WEST ORANGE — When the last one falls, when it’s all said and done, Delbarton will look back at this and find salvation.
With more championships and more trophies than any other team in the state, the Green Wave found themselves down one to the number one team in the state. But as winners do in times of adversity, Delbarton dug down deep and pulled out perhaps its most dramatic and historic performance yet.
Bayard Hall erased the deficit with his game-tying goal with 9:43 remaining in regulation to force overtime before Andrew Bosland delivered the game-winner 1:34 into sudden-death as Delbarton, No. 2 in The Hockey Night in Boston Top 10, turned in a comeback for the ages with a 2-1 triumph over No. 1 and previously-undefeated Don Bosco Prep in the final of the 60th annual Gordon Cup at Codey Arena in West Orange.
The eighth Delbarton victory in the rich history of the Gordon Cup, the win gives Delbarton back-to-back cups for the first time since 2008-’09. More importantly, after two losses to Don Bosco Prep in the regular season, it awards the Morris Township school redemption at a time when it matters most — the post-season.
“We were angry. We don’t lose all that often and to lose twice to them in the same season is kind of rare for Delbarton,” Bosland, a senior said. “That woke us up, gave us extra drive and motivation to really work for this one. We were just waiting for our opportunity — it feels amazing.”
“It was a broken play,” Bosland described his game-winner. “It squirted in the corner and (Michael) Balzarotti threw it to me front and there was no one by me. Everyone’s heads were turned towards the puck and I was just lucky to be open in front and put it home.”
Don Bosco Prep was 24-0-1 entering the Gordon Cup with a 3-0 and 2-1 victory over Delbarton earlier this season. The Ramsey school got the lead it was looking for when Simon Aktar finished the play started by Connor Sedlak to take a 1-0 lead 5:11 into the game.
The goal stood thanks to the play of Delbarton goaltender Kenny Burgess (20 saves) and his counterpart at the other end of the ice, Max Schwarz, who steered aside 22 shots of his own to keep it a one-goal game after two. Each team was awarded two power play opportunities in the game but neither goaltender yielded turning in save after save, each more spectacular than the last.
“I felt like I got a lot better as the game went on and so did our team,” Burgess said. “As the game went on, I felt like we took control but my mindset didn’t change. For me, keep the puck out, try to control the game and give up no rebounds. My defense did a great job of helping me and keeping shots to the outside.”
With Burgess keeping up his end of the bargain, Delbarton got the equalizer it was looking for when defenseman Bayard Hall, stepping up into the play, took a cross-ice pass from Bosland and put it home 5:17 into the third to step up big for their senior goalie.
The shift in momentum could be felt but once again Burgess and Schwarz didn’t buckle under the pressure sending the 60th Gordon Cup into overtime.
“I talked to some old friends before the game, one of them was (longtime Seton Hall Prep player and coach) Peter Herms,” Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel said. “It was like a breath of fresh air. We talked about the challenge we had facing Don Bosco and he just reiterated to me the kids were ready for the challenge.”
Burned holding the candlestick at both ends, Delbarton would not become folly a third time as the Green Wave stepped up to the challenge.
“We were OK going into overtime but you can’t run-and-gun with that team. We’ve learned that the hard way,” Shatel said. “And in overtime all it takes is one bounce going your way.”
“It was two evenly matched teams,” Schwarz said. “We had our ups, they had their ups, but at the end of the day we just had a few bad bounces and it didn’t work out. We really wanted to go undefeated — the whole way and make a statement.”
“I thought we played well, but I think they outplayed us,” Don Bosco Prep defenseman T.J. Schweighardt said. “They were skating hard. They were making passes. We didn’t block enough shots. But we’re not necessarily sad about this game. We’re just mad losing the goose egg. We’ll just flip the page. Four more games, we’ll be ready for states and see them again in the final maybe.”
Don Bosco Prep drops to 24-1-1. The top-seed in the the NJSIAA Non-Public State Tournament, it awaits the winner of Notre Dame-Paramus Catholic in the Sweet-16.
“Tough loss for sure,” Don Bosco coach Greg Toskos said. “Give Delbarton credit — they came to play tonight. Tough call on the goal that was waved off (in the second period). We go up 2-0 maybe we have a different outcome but those are the breaks and you have to work through it. I thought we really picked up our game at that point and I loved the game Max played — he was outstanding in net.
“The next tourney starts Thursday and we will be ready to go!” Toskos said.
Delbarton, 12-time NJSIAA state champions, improve to 19-6-1, but more importantly solves its nemesis — at least for this round.
“Our whole objective was to be tied going into the third or down one,” Shatel added. “Their goalie made a couple of sparklers that were really impressive and fortunately we got a great save from Kenny in the third to keep it a 1-0 game. It was just a great hockey game all the way around.”
“It’s awesome. We’re going to enjoy it this weekend and get back to it next weekend and focus on the state tournament,” Burgess said.
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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