WEST ORANGE, NJ — It’s not how high you climb, it’s the view from the top that makes it all worthwhile.
Down one but never out entering the third and final frame in the 61st Annual Gordon Cup, Don Bosco Prep struck for three unanswered goals — two 27 seconds apart off the sticks of Connor Sedlak and T.J. Schweighardt — as the Ironmen recaptured New Jersey’s most prestigious tournament title forging a 5-3 victory over defending champion Delbarton at Codey Arena in West Orange.
“It’s a ‘we won’t lose mentality.’ It’s the bench staying positive. It’s strength in numbers,” Schweighardt, with a hat trick, including the game-winner with 7:54 remaining, said. “To be able to tie it 3-3 , get the fourth goal, then the icing on the cake by Liam (McLinskey) — it’s great. I’m super happy right now.”
After falling short in overtime to Delbarton last season, the Gordon Cup returns to Don Bosco Prep for the second time and first since winning it all in 2014.
Trailing 3-2 after two, Connor Sedlak tied it at three 6:39 into the third. Before Delbarton could catch it’s breath, Don Bosco’s quick-strike offense surfaced again as Schweighardt, creeping in from the point, snapped home a rebound off the end-boards to give the Ironmen a lead they would not relinquish. McLinskey added an empty-netter with three seconds left to secure title and send the Gordon Cup back to Ramsey.
The three-goal outburst in the third period stunned Delbarton, the 13-time and defending NJSIAA champions, who do not, historically, give up leads late in games.
After a scoreless first frame, the Green Wave took a 1-0 lead on J.P. Nolan’s power-play goal 1:09 into the second stanza. After Schweighardt tied it with his first of three just over three minutes later, Delbarton struck quickly with back-to-back goals of its own as Max Williams and Michael Balzarotti connected 35 seconds apart to establish what seemed like an insurmountable 3-1 lead with more than half the game in the record books.
Don Bosco Prep (23-1) never stopped battling, however, and Schweighardt cut it to 3-2 with his second of the game less than two minutes later, assisted by McLinksey and Connor Sedlak.
Still, all the momentum and history seemed to side with Delbarton in the third.
But that’s why they play the game.
“In the third, we just disappeared,” Balzarotti, Delbarton’s senior captain, said. “We just let them take over the game.”
“A couple good bounces for them, a couple quick goals. The crowd was really getting into it and the adrenaline was flowing,” Delbarton senior forward Max Williams said. “Our transition game was slow. I thought we played a good game, but we got outworked in the third.”
Sedlak tied it at 3-3 on a nifty finish with 8:21 remaining in regulation and Schweighardt provided Don Bosco Prep, No. 1 in The Hockey Night in Boston Top 10, the go-ahead goal moments later.
“It was a hard battle. They got us on our heels a little bit, we were down two, but we never stopped,” Sedlak said. “We tied it up. Never a doubt. It was unreal.”
“It was a choppy second period. We dropped the ball on three plays and all three plays ended up in the back of our net,” Don Bosco Prep assistant coach Sean Foye said. “But we weren’t upset with the way we played. Offensively, we knew if we kept going there would be no problem. Down 3-2 coming into the locker room there was not one ounce of panic. Guys were positive and even joking around a little bit. I’m proud of ’em — they did a great job.”
No. 2 Delbarton (16-6-4) finds itself in unfamiliar territory. With seven Gordon Cup titles over the past 11 years, the Green Wave fall for the first time since a 3-1 loss to Christian Brothers in 2016.
“I thought it was a good game,” Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel said. “I thought we played well for the first two periods even though I thought their second goal was the difference in the game. We had a chance to take a two-goal lead into the third and that would have been huge. Their top guys are extremely talented and they have depth. I’m proud of my team. We played hard. We just came up a little short.”
Delbarton will reset, rest and regroup as the second-seed in the upcoming NJSIAA Non-Public Tournament. The Morristown school awaits the winner of Montclair Kimberley-St. Rose.
“We’re disappointed but we’re happy with our overall effort. We know we’ll have a good chance at them next time,” Balzarotti said. “We can’t overlook any opponent we play — there are a of of good teams in Non-Public… St. Peter’s, St. Joe’s and obviously CBA — so we’ll just take it one game at a time and hopefully we’ll see ’em again and get revenge.”
“We just have to come out with more intensity, more energy, finish our checks and protect the lead better,” Williams added. “We’ll take it to ’em next time.”
But at the end of the game, the night belonged to Don Bosco Prep, which felt the title within its grasp after McLinskey’s empty-netter sealed it.
“Liam is an amazing hockey player,” Schweighardt said. “To have him by my side throughout the year and the next four games — Tyler Sedlak as well — I think we’re going to kill it the next four games. To be able to win together, we’re all going to party in the locker room right now and have a great time.”
Don Bosco Prep will now set its sights on winning its first-ever NJSIAA title.
“To be 3-0 against Delbarton heading into states really boosts our confidence,” Schweighardt added. “I can’t wait.”
Related: Gordon Cup Preview and History
GORDON CUP ALL-TIME CHAMPIONS
2018-Delbarton GAME STORY
2017-Delbarton GAME STORY | GAME STORY
2016-Christian Brothers GAME STORY
2015-Delbarton GAME STORY
2014-Don Bosco Prep GAME STORY
2013-Christian Brothers GAME STORY
2012-Delbarton BOX SCORE
2011-Delbarton, St. Augustine Co-Champs BOX SCORE
2006-Seton Hall Prep
2002-Seton Hall Prep
2001-Seton Hall Prep
2000-Seton Hall Prep
1998-Seton Hall Prep
1997-Seton Hall Prep
1993-Seton Hall Prep
1992-St. Joseph, Montvale
1990-St. Joseph, Montvale
1986-St. Joseph Montvale
1983-Seton Hall Prep
1978-Seton Hall Prep
1961-Montclair, West Orange Co-Champs
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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