WALL TOWNSHIP — Manasquan-Point Pleasant Beach left Jersey Shore Arena with some new hardware to add to their trophy case after pulling out an improbable 2-1 upset over Wall Township.
The brother duo of Mike and Matt Franzoni each accounted for a goal and an assist to help lead the sixth-seeded Warriors to their first Shore Conference Cup with a triumph over the second-seeded Crimson Knights in the finale of the Dowd Cup before a packed house late last night at Jersey Shore Arena.
“It was the greatest feeling ever having everyone come over to me and jump on me – it was absolute disbelief,” Manasquan goaltender Steven Gibilisco, who stood tall with 33 saves, said.
“Watching them celebrate with their fans and friends is the best part,” coach Adam Houli said. “Now they’ll always be remembered as Shore Conference Champions.”
It has been a tremendous season for Manasquan (15-2-1) which won the Shore Conference Central Division title earlier this season, and now it can hang another banner in what has become a breakout season for coach Houli and the Warriors. The triumph marks its second Dowd Cup, first in 10 years and first since 2008. It was also crowned Southern Blue Champions in 2006.
Matt Franzoni’s backhander over the left shoulder of Wall Township goaltender Logan Beattie with 10:12 remaining in regulation proved to be the clincher. They primary assist was credited to Luke McNamara who was the hero Tuesday night after scoring the overtime winner over Rumson in the semifinals.
Gibilisco was on point, turning aside shots from all angles to keep Wall’s high-octane offense off the scoresheet and frustrated more most of the night.
The big goalie got the lead he was looking for when Mike Franzoni opened the scoring 6:28 into the action when the puck bounced off the end board and right in front of the net where the sophomore was able to smack it home before Beattie could adjust. His brother, Matt, was given the only assist on the play.
Manasquan seemed destined to enter the first intermission with a 1-o lead but Thomas Falletta had other ideas.
Falletta crashed the net after Jack Textor threw it on goal in the waning moments of the opening frame and was rewarded with the game-tying goal which came with just 0.4 on the clock.
Goals in the final seconds before the end of a period often become backbreakers for many teams, but Gibilisco chose it as his time to shine.
“They score and the period ended. We had to quickly move on from that,” Houil said. “I actually think that it helped us. We just had to make a few adjustments.”
“We didn’t get down on ourselves,” Gibilisco said. “Scoring with 0.4 seconds left – the boys hung in there and we were able to get the job done.”
Wall’s Zach Tarantino, who leads the state with 80 points, and teammate Ryan Burns who clocked in third with 73 points, continued to pound away but Manasquan kept the Knights’ high-flying top line off the board all night.
The Knights fired 17 of their 34 shots in a second-period flurry, but Gibilisco made sure he did not let Wall beat him again.
“I was able to track the puck, dropped the stick, get the glove over there, twist and turn – anything to keep it out of the net,” Gibilisco said about his stellar second period.
The teams hit the second intermission deadlocked at 1-1 with Wall holding a 24-18 lead in the shots department. Both goalies were putting together gems in net and both defenses were not giving an inch.
But with 10:18 remaining in the third period, Matt Franzoni was able to quickly rifle a backhander that found twine less than five minutes into the final frame to take a 2-1 edge. It would prove decisive as Manasquan seized the momentum and never looked back.
Once the clock expired, the celebration was on as a steady rain of helmets, sticks and hockey mitts was underway.
“We bent quite a bit, but we never broke,” Houli said of his team’s season. “We got timely saves and timely goals and if you add them together you get wins.”
Related: Dowd Cup Semifinals Coverage
The season will continue for both squads when the 2018 NJSIAA state tournament begins next week.
Wall Township (18-3-2), which received 31 saves from Beattie in the final, is widely considered to be a favorite to make it back to the state finals. After falling to Glen Rock in the Public B state final last season, Wall will contend for the Public C state title as the second seed. It awaits the winner of Verona-Glen Ridge/Mountain Lakes-Boonton.
Manasquan will look to keep the ball rolling as the 11th-seed Public C. It is set to take on sixth-seeded Mahwah in the Sweet-16 on Feb. 21 at the Ice Vault at 7 p.m.
A rematch of the two Shore Conference powers is possible. If both teams continue to win they could lock up again the state semifinals.
Written by Casey J. Krish / @CaseyKrish
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Manasquan celebrates the 2018 Dowd Cup after defeating Wall Township, 2-1, at the Jersey Shore Arena on Feb. 15, 2018. (Photo by Tom Smith/TSPImages)
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