RANDOLPH — With every spring, there is a new dawn. With every winter, a new sheet of frozen ice. With every season, a new story to be written, a new story to be told.
In a rematch of the 2016-17 NJSIAA Final, Don Bosco Prep rewrote the ending as Mickey Burns and Michael Forgione scored in the first period while Max Schwarz turned aside all 11 shots he faced as the Ramsey school, No. 2 in the Hockey Advantage Private Schools Top 10, turned the tables on No. 1 Delbarton, 3-0, at Aspen Ice in Randolph.
From the drop of the puck, Don Bosco Prep set the tone by winning face-offs, controlling play along the boards and executing successful breakouts as last year’s finalist came in with a score to settle in the first bout between the storied schools since Delbarton prevailed, 2-1, in the 2016-17 finale.
“Right now, we’re on fire. If it was any other team, but against a team like Delbarton you have to raise your effort,” Burns, who put Don Bosco Prep on the board 4:44 into the game, said. “They came out flying, but we’re rolling, everyone’s loving the play, the energy is up and we’re gelling already at this point of the season. If we keep this up we’re going to have an unbelievable season if we can continue to get the effort.”
In a match-up of two previously unbeaten teams, every facet of the game was of the utmost importance.
“We talked about three things: winning the wall battles, bury our second-chance opportunities, get pucks out and bear down and we did just that,” the University of Vermont bound forward said.
Already blessed with the lead it coveted, Don Bosco doubled it with 1:09 to go in the opening frame when Forgione got loose along the near-side boards and went in on a partial breakaway before ringing one off the right post and in to skate to the locker room with a 2-0 advantage.
Just 3:15 into the second period, Tsubasa Konishi seemingly put the nail in the coffin off a fine set up from T.J. Schweighardt as Don Bosco Prep took a commanding 3-0 lead.
Delbarton looked uncomfortable from the get-go and did not even record a shot on goal until it was afforded a power play at the tail end of the opening frame. Don Bosco Prep (5-0-1) out-shot Delbarton 10-2 in the opening period and ultimately out-shot its Morris Township rival, 22-11, in the game.
“We set a couple of goals for ourselves: We wanted to limit their shots and we wanted to bury some rebound goals,” Don Bosco Prep coach Greg Toskos said. “We put up a lot of shots but it was important to get one. When Mickey buried one off a rebound, when we bury one early, it works out well for us.”
While Schwarz was rarely tested with 11 saves at one end of the ice, Delbarton netminder Kenny Burgess was busy all night. He turned in many spectacular saves to keep the defending champions in the game for most of the contest.
“They came out strong in the first period, we only got two shots which was kind of hard for us,” Delbarton senior defenseman Hunter Macy said. “We didn’t do what we wanted to do. We wanted to come out flying but they took it to us in the first. We couldn’t come back from down 2-0, but we fought hard. Unfortunately we couldn’t come back. We just have to get more shots on net and bury the chances when we have them.”
Delbarton, the New Jersey institution by which all other programs are measured with an unmatched 12 NJSIAA state titles to its credit, falls for the first time this season to stand 4-1. Shutout at home, Delbarton was held scoreless for the first time since February, 14, 2015 against Cathedral of Springfield, Mass.
“I thought they were really good. I thought they disrupted pretty much every aspect of our game with great team speed and tenacity,” Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel said. “They won 50/50 battles all night long, and more importantly, dominated the face-off circle. I think they won at least 85% of the face-offs. They puck-possessed very well and their stars made plays. You can’t have a poor start against that team or you are going to be in trouble.
“They’re really good and we need to get better,” Shatel said. “That’s the bottom line.”
After the triumph, Toskos steered clear from any references to last year’s state final.
“I don’t look at this as a rematch — it’s another Gordon Conference game — it just happens to be against the best team in the state,” Toskos, in his 11th season, added. “Last year they won. Delbarton is No. 1 until someone beats them at the end of the year but that doesn’t change what this game was, which was a December Gordon Conference game. Two points.
“As far as last year?” Toskos affirmed. “We got the monkey off our back a couple of years ago in the Gordon Cup (3-2 overtime win over Delbarton in 2014). Don’t get me wrong, they’re a great team, but this was just another Gordon Conference game for us along the way.”
“Last year was old news, we only look forward from here,” Schweighardt, a junior defenseman said. “We’re just going to keep rolling to the state championship.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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