WEST ORANGE — Seth Kaplan observed that Morristown-Beard had struggled at times on the power play earlier this season.
That wasn’t the case yesterday, though.
The Crimson were able to ramp up their special teams play in impressive fashion, and the freshman forward was a big factor in the process striking for two power-play goals as the Morris County school rode a four-goal outburst in the second period en route to a 6-3 victory over Seton Hall Prep at Codey Arena in West Orange.
The victory was the fifth straight for surging Morristown-Beard (6-2-1), No. 9 in the Hockey Night In Boston New Jersey Top 10. Senior Alexander Walsh-Kelly also added a pair of goals while classmate Brayden Patricia collected a goal and three assists. Junior John Cohen halted 19 shots in earning the decision for the Crimson.
The victory was the first for Morristown-Beard over Seton Hall Prep since Jan. 10, 2015 (6-4 triumph). The Crimson are 3-0-1 in their last four meetings with the Pirates, whose last victory in the series came via an 8-1 verdict way back on Jan. 21, 1995.
Morristown-Beard holds a 4-2-1 advantage dating back to the 1993 season.
Indeed, it was a five-minute major for high-sticking whistled against Seton Hall with 4:06 left in the second period that proved the turning point in the contest.
Holding a 2-0 advantage, Morristown-Beard struck for three goals before the period ended to open a 5-0 bulge that proved too much for Seton Hall to overcome.
“We were struggling a bit on our power play execution earlier in the season,” Kaplan said. “When we got that five-minute power play we knew we really had to get at least one goal — but getting three was a huge boost. We really needed to execute and make something happen at that point.”
Kaplan did just that when he pumped in his first goal off assists from Patricia and Thomas Dempsey to extend the Morristown-Beard lead to 3-0 with 3:25 left on the clock. Connor Tartaglione followed with 59 seconds left with the second power play tally for a 4-0 lead before Kaplan hit net again just 27 seconds later for the five-goal lead.
The Crimson finished their special teams display by going 4-for-6 with the extra attacker.
“That five-minute major definitely hurt,” Seton Hall Prep coach Mike Atkinson, whose club fell to 3-4-2, said. “We didn’t do a very good job of clearing pucks and we didn’t score. We woke up in the third and played well, but it was too late. We did some good things in the third period, but you can’t give a good-skating team like Morristown-Beard a 30-minute head start and expect to win.”
Seton Hall, which out-shot its opponent 22-21 overall, finally answered with the first of two power play goals of its own when Jake Sandomeno connected off an assist from Stephen Buck with 10:35 left in the third to make it a 5-1 game. Less than two minutes later, the Pirates sliced it to 5-2 when Phil Feinberg fed Tim O’Connell for a scoring shot.
Both clubs combined for six power-play goals in the high-scoring affair.
“That five-minute power was huge for us,” Walsh-Kelly said. “I thought we were the better team to that point, then our power play unit really came through. For the first two periods at 5-on-5 we got the puck deep on them and kept the third man high, and we got some good scoring chances.”
Down by three goals, Atkinson pulled goalie Anthony Caruso (15 saves) for the extra attacker and the move worked as Thomas Colucci scored to make things interesting at 5-3 with assists from Buck and John O’Hern with 5:09 remaining in regulation. But Kelly-Walsh put the finishing touches on the contest – and the scoresheet – with an empty-net tally for the Crimson with 12 seconds left.
While building its two-goal lead through the first 26 minutes of play, Morristown-Beard used its speed to win most of the puck battles and created enough turnovers in disrupting Seton Hall’s breakouts. The Pirates were defending much of the time through most of the first two periods.
Patricia gave Morristown-Beard a 1-0 lead when he rifled a low shot glove-side from between the dots in the game’s first shot for a power-play goal just 2:20 after the opening face-off. Kaplan and Tartaglione each assisted on the goal.
“It really boosted our confidence getting that first goal,” said Patricia, who was quick on the puck and played a physical game throughout with linemates Joe Cuomo and Tom Matthews. “I was able to beat their defensemen to the puck and got open in the slot. I went low glove-side. Beating Seton Hall was a very big win for us, and getting those three goals on the power play late in the second period was the turning point.
“I think we were underrated early this season,” Patricia said, “but we know who we are.”
Who are the Crimson? A team now riding a five-game winning steak in which they’ve outscored the opposition 21-8, with impressive victories over Gordon Conference clubs in Seton Hall and St. Augustine Prep this week.
— Paul Bruno (@PaulBrunoHS) December 22, 2017
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Seton Hall Prep and Morristown-Beard line up for the face-off at Codey Arena in West Orange. Morristown-Beard prevailed, 6-3. (Paul Bruno/HockeyClan)
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