NEWARK — The road to “The Rock” has been paved for eight teams, which will battle in out in four NJSIAA title games set on Monday, March 5 at Prudential Center in Newark.
Hunterdon Central, Northern Highlands and Woodbridge will make their first-ever appearance in the state finals, while Chatham, Delbarton, Randolph and Summit are looking to add another championship to their storied legacies. Don Bosco Prep, No. 1 in The Hockey Night in Boston Top 10, is back for the second straight season looking to turn the tables on Delbarton in a rematch of the 2017 Non-Public final.
The New Jersey Devils invited the finalists to Prudential Center on March 2 for the annual luncheon presented by RJW Barnabas Health and treated to a video highlighting their road to “The Rock.” Former Devils’ team captain and current MSG analyst Bruce Salvador served as emcee for the event.
STATE FINALS SCHEDULE
2-Delbarton (22-6-1) vs. 1-Don Bosco Prep (27-1-1) Non-Public Final, 2 p.m.
9-Woodbridge Township (21-4-1) vs. 2-Hunterdon Central (15-7-3) Public A Final, 4 p.m.
2-Northern Highlands (21-5-1) vs. 1-Randolph (22-1-3) Public B Final, 6 p.m.
3-Chatham (16-7) vs. 1-Summit (23-2-2) Public C Final, 8 p.m.
The Green Wave of Delbarton enter Monday’s finale with 12 NJSIAA titles to its credit, including back-to-back championships after coming back to edge Don Bosco Prep, 2-1, last winter. With 10 of those coming this millennium, including six straight from 2008-’13, Delbarton is the program by which all others are measured until it is unseated. Sophomore defenseman Bayard Hall (3-11-14) is proving to be quite clutch down the stretch and Nick Siffringer (19-13-32), James Falivene (16-12-28) and Hunter Macy (13-11-24) are proven goal-scorers.
Don Bosco Prep defeated Delbarton twice this season before the Green Wave exacted revenge in their third meeting in the 60th Annual Gordon Cup on Feb. 18 in what was a mirror image of the 2017 final. The Ironmen are eyeing its first NJSIAA title after falling in 1994, 2013 and 2017. This year’s squad led by Mickey Burns (28-49-77) and John Campomenosi (8-20-28) is arguably its most talented, however.
No matter the result, Hunterdon Central and Woodbridge are both winners with each program adding benchmark wins in spectacular fashion to reach the state finals for the first time in school history.
After falling in the semifinals of the Skyland Cup, Hunterdon Central has ripped off three straight victories including a dramatic 3-2 win over Wayne in the state semifinal. Offensively, the Red Devils are led by Alex Ahern (9-14-23), Scott Schnell (8-14-22) and Sasha Pace (9-11-20) but the key to success has been the play of senior goaltender Noah Dominick in between the pipes.
Woodbridge fell in the semifinals of the GMC Cup, but much like its opponent, have ripped off three straight wins with an even more dramatic 3-2 triumph over Marlboro in the state semifinal. Down two with less than a minute remaining in regulation, the first-year tri-op consisting of players from Colonia, Iselin Kennedy and Woodbridge, scored twice in the final seconds before winning it in overtime. T.J. Evan (39-35-74) and Travis Beni (24-30-54) were the heroes from Thursday night’s win and will look to do it again on Monday.
What happens when one of the top offensive teams in the state meets the biggest shutdown defensive unit? We shall find out when the high-flying Highlanders meet the robust Rams’ defense in the Public B finale.
After battling injuries all season, Northern Highlands is finally at full strength and riding high with 12 wins in its last 14 games. After falling short in the state semifinals in 2008 and 2009, Jin Lee (15-17-33), Mark Cinotti (19-20-39) and Devils’ State Player of the Month Joe Konvit (16-29-45) booked Northern Highlands’ ticket with a 6-1 victory over Princeton in 2018.
With eight NJSIAA titles on its resume, Randolph, No. 3 in The Hockey Night in Boston Top 10, is the most dominant public school in the state. After capturing championships in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015, it seems like an eternity since the Rams last hoisted the hardware. Coach Rich McLaughlin, who celebrated his 400th win on Dec. 23, is a master tactician and will have the defensively-disciplined Rams ready after shutting out Livingston, 5-0, in the semifinals. Will Zimmer (22-20-42), J.T. Zangara (14-29-43) and Nick Civetta (14-11-25) spark the offense while Scott Kimiecik is the last line of defense in goal.
This one has all the makings of an instant classic. For three straight seasons from 2011-’13, either Chatham or Summit took home the Public B state title, but after the realignment the two programs will vie for the Public C crown in 2018.
Will Vitton’s goal, with 2:44 remaining in regulation, gave Summit a 3-2 triumph in the team’s one and only meeting of the season in the Ice Vault Classic on Dec. 29. The Hilltoppers, led by Vitton (12-22-34), Tom Pryymak (19-21-40) and Greg Spitznagel (18-9-27), will be looking for the same result. Unbeaten in their last 11 games (9-0-2), Summit will be looking to secure its second state title in school history and first since 2012. Summit defeated Glen Rock, 2-0, to reach the finals.
Chatham, which celebrated state titles on Prudential ice in 2011 and then again in 2013 with two different coaches, will have revenge on their mind in its second meeting with Summit. David Andreychuk (21-9-30), Thomas Winter (14-17-31), Alex Laferriere (11-13-24) lead the Cougars, offensively, but the return of defenseman Tanner Acone (5-9-14) to the mix could be the difference in this tilt. Chatham erased a one-goal deficit to defeat Mahwah in the quarterfinals before flipping the script in a 6-1 rout of Wall in the semifinals.
Head-to-Head: Summit 3-2 on Dec. 29
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Former Devils’ team captain and current on-air analyst Bryce Salvador addresses the teams at the 2018 NJSIAA State Finals Luncheon on March 2, 2018 at Prudential Center in Newark. (Tom Smith/TSPImages)
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