MORRIS TOWNSHIP — After falling short in the final of the 2016 Halvorsen Cup, Charlie Cleaves and his group of seniors are highly motivated to get the job done this season.
Cleaves scored five goals and set up another while Dave Renzulli got the scoring started and turned in a hat trick as third-seeded Madison defeated sixth-seeded Montville, 10-2, in the first round of the 10th annual Halvorsen Cup at Mennen Arena in Morris Township.
Renzulli broke the ice exactly five minutes into the action to give Madison a 1-0 lead it carried into the first intermission before the sophomore scored again 31 seconds into the second period to set the tone for the Dodgers.
“I think that really gave us a jump,” Renzulli, a transfer from Chatham, said of his second goal of the game. “Jeff Tom took a shot and it deflected off my stick over the goalie. It really gave us momentum in the second period. It was a great feeling and got everyone excited.”
“That goal was huge because right after that we started to gain momentum,” Cleaves said. “Once we got going, they couldn’t stop us so it was definitely big to set the tone right away.”
Madison scored five goals in the second stanza — three from Cleaves — to take a commanding 6-1 lead after two. It went back to work in the third period with Renzulli completing the hat trick 2:34 into the third. Jeff Tom and Kyle Pruzick also scored while Matt Ubertaccio finished with 27 saves in between the pipes.
“It always feels good to put the puck in the net,” Cleaves said. “We’ve had games where we’ve struggled to score so anytime you can put a lot of pucks in the net it’s a good thing for us.”
“We’d played them twice earlier this season and neither was a strong game so I think the guys took them lightly,” Madison coach Dave Hansen said. “1-0 after one I think the guys realized, ‘Wow, this is a game’ before firing on all cylinders and kept it going all game.”
“We came out with a lot of fire in our hearts and played really well in the first,” Montville goaltender Matt Irizarry, who stood tall with 31 saves, said. “We slowed down a little in the second, left the back door open a little bit, but towards the end we got it back together.”
Thomas Nees accounted for both goals for Montville, whose season ends here at 4-17-1. Irizarry is still thankful for his time on the ice.
“I played with a great group of guys,” Irizarry said. “These captains are my best friends. I’m just glad to have been able to play with them.”
Cleaves, Will Scavone and goaltender Kavi Sinha are the last three remaining seniors from the 2016 team that made it to the final of the Halvorsen Cup. After falling 2-1 to Roxbury in last year’s final, the trio is banking on finishing the job this season.
“That’s been our goal since the end of that game last season — to come back and give ourselves another opportunity, another shot,” Cleaves said. “We just have to continue to play with the same mentality.”
Madison (12-9-2) advances to take on second-seeded Sparta-Jefferson in the semifinals slated for next week.
“When you put the puck in the net good things happen and Charlie did a great job tonight with a lot of help from Dave Renzulli,” Hansen added. “This group of seniors are very motivated. Sparta-Jefferson on Wednesday then Roxbury in the finals looking for a little redemption.”
“It’s exciting for everybody. We’re doing it for all the seniors,” Renzulli said. “We know it means a lot to them, more so than us, we just want to keep it going for them.”
“At this point in the season, any game could be your last,” added Cleaves. “You have to treat every game, every shift as your last of the year. We’ll get prepared and come ready to play.”
John Christian Hageny
Lead Writer — Hockey Clan
Buffalo Sabres Team Writer — The Hockey Writers