Randolph Rides Zangara to 3-2 Win in Overtime, NJSIAA Public B State Title

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NEWARK, NJ — It’s not over until it’s over. That cliché was in full effect on Monday night at Prudential Center in Newark.

J.T. Zangara scored twice before completing his night with a hat trick in overtime lifting top-seeded Randolph to a 3-2 win over third-seeded and defending state champion Ridge in the final of the NJSIAA/New Jersey Devils Public B State Championships.

Trailing 2-0 with under three minutes to play, Ridge blitzed the Rams with two goals 32 seconds apart when Reese Judson and Matt Balzarotti hit to tie the game at 2-2 and send it into sudden-death overtime.

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

There, Ben Yurchuk circled the net before firing back against the grain and there was Zangara to clean up the rebound sending Randolph home state champions.

“We all wanted this so bad,” Einfeldt said. “There were a few bad shifts there (but) we were not going to be defined by two shifts. We knew that we were the better team all game, and we were going to prove that on the score sheet.”

The Rams’ triumph added to an existing legacy that has been built in the state tournament. With the victory, Randolph now has nine state championships to their name — third-most in high school hockey in New Jersey behind only Brick Township (11) and Delbarton (14).

Randolph, whose last title came in 2015 when they defeated Howell, 2-1, made five straight state-final appearances from 2009 to 2013, winning it all in 2009 before winning three straight.

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

“I think we started the party a little early there,” Randolph head coach Rich McLaughlin said. “They are a really good team and they just don’t quit.”

“That was a great feeling, but the most important thing is getting the win on the board,” said Zangara, the overtime hero.

In their first meeting since the 2019 final nearly a year ago to the day, Randolph and Ridge didn’t need long to get reacquainted.

With Randolph sitting in the box in the second period, Yurchuk chipped at a loose puck in the neutral zone. He gathered and made a clean pass to a cutting Zangara. With the defense turned around, there would be no stopping Zangara, who slipped a backhand shot through the goalie’s legs to give Randolph the 1-0 lead.

Just over five minutes into the third, Zangara doubled it with an unassisted tally to extend the Rams’ advantage to 2-0.

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

With three straight shutouts entering the state final, the lead seemed safe with Einfeldt in between the pipes. But the Red Devils’ quick-strike offense would eventually break through.

Reese Judson found the back of the net with 2:37 remaining, and, before the goal was even announced at the Jumbotron at Prudential Center, Matt Balzarotti tied it 32 seconds later. Eric Schubert assisted on both goals that sent the Ridge faithful into a frenzy.

“I won’t lie, I was a little upset,” Einfeldt said. “You just have to try and keep your cool. It’s natural in that moment to be upset.

“Going into the overtime period I just had to play my game.”

Related: Ram Tough! Yurchuk, Xhumba, Einfeldt Lead Randolph to 5-0 Win over Middletown South in NJSIAA Public B Semifinal

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

Moments after Judson and Balzarotti hit, Ridge very nearly took a 3-2 lead in the waning moments — ending the game right then and there — but overtime was necessary to decide this one.

“We played these guys for almost 43 minutes,” McLaughlin said. “We fell apart in the last minute and a half. Are we going to let that minute and a half kill our whole season?”

Ridge hit the ice in overtime like a swarm, firing countless shots at Einfeldt, trying to send Ridge to their second straight win over Randolph in the state final.

Related: Ridge Chops Ridgewood in NJSIAA State Quarterfinals

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

Einfeldt would make a stellar performance out of his final high school game in a Randolph uniform. Entering the game with a scoreless streak of 147:35, the senior would make 30 saves in the win, many in sudden-death to give his Rams a chance to win it for him in overtime.

The senior was a brick wall throughout the entire tournament, but when a few bricks came loose, Einfeldt showed the leadership needed to come through in a big moment.

Related: 2020 High School State Semifinalists Welcomed to The Rock

Einfeldt will remember getting his shot at ending his career on his terms.

“We would love to win every year, but a win is a win and it makes it so much sweeter to end your senior season like that,” Einfeldt said.

Zangara also stepped up in the biggest moment. The senior found the back of the net 24 times this season, but none will ever come close to topping the final tally of his career. The senior was very quick to credit his teammates ability to find him out there on the ice that matters.

“A lot of my teammates have been feeding me pucks all season long,” Zangara said. “They fed me and I was just able to bury them.”

Related: 2020 NJSIAA Ice Hockey Tournament Schedule, Seeds and History

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

A perennial contender for the state crown, Randolph concludes the 2019-20 season 21-3-4.

“A lot of the guys did their jobs tonight — except for about two minutes,” McLaughlin joked. “We have been preaching all season long to do your job; not everyone is a 40-goal scorer and are going to do certain things.”

Randolph went through it all together. These seniors ended the five-year drought, one that might have felt like an eternity to a storied program like Randolph. They’ve been through pain together. They’ve suffered the losses together. Now, they’ve molded into a family; a family that was won together.

“I said we are one shot from being state champs. Don’t let five minutes define us,” McLaughlin, who won his 400th game in 2017, said. “It sounds cliché, this family stuff — but these kids are a family and they are always there for each other.”

Randolph will celebrate long into the night. The trophy will go proudly on display in the school’s case, that is if they can fit it in with all the other titles to their credit. Tomorrow, this title will be in the past. They’ll enjoy the win, but this is Randolph. The 2021 state championship is already at the top of the goals list.

Related: Randolph Erupts for Three Third-Period Goals in Come-from-Behind Win over Chatham

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)

Ridge concludes its season 19-6-5.

“We have great fans and supporting staff and parents,” Ridge senior Tyler Ebeling said. “When you’re having difficult times and you come back, it shows what kind of person they are and we did that.”

“It’s so difficult to get to this point and you need to be really good and a little lucky,” Ridge head coach Tim Mullin said. “We had some games that put us in some tough spots this season: Randolph, Westfield. We just played well at the right time.”

(Photo by Mark Carosiello/HockeyClan)


1-0 Randolph: J.T. Zangara (Ben Yurchuk) 7:14-2nd SHG

2-0 Randolph: J.T. Zangara 9:02-3rd

2-1 Ridge: Reese Judson (Eric Schubert, Tyler Ebeling) 2:37-3rd

2-2 Ridge: Matt Balzarotti (Nick DelGaizo, Eric Schubert) 2:02-3rd

3-2 Randolph: J.T. Zangara (Ben Yurchuk) 10:30-OT

Shots: Ridge 32-28. Gavin Einfeldt, Randolph, 30 saves; Marcus Fabiunke, Ridge, 25 saves

Related: 2019-20 HockeyClan Video Catalog



Written by Casey Krish  @CaseyKrish 

Special to HockeyClan


Photos by Mark Carosiello   @SnapthePicture6


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