” Elliot Marken said. “It feels amazing.”

(Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

Montclair was rewarded with a glistening chance to capture their first state title since 1995, when they defeated Chatham 3-2 in overtime to capture their third state championship in program history.

With 1:41 separating the teams from going an extra period, Morris Knolls took a boarding penalty that gave the Mounties a five-minute advantage that would stem the third period.

Montclair connected twice earlier in the game on the man-advantage, but Morris Knolls did not deter from their game plan in what would be marked up as their biggest penalty-kill of the season.

“I wasn’t happy that it was a five-minute major, but those guys have a hard job out there,” Kepler said. “We knew once we got into the overtime period that we were going to kill it off.”

Despite the struggles earlier on the penalty-kill, the Golden Eagles confidence failed to waiver, limiting the Mounties to only two shots with the extra skater.

“We wanted to get back into our rhythm and we were very confident that we would,” Kepler added.

(Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

Montclair came out firing in the first period, controlling the puck and limiting Morris Knolls to only three shots; all of which came during the final three minutes of the period.

Morris Knolls was holding out for a hero while they found their footing. That hero was freshman goaltender Elliot Marken, who made 26 saves Monday night.

“He came up with some really big saves and controlled his rebounds,” Kepler said of the freshman goaltender. “He kept us in their while we got through our slow first period.”

Related: Morris Knolls Skates Past Jackson Liberty, 8-1, in State Semis

(Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

Related: Golden Eagles! Morris Knolls Captures 2019 State Title

Marken came into the state championship game with a .925 save percentage during his rookie season, stopping 56-of-58 shots he saw over the Golden Eagles first three games of the tournament.

The bright lights and NHL ice was not enough to faze the freshman.

“It’s really nerve-wracking, but I have to give all the thanks to the team,” Marken said. “They have supported me and said that I could do it. Looks like they were right.”

Related: 2020 High School State Semifinalists Welcomed to The Rock

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

Related: Two Goals in 59 Seconds Spark Montclair Past West Essex

With the early pressure being sustained by the Mounties, it was only a matter of time before they cracked the scoreboard.

On their third power play of the night, they were finally able to hit. George Osterberg skated into the slot where he was waiting to stash home a perfect pass from across the crease from Brett Janifer. Benji Peiffer was given the secondary assist on the goal.

The lead did not last very long, as Morris Knolls would only trail for 19 seconds the entire night. Kwestel skated down the left wing and sniped a shot past Mounties netminder Lucas Podvey.

Podvey held his own in net, making 28 saves in Montclair’s first trip to the finals in 22 years. He made a save on a penalty shot with six seconds remaining in the middle period to keep the score even heading into the intermission.

Related: Fly Eagles Fly! Morris Knolls Bounce Back vs. Morristown-Beard

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

The third period was more physical and desperate, with both teams coming inches away from having their season come to an end. The game remained deadlocked at 1-1 until the final six-plus minutes.

Jake Quinn hit with 6:09 on the clock when he snuck into the low slot and hammered home a pass thrown out of the corner from Jeffrey Quinn.

Brett Janifer hit two minutes later, picking up his second point of the night, and most importantly, drawing the Mounties even on the scoreboard.

Related: 2020 NJSIAA Ice Hockey Tournament Schedule, Seeds and History

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

The remainder of the contest would play out until it was time for Kwestel’s heroics.

“He steps up. That’s what he does,” Kepler said of Kwestel. “He’s been doing it since he was a little kid. He’s a gamer that makes everybody else around him better.”

These kids have been together for months, and to have their efforts be rewarded is a picture-perfect way to end the season.

“We have a strong group of guys here that have been sacrificing themselves for a long time,” Kepler added. “They are really close and they earned this.”
“I’m so proud of their perseverance. This team hasn’t quit since I’ve known these kids.”

Related: Mark Janifer Takes Command After Verney Retires from Montclair

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

The loss will sting for Montclair – coming within a goal of ending their 25 year title drought, but head coach Mark Janifer is proud of the efforts and accomplishments of this group.

“They were such a close-knit group right from the beginning of the season,” he said. “I’d say the coaching staff had really high expectations, but the kids had even higher expectations for themselves.

“We came close. We didn’t quite get there, but we lost to a really good team and they should be more than proud of themselves.”

Something lost in the excitement of the championship games is how many kids are playing their final high school games.

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

“I feel really bad for our seniors,” Janifer said. “For what they have done for this program and to come so close; my heart really breaks for them, but they should be proud of what they’ve done.”

Montclair will hang their heads for some time, but when they look back a time from now, they’ll have fond memories of the pride they brought to the Mounties.

Morris Knolls will add another piece of hardware to the trophy case. The Golden Eagles are Golden once again.

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

Related: 2019-20 HockeyClan Video Catalog


1-0 Montclair George Osterberg (Brett Janifer, Adam Peiffer) 3:20-2nd PPG

1-1 Morris Knolls Jason Kwestel (Andrew Ryan) 3:01-2nd

2-1 Morris Knolls Jake Quinn (Jeff Quinn) 6:09-3rd

2-2 Montclair Brett Janifer (Kellum Foster-Palmer) 4:08-3rd

3-2 Morris Knolls Jason Kwesterl (Dylan Idland, James Betz) 11:26-OT

Shots: 28-28. Elliot Marken, Morris Knolls, 26 saves; Lucas Podvey, Montclair, 25 saves



Written by Casey Krish  @CaseyKrish 

Special to HockeyClan


Photos by Mark Carosiello   @SnapthePicture6


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