SOMERSET, NJ — John Magadini was a young man the last time Pingry won the Skyland Cup.
Now 86-years old, Magadini has taken a step back as an assistant coach at the prestigious Martinsville school, but the former Marine who once played lacrosse against Jim Brown in college is as sharp as ever.
“I remember it well — back-to-back in 2011 and 2012 — Pat Lackey with a hat trick against Ridge, Matt Beattie the year before,” Magadini said. “It’s just so great to be around these kids — and they’re all great kids… all working hard — it’s the same atmosphere and I just feel privileged to still be a part of it.”
Ryan Bush, Jared Kordonsky and Lachlan Gibson each scored twice while sophomore goaltender Kevin Parnham put up a wall in between the pipes as the Pingry Big Blue brought the Skyland Cup back to Martinsville after a seven-year hiatus with a 6-1 triumph over Hillsborough in the championship bout at Protec Ponds in Somerset.
“This one’s for coach Mags,” said Kordonsky, whose first goal of the game, 5:48 into the action, proved to be the game-winner. “We hopped on ’em quick — that was the key to the game. We got goals quickly, pucks deep in their zone… it’s huge for our school and it’s just the beginning — we definitely want to be here for a while.”
“It’s just huge for the program,” said Parnham, who did not yield a goal until Hillsborough’s 18th shot on net, with 6:47 remaining in regulation. “We’ve been on the come-up for a few years now — it’s huge to come in here and get a win.”
The triumph marks the third Skyland Cup and first in seven years following back-to-back cups in 2011-’12.
Ryan Bush opened the scoring exactly two minutes into the action for Pingry (18-2-1), the top-seed in the tournament. Kordonsky doubled it 3:48 later as the Big Blue skated into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead.
Pingry went back to work in the second and Ryan Bush connected again, with another assist from his brother, Eric, on the play 3:09 into the middle frame as the Somerset County school, which was established in 1861, took the wind out of Hillsborough’s sails with another quick strike. Gibson made it 4-0 just 1:36 later.
“We ride on confidence so it was nice to get out in front with an early lead,” Parnham said. “Our defense played great. They were blocking shots, only giving them low percentage scoring opportunities in front.”
Despite falling behind, third-seeded Hillsborough, which upset second-seeded Ridge, 6-3 in the semifinals, still felt the game was within reach.
“We came back from two goals down against Ridge the previous game — even down four entering the third, I thought we were still in it,” Hillsborough coach Chris Tommins said. “Little mental mistakes. It’s hard to play against a four-line team with two-and-a-half lines, but we battled.”
Lleyton Soares put Hillsborough on the board with his power-play goal 8:13 into the third period, but it was all the offense the Raiders could muster on Parnham despite peppering the Pingry sophomore goaltender with 23 shots.
“Their goalie played out of his mind — we couldn’t get anything through — I mean anything — and every time we made a mistake they capitalized,” Soares said. “Bad luck. I still felt like we were in it. We were down two against Ridge and came back and won. We thought we had a chance to come back but it slipped away.”
Just 39 seconds after Soares gave Hillsborough life, Kordonsky came right back to make it a 5-1 game. Gibson capped the scoring with a fluttering shot from the point that found the twine.
As the celebration ensued, many Pingry players credited the influence head coach Scott Garrow has instilled in the program.
“It’s fantastic,” an elated Garrow said after the big win. “Coach Magadini has had this program at real good heights over the course of time. We’ve hit real hard times with numbers and performance a few years ago, so to see it grow back and for him to still be here and work with us means everything for us to know the hard work paid off — especially the seniors who were here when we weren’t very good their freshman year so it’s been great.”
Parnham, an accomplished lacrosse player, has excelled in between the pipes as a sophomore goalie with little to no experience playing hockey outside of high school.
“Who would’ve known Kevin Parnham would be our starting goalie,” Garrow said. “Kevin is a tremendous competitor. Kevin was a starter on the lacrosse team as a freshman last year as a longpole and faceoff wing. He’s a big strong kid. He’s determined, he’s a leader, but he’s not a hockey player — he plays the high school season and that’s it. We were comfortable with him coming into the year because we knew we would be competitive and I think it really showed. In our biggest games he’s been really good.”
Hillsborough (18-6-1), which shut out Livingston, 7-0, to capture the Kelly Cup in 2006, then blanked Montclair Kimberley Academy by the same score in the 2007 Van Cott Championships, but couldn’t secure its third title in school history. The Raiders were awarded the top-seed in Public A and will await the winner of Bayonne-Mount Olive in the NJSIAA Tournament.
“Proud of the way the boys played. It’s a tough loss and now they know what it feels like to lose in a state championship game — they’ve never been in this position before,” Tommins said. “They don’t want to feel this way again so we know they’re going to play their butts off and show everybody who they are.
Pingry will take satisfaction with the title before refocusing on the Non-Public State Tournament. The Big Blue, seeded 12th, will take on Gill St. Bernard’s in the first round. A date with St. Augustine looms in the Sweet-16 if it can prevail.
“I love these guys, I really do — they all work so hard at school,” said Magadini, who also coached at Delbarton from 1982-’88, earning Star-Ledger State Coach of the Year honors in 1986. “I really feel privileged to still be a part of it.”
SKYLAND CUP TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS
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2012-Pingry GAME STORY
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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