MORRIS TOWNSHIP — In the postseason, all seeds go out the window.
Will Bonnelli’s goal, with 5:31 remaining in regulation, scored one for the underdogs as second-seeded Morristown-Beard erased three deficits en route to a 4-3 come-from-behind win over top-seeded Morris Knolls in the final of the 42nd Mennen Cup last night at Mennen Arena in Morris Township.
Chris Conway gave Morris Knolls two separate leads and Alex Welch gave his Rockaway school yet another, but Isaac Davison, Max Cassella and Mike Karrat each recorded game-tying goals before Bonnelli gave Morristown-Beard its first lead of the game 39:29 into the action in a battle for the ages.
“We were never the underdog in this game,” Bonnelli said. “This team has a lot of skill. Not only skill but heart and determination. That’s what really helped us out there.”
Bonnelli’s sixth goal of the season sealed Morristown-Beard’s fourth consecutive and 11th Mennen Cup title overall. It trails only Delbarton (18) for the most cups in tournament history.
Morristown-Beard coach Randy Velischek was thrilled with the way it battled back from three deficits.
“The last five minutes were a little hairy — nobody knew what they were doing — a lot of running around out there with a couple of rookie defensemen and a few players who’d never been in a situation like that before,” Velischek said. “But kudos to Morris Knolls for not saying die and our seven seniors that pulled it together.”
For Bonnelli, it marked his third Mennen Cup.
“Coach Velischek always says, ‘Get in front of the net and good things will come of it.’ So that’s what I did. The puck came right to me, I saw my opportunity and got a stick on it,” Bonnelli, the team’s senior captain described the game-winning goal.
“We never had two guys on the puck the whole game but in between periods we talked about and went out did it in the third. We really showed it out there.”
The Morristown-Beard triumph avenges a 2-1 loss to Morris Knolls two weeks ago. While the setback afforded Morris Knolls the top seed in the tournament, it was Morristown-Beard which had the last laugh.
“It feels great. We took a tough loss late in the season to these guys so it felt good to win the Mennen. This is my first Mennen championship — and I hope to have a lot more,” Morristown-Beard goalie Anthony DelTufo, who finished with 18 saves in net, said.
“We just kept battling and let that momentum carry us through the last couple of minutes,” DelTufo said. “We just happened to pop one in and that’s what it’s all about.”
For Morristown-Beard (16-8-1), the win marked its seventh Mennen Cup in the last 10 years. It will take on St. Peter’s Prep in the NJSIAA Non-Public tournament. Morris Knolls drops to 16-5-2 and with the top seed in the NJSIAA Public A tournament, it will look to finish the job this time around.
“I’m proud of this team. We didn’t quit,” Morris Knolls first-year head coach Tim Kepler said. “The message to them at the end was to keep their heads up. Our season’s not over.”
Morris Knolls will await the winner of High Point/Wallkill Valley-Mount Olive/Hopatcong.
“We’ll take every emotion, every feeling and bottle it up and be ready to be there Monday for our first state game,” Kepler added. “That’s a good team over there. We knew it was going to be a battle. They capitalized on a couple opportunities, we capitalized on a couple of opportunities… they did one more time than us.”
“It was a complete battle,” Conway, who scored twice for Morris Knolls, said. It was a great game, both teams played amazing. Unfortunately we didn’t come out on top this time. They got some bounces their way and we just couldn’t pop in another one. We just have to refocus on states now.”
Morristown-Beard was the fourth underdog to skate off with a championship on Thursday. Second-seeded Newton/Lenape Valley defeated top-seed Vernon, 2-1, in the Haas Cup. And in the Shore Conference, eighth-seeded Jackson Memorial kept its Cinderella season going with a 2-0 win over fifth-seeded Southern Regional in the Handchen Cup. In the Dowd Cup, third-seeded Wall Township played spoiler with a 3-1 triumph over second-seeded St. John Vianney.