MORRIS TOWNSHIP — Just call ’em the cardiac kids.
Down two late in the third period for the second straight game in the playoffs, T.J. Evan scored twice 12.2 seconds apart in the final minute with the goalie pulled to tie it before Travis Beni connected 3:02 into overtime as ninth-seeded Woodbridge Township pulled out a dramatic comeback with a 3-2 victory over fifth-seeded Marlboro-Holmdel in sudden-death fashion during the NJSIAA Public A semifinals at Mennen Arena in Morris Township.
“You just can’t write this stuff!” Evan who slashed the deficit in half with 38.2 seconds left before coming back to tie it with just 26 seconds on the clock in regulation, said. “Never thought we’d be here today. It’s puck luck but I’m happy to share it with team a little bit more.”
“It’s unbelievable — I don’t think it’s completely set in yet. It’s crazy — especially with the way we’ve done it,” Beni, who moved up to forward from his defensive position to net the game-winner, said. “A win in overtime against Montclair (in the quarterfinals) and a win in overtime in this one as well.”
The Woodbridge Township tri-op, with players from Colonia and Iselin Kennedy, advances to the state finals for the first time in school history.
“We just crashed the net with 30 seconds left and we put it in to tie it up,” Evan said. “We were down but we found a way — fortunately for us with less than a minute left!”
“Once we got that first one, they were on their heels and really started to scramble,” Beni said. “We took the momentum back with that first one. Going into OT we knew we just had to get traffic in front. We just stayed calm and never gave up on it. That clutch factor — that’s something I didn’t know this team had — but we have it and it’s really amazing.”
Woodbridge improves to 21-4-1 and awaits the winner of Hunterdon Central vs Wayne in the Public A final set for Prudential Center on March 5 in Newark.
But it was Marlboro which broke the ice first when Matthew Beck’s work behind the net got the puck to Thomas Zembricki who made no mistake breaking the scoreless tie and putting the Mustangs on the board 7:52 into the second period.
Still feeding off the energy from its first goal, Brandon Kelly doubled Marlboro’s lead when he intercepted an errant clearing attempt, stepped into the slot before firing one past Woodbridge goalkeeper Adam Godfrey (32 saves) just over a minute later.
One of the last unbeaten teams in the state before finally succumbing in its 14th game of the season, Marlboro-Holmdel turned in one of its greatest seasons ever at 11-3-6. An impressive performance to say the least after this group of seniors went 0-18-3 in 2014-15.
“Jack Intveldt and Matthew Beck were in the corner, grinded it out and passed it across and I just tapped it in,” Zembricki said of his goal that gave Marlboro a 1-0 lead in the second period. “They really only had one line, we couldn’t shut them down and we let the game get away from us the last 40 seconds. With the goalie pulled, they killed us 6-on-5.
“Freshman year, I started my career and didn’t win a game,” Zembricki said. “But for this 2018 class to be here, state semifinals, four years later, almost in the finals, it was a wild ride with these kids and a pleasure to be on the team with them.”
Marlboro coach Wayne Anderson was pleased with how far his Mustangs have come.
“We dominated the game,” Anderson said. “When you give up at the end and you think you’ve got it won, that’s what happens. When there’s 30 seconds left in the game and you’re winning 2-0 you shouldn’t lose that game.
“They tried their hardest, did a good job and it was a great hockey game,” Anderson added. “Can’t take anything away from Woodbridge, it was a great game and we wish them the best of luck.”
After the game, Woodbridge coach Chris Monticollo was beside himself.
“I’ll tell ya — they don’t quit,” Monticollo said. “This group of seniors — they know this is it so they’re just doing everything they can not to end this in a heap. They brought us where they wanted to be their last year playing hockey together.
“Two in a row in overtime — jeez,” Monticollo added with a grin. “Boy oh boy.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Woodbridge Township’s Nate Manente backchecks to help out as Adam Godfrey keeps an eye on the puck. Woodbridge came back from down 2-0 to defeat Marlboro 3-2 in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Public A state tournament at Mennen Arena on Feb. 28, 2018. (Tom Smith/TSPImages)
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