MORRIS TOWNSHIP – They’re the gold standard of high school hockey in the state of New Jersey, and on Monday night at Mennen Arena, the Green Wave of Delbarton hoisted the gold once again with a 2-1 victory over Don Bosco Prep in the NJSIAA/New Jersey Devils Non-Public Finals.
Tyler Nielsen gave Don Bosco Prep a 1-0 lead but James Falivene erased it before Mark Benemerito won it as Delbarton laid claim to an unprecedented 12th state title.
“It’s just an incredible feeling to go out my senior year as a champion,” Delbarton senior goaltender Troy Kobryn said. “They’re a great team, but we showed tonight that we’re better.”
Kobryn was stellar in his final start in the green and white, steering away 20 of the 21 shots faced, including all seven shots by third-seeded Don Bosco (20-7-1) in the third period, to close out the championship for top-seeded Delbarton (27-1-2).
“This is an unbelievable win, especially with all the fans and alumni here to support us,” Kobryn, who backstopped his Morristown school to back-top-back state titles, said. “It was a nerve-racking final period, but as the goaltender you just have to stay focused, focus on stopping the first shot and rely on the guys to help you out with the second shot.”
It may have concluded with a trophy, but this title game certainly didn’t start in favor of the Green Wave as the Ironmen took an early lead when a pair of Delbarton chances were blockered away by Don Bosco Prep goalie Alexei Masenko sending play the other way where John Campomenosi stickhandled into the offensive zone and left a loose puck in the slot for Tyler Nielsen to snap his 12th of the season to the back of the net just 1:38 gone into the game.
“Maybe it was little bit of shock when they scored the first goal, it definitely got a little quiet on the bench after that goal, but there was never any panic,” Delbarton sophomore James Falivene said. “We’ve been in that place before, in the last game that we played Bosco, and knew to just keep to our game plan.”
Falivene provided the Green Wave a big lift early in the second period when the winger accepted a pass from the opposite boards and through center ice by Patrick Harrington before rifling a wrist shot from the left circle that ricocheted off Masanko’s glove and to the back of the twine to knot the contest at 1-1 at the 2:39 mark.
“To get that one and get even — it really meant the world,” Falivene said of his seventh of the year. “We got a ton of energy back at that point. It came down today to who had the most attitude — and we did.”
The score remained tied for the next 10 minutes, but a bouncing puck over the stick of a Don Bosco defenseman provided a breakaway opportunity for Mark Benemerito and Delbarton’s leading goal scorer didn’t miss, beating Masanko (17 saves) on forehand-backhand move before tucking in his 23rd of the season top shelf with 1:34 remaining in the middle frame.
“The puck hopped over his stick, I saw the open ice and took off,” Benemerito said of what would go down in the books as the game-winning goal.
“It feel great to lift this team to a big win,” Benemerito continued. “A lot of hard work this season went into this. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Not tonight and not to get to this point. We had to grind all year to get here. We grinded it out tonight and you see the result.”
This marked Don Bosoco Prep’s third state-finals appearance. Head coach Greg Toskos took his Ramsey school to the brink as a player in 1994 before bringing it back to the finals from behind the bench in 2013. In this, his 10th season at the helm, Toskos took Don Bosco Prep to the brink one again.
“We got here, we haven’t been here in four years, so that’s an accomplishment in itself,” Toskos said. “The first time we were here CBA kicked our ass. A few years ago at Prudential Center, Delbarton beat us. I wouldn’t say they kicked our ass, but they beat us. Tonight we out-shot them, we had our chances, they just got the break. Obviously inching closer doesn’t get you the win, but it sure feels like that.”