Fly Eagles Fly! Morris Knolls Bounces Back in Win over Morristown-Beard

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MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ — Morris Knolls lost 14 players from its state championship team last season. But with 12 holdovers still on board expectations remain high in 2019-20.

So when the Golden Eagles fell to Ramapo in its season-opener, despite outshooting the Raiders 50-26 in the opening tilt, it did not sit well — especially for the five seniors charged with leading the defense of its NJSIAA crown.

D.J. Layden scored on the power play 47 seconds into the second period to give Morristown-Beard a one-goal lead but the marker just lit a spark under Morris Knolls which responded with six unanswered goals — three from Jason Kwestel — en route to a 6-1 triumph and its first victory of the season at Mennen Arena in Morris Township.

“We had a strong game, emphasized coming back even stronger knowing it was our first division game,” Kwestel said. “We really wanted to come out hard and prove the loss of all the seniors from last year didn’t matter. We just went out there, had some fun and scored a couple goals.”  

Morris Knolls’ goaltender Elliot Marken makes one of his 24 saves. (Photo by Brandon Bubak)

After Layden broke the ice, Andrew Ryan tied the game at one just 1:30 later before Kwestel gave Morris Knolls a lead it would not relinquish 1:25 off the ensuing faceoff to give the Golden Eagles a 2-1 advantage. Kwestel and Gehrig Eckoff scored 42 second apart bookending a Morristown-Beard timeout called in the middle frame as Morris Knolls surged to a 4-1 lead, seizing all the momentum the rest of the way. 

“The boys really battled hard against a strong team in Morristown-Beard,” Ryan, who finished with a goal and four assists, said. “My teammates — they were in the right spots at the right time.”

Ryan said overcoming deficits is a point of emphasis the team has addressed early on. It was key component in coming back in this one.

“That’s something we have been trying to focus on,” Ryan said. “As soon as we let up a goal, just don’t give up, just keep pushing through and I think that’s what we really did here scoring six right after that.” 

Gehrig Eckoff celebrates his goal which made it a 4-1 game. (Photo by Brandon Bubak)

Following the five-goal outburst in the second period, Morris Knolls went back to work in the third adding to its tally when Jake Quinn made it 6-1 3:34 in. Kwestel completed the hat trick with 8:21 remaining in regulation.

“The first goal was a one-timer on the power play,” Kwestel, who finished with three goals and an assist, said. “The goalie made a nice save, but I picked it back up in the corner, walked it to the slot, took a shot and it found its way through. My linemate Andrew Ryan saw me wide open in front and just fed it to me for my second goal and to complete the hat trick, on the power play, a shot from the point, the goalie kicked out a big rebound and I just found it and put it home.” 

After Kwestel’s first-career hat trick at the Varsity level, the game quickly got out of hand with a fighting major, boarding call from behind and a 10-minute major for unsportsmanlike conduct. Even though it was just the second game of the season for both teams, clearly both Morris County squads were already in mid-season form combining for 36 minutes in penalties.

“They got some momentum after the power play goal and kind of took it over there,” Morristown-Beard coach Scott Greene said. “We had some pressure, but didn’t really make much happen. They iced the puck a numer of times after taking the lead and we just didn’t capitalize.

“Some things to work on,” Greene said. “We’ll go back to the drawing board.”

After the game, the spotlight fell on freshman goaltender Elliot Marken who stood tall in turning aside 24-of-25 shots for his first-career Varsity win.

“The team played a great game, a lot of blocked shots, clearing out all the rebounds in front,” Marken said. “They had a great comeback after the goal on the 5-on-3 and just never took their foot off the gas scoring six straight.”

Jason Kwestel scored three goals, Andrew Ryan had a goal and four assists and Elliot Marken made 24 saves as Morris Knolls defeated Morristown-Beard, 6-1, at Mennen Arena in Morris Township.

Luke McManus finished with 29 stops for Morristown-Beard, which drops to 0-2.

The goal remains the same for Morris Knolls, which evens its record out at 1-1.

“Defend our title — that’s the ultimate goal,” Morris Knolls’ coach Tim Kepler said. “The key was when we were down 5-on-3, we give up a power-play goal but did not give up another one. We were able to come back from that and found a way to put the puck in the net.

“It was nice to see, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Kepler added. “We’re looking to our senior captain, James Betz, we have a solid core of juniors, 10 of whom got a lot of icetime as sophomores.”

Related: Golden Eagles! Morris Knolls Captures 2019 NJSIAA Public A Crown in 6-1 Win Over Hillsborough

Kwestel isn’t afraid to shoulder the load offensively. 

“It means a lot to us. We really plan on trying to go back-to-back,” Kwestel said following his first hat trick at the Varsity level. “We think we have the team to do it and as long as we keep the right mindset and keep working, we think we can do it again.”


0-1 MB D.J. Layden (Seth Kaplan) 14:13-2nd PPG

1-1 MK Andrew Ryan (Dylan Idland, Tim Kepler) 12:43-2nd

2-1 MK Jason Kwestel (Ryan) 11:18-2nd PPG

3-1 MK Kwestel (Ryan, Bryan McCarter) 4:51-2nd

4-1 MK Gehrig Eckoff (Ryan, Kwestel) 4:09-2nd

5-1 MK Jake Quinn (J.D. Florio) 11:36-3rd

6-1 MK Kwestel (James Betz, Ryan) 8:21 3rd

Shots: 31-25 MK


Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS 

Special to HockeyClan


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