MORRIS TOWNSHIP — Will Zimmer remembers all too well the last time Randolph was in the state finals. The team captain was just a sophomore when the Rams fell to Morristown in the NJSIAA championship game in 2016. But after coming through for his team with a pair of goals in the semifinals, the big senior forward will get another crack at that ever-elusive state title.
Zimmer opened the scoring 5:13 into the game and added another goal on the power play 8:02 later in the first while freshman James Mattson also scored twice as the top-seeded Rams, No. 3 in The Hockey Night in Boston Top 10, skated to a 5-0 victory over the fourth-seeded Livingston Lancers in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Public B state semifinals at Mennen Arena in Morris Township.
“For this group of seniors in the locker room, we didn’t want this to be our last game,” Zimmer said. “We knew this was going to be a tough one. We were fired up and we didn’t want to lose today. We came out flying.”
Zimmer and fellow seniors Nick Civetta, Jake Flood, Max Gaudioso, Jake Michaels, C.J. Mortello, Dylan Quinn, Adam Redgate, Trevor Stenberg, Zach Zino along with goaltender Scott Kimiecik, who turned aside every shot he faced for his second straight and 10th shutout of the season, ensured it would not be their last game in a solid performance from start to finish to book a return trip to “The Rock.”
The Rams are seeking its ninth state title but first since 2015. And after falling in the 2016 final, are intent on bringing the title back to Randolph.
“It’s starting to show a little bit, we’re getting that burst, we’re playing with more intensity,” Randolph coach Rich McLaughlin said. “We’re not losing one-on-one battles and we’re doing the little things right. Defense wins, we always have said that, but our heart, desire and intensity… I think we really picked it up a notch.”
Zimmer picked up his teammates and gave Randolph a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the game. With his team blessed with the man-advantage in the final minutes of the opening frame, Zimmer scored his second of the game and team-leading 22nd of the season.
“It was just a good play all-around,” Zimmer said of his first goal of the game. “Mike Sofia takes a shot, J.T. Zangara, my linemate deflects it right on my stick and I banged it in.
“We really took it to ’em and dictated play on the ice,” the senior captain added. “We came out hard, knew their goalie was good and put pucks right on him and fortunately were able to put some in.”
One of the players making an unlikely contribution to the Rams’ post-season run is freshman James Mattson, who also scored twice for Randolph, which added a power play goal from Sofia to cap the scoring.
“Honestly, at the beginning of the season I didn’t even expect to make the team,” Mattson said. “The fact I can produce and be a part of this is great. My role is to get the puck down low and hit ’em. This means everything to me. Ever since I was a Mite just starting out in hockey, I used to go watch the high school games at “The Rock” every time they made it. So actually going to go and play myself will be insane.”
“It’s everybody, even our fourth liners, they’re all buying in, doing the right thing 100 miles an hour,” McLaughlin said. “James Mattson? He shut the car door on his fingers the other day. We didn’t think he was going to play, he’s bleeding probably still, but he’s just a big kid on the wing and he’s getting in people’s way. That’s his thing — he’s not a dancer.”
Randolph improves to 22-1-3 and awaits the winner of Northern Highlands vs. Princeton in the NJSIAA Public B state final set for March 5 at Prudential Center in Newark.
Livingston’s great run ends here at 16-6-5.
“Unfortunately tonight we couldn’t really get any good offensive pressure,” Livingston coach Dave Conklin said. “Their forwards did a great job of backchecking and we couldn’t get off any quality shots. They do a really nice job of standing up guys in the neutral zone and inside the blue line.”
“Today, we obviously didn’t bring our A-game but we never gave up,” Livingston goaltender Matt Delseni said. “It is what it is and it doesn’t change what a great season we had. No one game can take away the success we had. We worked so hard to get to this point and just because we lost doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”
Randolph is making its eighth trip to the NJSIA finals in the 10 years, winning it all in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015. It was also declared Public School champion in 2003, 2006 and 2007.
“We’re going to have to play our best game of the year,” McLaughlin added. “No matter who we play, we’re stepping up in the weight class now.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Randolph’s William Zimmer attracts a crowd as he gets ready to shoot. Zimmer scored twice as Randolph defeated Livingston, 5-0, in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Public B tournament at Mennen Arena in Morris Township on Feb. 28, 2018. (Tom Smith/TSPImages)
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