MORRIS TOWNSHIP — Wave after wave of Delbarton Green enveloped the Colts.
In a classic Gordon Conference showdown, Christian Brothers Academy kept it a one-goal game for one period — almost two — before the second-seeded Green Wave, No. 2 in The Hockey Night in Boston Top 10, broke through with three goals in the third period fashioning a 5-0 victory over the third-seeded Colts in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Non-Public state tournament at Mennen Arena in Morris Township.
Nick Siffringer scored twice and assisted on a third for Delbarton, which also got goals Bayard Hall, Michael Balzarotti and David Gilfillan along with 13 saves from Kenny Burgess in the fourth and final match of the season between the two storied institutions.
With the victory, the 12-time and defending state champion Green Wave, the program by which all others are measured in the Garden State, keeps its hope of a “three-peat” alive.
“We knew they were going to come in and play really hard — they do every time we play each other,” Siffringer said of the Delbarton-CBA rivalry. “They have a really good coach, but we knew if we played hard, stuck to our game plan which was getting pucks deep and making plays when we needed to, we would have a shot at winning the game.”
Hall, a sophomore defenseman, showed no reservations putting Delbarton on the board just 3:20 into the game with assists from Siffringer and Brendan Clark.
“After the initial shot, we cycled in the corner, I saw the opening, took the shot and it went in,” Hall described the first goal of the game, which also proved to be the game-winner. “We’ve worked hard all season. This win feels great. I’m really excited.”
Delbarton (23-6-1) came calling, ringing CBA’s post behind goaltender Jake Brown but were unable to separate itself through nearly two frames before Siffringer’s controversial goal that officially went into the scorebook with four seconds remaining in the second period.
With 16.9 seconds left in the middle frame and the face-off deep in their own zone, Delbarton started out of its zone but the clock did not follow suit as fans screamed at the top of their lungs to start the countdown. Siffringer never stopped skating, however, and proceeded to find the back of the net as the defending champions took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission.
“I knew there wasn’t a ton of time on the clock,” Siffringer said. “As I crossed our blue line I heard someone scream the clock wasn’t moving but I ignored it, picked up the puck in the neutral zone, saw the outside left lane open, saw the chance to make the move to the middle and waited out the goalie on the backhand.”
By the time the puck ended up in the back of the net, the clock read 13.2. On-ice officials noticed the clock malfunction off the draw, however, and began a manual countdown. After a brief discussion, referees and officials converged and ultimately decided to count the goal and put four seconds on the board based on the trailing referees’ account.
“That was huge,” Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel said. “I don’t know how controversial it was but I thought it was a good goal. No one likes to see controversy in a big game like this but that was a big goal. Anytime you score that late in a period and you only have a five-minute intermission… I think it was hard for them to regroup after that.”
After battling so hard for two periods, the goal in the waning moments of the second period was a devastating blow for the Colts. The Monmouth County school tried to regroup but Balzarotti made it 3-0 just over six minutes into the third before Siffringer added his second of the game with 4:38 remaining in regulation. David Gilfillan capped the scoring with nine seconds left.
“We just didn’t bring it tonight,” senior Dean DiFazio said. “This was our fourth game against them and every game has been close. They brought it tonight and we just didn’t have it.
“Everyone thought it was going to be a rebuilding year for us — we only have five seniors — no one thought we were going to make it back to the semifinals,” DiFazio said. “But we got past a tough Seton Hall team in the quarters… I’m proud of this team. It just didn’t up the way we wanted.”
Christian Brothers’ season comes to a close at 17-9-2.
“We overachieved a bit this year with our youth,” CBA coach Ryan Bogan said. “If you saw where we were on January 3rd to where we are now, it says a lot about the character and leadership in our locker room. I know this game didn’t go the way they planned but overall this season was great and the team played with a lot of heart.”
With 10 state titles in the new millennium, including back-to-back championships in 2016-’17, the Green Wave is eyeing the “three-peat” — a feat that has only been done twice, once by Christian Brothers from 1994-’96 before Delbarton won six straight NJSIAA titles from 2008-’13.
Delbarton will take on top-seeded Don Bosco Prep in a rematch of the 2017 State Final on March 5 at “The Rock.”
Shatel was at a loss for words with the prospect of facing the Ironmen for the fourth time this season and the state title on the line. Don Bosco Prep won the first two before Delbarton prevailed in the Gordon Cup, 2-1, on Feb. 16.
“I don’t even know what to say — it’s what everybody wants to see,” Shatel said. “They’re on a mission. We were able to beat ’em a couple of weeks ago and we’re going to give it everything we have again. It’s going to be a great game.”
“Everyone’s real excited in our room,” Siffringer said of the rematch with Don Bosco set for 2 p.m. Monday at Prudential Center. “Obviously, they’ve beat us twice this year. We know how dangerous they are. We know how dangerous of an offense they have. We respect them, but we’re going to play our hardest and execute our game plan.”
“I think they’re a great team and we’ve had some really good games and I’m excited to go against them again,” Hall said. “It will definitely be a great game and I’m excited for it.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Delbarton defeated Christian Brothers, 5-0, in the NJSIAA Non-Public State Semifinals at Mennen Arena in Morris Township in March 1, 2018. (Tom Smith/TSPImages)
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