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Hockey: State Championship Blog from the Prudential Center

By Bret Leuthner, 03/09/22, 4:30PM EST


Read as Bret Leuthner blogs his stream of consciousness while watching all the action from Championship Day at the Pru

It's State Championship Day, the culmination of a great hockey season! The Morris Sussex Sports gang is all here, taking in the action here at Prudential Center! Sit back, relax, and enjoy the read here on Morris Sussex Sports!

Take NJ Transit to Newark Penn, then walk to Prudential Center. Had to do musical entrances to finally get my press pass, but we’re in and ready to go!

Girls Championship - #2 Princeton Day vs. #1 Morristown-Beard

Welp, the Crimson got off to a quick start! Lilli Warnock and Logan Sutera scored goals in the first period, and Mo-Beard was stifling defensively and in possession, outshooting PDS 9-2. This might be a long day for Princeton Day!

Our first chance to thank Prudential Center and their staff! Kyle and the rest have been awesome. Press lounge is open for us, and with some good food to take in later. They’re hooked us up with hardwire internet and have been top class!

Oh…and Leah Stecker scores! Sweet mitts to cut through and go 5-hole on Abigail Ashman, who is doing everything she can to keep her team in the game. But Mo-Beard is just too good.

Oh? Stecker is going to Penn State? Yeah, she’s that good! Thanks to our own Sean Bretherick for that tidbit! And just when I give her those props, she’s in the sinbin for a trip. And now Brooklyn Chen in the box for interference, and PDS calls time out. 3-0, but PDS has a 5-on-3 for 32 seconds. Watch Stecker coming out of the box….

Told you. Stecker and Sutera on a short-handed 2-on-0?!?!?! Ashman has no chance, and this game is getting away. Carly Greer goes into the box, and it’s another 5-on-3 for PDS. Coach Bruce Driver won’t be happy with the penalties. No matter, Stecker does Stecker things again. Another shorty, and it’s 5-0. Stecker would be a Top-5 player on the Mo-Beard Boys team! She plays the point on her club team. Imagine her and Noah Jones as a D-pairing???

Third period, and much of the same. Stecker gets her third of the game, and a red feathered sombrero has found its way on the ice! She adds a fourth late in the third period, and this one is a rout. 31-11 were the shots in the game. Total dominance by the Crimson, and there’s one Championship coming back to Morris County!

Stecker and Sutera were great in the interviews afterwards! Can’t wait to see Leah play at Penn State!

Between games, we hit up the press lounge for some food. Great selections! I opt for a ham and cheese wrap. Bretherick did up a roast beef sandwich, and fellow Morris Sussex Sports guy Dave Hashagen went with pasta and veggie pot stickers. Writer Mike Gurnis is biding his time…for now!

Public B Championship - #6 Middletown North vs. #1 Northern Highlands

Neither team in our area, but that doesn’t mean we’re not interested in this one! First period, both teams did well keeping the high scoring areas clear. Both goalies made the saves they were called upon to make, and we’re scoreless through one. 7-5 shot advantage for Midd North.

While we’re at it…Midd North has FIVE FULL SECTIONS OF FANS!!! THREE OF THEM STUDENTS!!! That’s legendary!

And we’ve got a goal! NH scores on a mad goal mouth scramble! Will Fuller gets his 16th goal of the season, four of those in the playoffs. Vincenzo Capano almost doubled the lead, but the iron was unkind as he rang a one-timer alone in the slot off the post.

GARY BETTMAN IS IN THE BUILDING! The NHL commissioner is watching his grandson play for Northern Highlands, and I chat briefly with him (I had met him in line at Barnes & Noble in Paramus a couple of decades ago). Say what you want about his decisions as NHL Commissioner, but he was then and is still now a big fan of the game!

Finally, a visiting team scores a goal! Jace Koenigsmark pots home into the open cage, and those 5 sections promptly went mental! We go to the dressing rooms tied 1-1. Midd North have the shots 20-10, 13-5 in that period.

And now a bit of controversy! Will Fuller dangles for days, gets through, and scores to put the Highlanders in the lead. But before he put his final moves on, someone’s helmet popped off in a collision.

Play should have been blown dead instantly. But the refs didn’t see it, and the goal stands!

Oh…Daniel Moor is good! He turns aside 30 shots, Northern Highlands adds an empty netter, and the Highlanders are your Public B Champs by a 3-1 score, despite being outshot 31-18. After the game, I asked Moor about the pressure of kicking in football and goaltending in hockey. He said, “you get nerves before games, but I always manage it well”. The kid is outstanding!

Public C Championship - #2 Governor Livingston/New Providence vs. #1 Morris Knolls/Morris Hills

Now we get to the new Public C, with all the co-ops and tri-ops. Both teams came out to play, and their fan bases are showing out as well! Good back and forth, but the Highlanders get on the board first through Phil Koutsaftes. Shots are 11-8 for the Golden Eagles, but it’s 1-0 GL through 1.

Second period has seen Knolls/Hills get some better chances, but they still can’t find the back of the net. Shots end up being 9-7 Gov. Livingston in the second, still 1-0 Highlanders through 2.

CHICO RESCH IS IN THE BUILDING! We all had a chance to talk to the Devils legend, and he is a great guy and a big hockey fan. He’s loving the action, watch his buddy’s son – that would be Alain Nasreddine’s son, Alex – in the Championship game. We were honored to have him on the vlog for a bit! That was great stuff!

The third period had more good chances, and Knolls/Hills had a couple of glorious chances including a massive goal-mouth scramble in the dying seconds, but through it all Shane Cook keeps the puck out. Nasreddine pots the empty netter, and Governor Livingston/New Providence takes the Public C title 2-0 over Morris Knolls/Morris Hills.

Aidan Marvin was valiant in defeat, and MKMH had the 29-26 shot advantage in the game but stick taps to the Highlanders on getting the trophy in their first ever Championship appearance!

Hats off to Coach Tim Kepler and his staff and team all season long. We’re absolutely honored to have covered you all season long!

Public A Championship - #3 Ridge vs. #1 Livingston

The only one amongst us that saw this coming was Bretherick! Ridge scores three goals in the first period and aren’t letting Livingston get their legs going in the first period. 3-0 Red Devils (that wear green) after one, 8-5 shots in favor of Ridge behind goals from Denis Kuzmenkov and a pair from Reese Judson (though they announced Nick DelGaizo for the third goal).

Wow! Ridge is not slowing down! Kuzmenkov goes skate to stick on a rebound, and it’s 4-0 Red Devils. You’d never think that a team that has only allowed more than three goals in a game twice – they lost both of those games, one to Morristown-Beard – would be getting throttled like this.

Wait…there’s 4:30 left in the second period. Ridge has four goals…Livingston has FIVE shots!!! They’d finish the second period with just seven total shots, and the 4-0 lead (on 16 Red Devil shots) puts Ridge 15 minutes away from their third State Championship in the last six years, and fourth overall – three Public A and one Public B.

Let’s dispel a theory right now. Students do NOT stand throughout the entire game. Intermissions are for resting those legs. They’ll all rise as one once the teams come back out for the third period.
Nothing different in the third. Ridge goes up by five on a rebound in front. Lancers are clearly frustrated at this point, and it’ll be soon before those 4 sections of Livingston fans start to file out. It’s been all Ridge tonight.

And for the first time tonight, a bit of fatigue sets in. At least for me, because I’m old! Then again, this is what happens when you come off an adrenaline rush of chatting on the vlog with Chico Resch and fist bump and chat with Gary Bettman!

Finally Livingston has something to cheer! Jace Dockx puts away his team’s first goal of the night on the power play – on shot number nine – with 8:34 to go in the game. 5-1 Ridge, and we’ll see if that gives them a spark.

Hashagen and I are doing our Prime Minister’s Questions bit – I usually play the part of the Right Honorable Speaker John Bercow, DH is still going through his apprenticeship. But when it’s 5-1 with time ticking down, these things are bound to happen!

Crease crash with 5:21 to go in the third, and the place is going bonkers. But here’s the deal: Yes, if you’re a goaltender, tend the goal. But if you’re a defenseman, DON’T BLAST YOUR OPPONENT INTO YOUR GOALIE!!! So what’s the end result for Livingston’s transgression? Ridge scores on the power play, and this one is done dusted. 6-1 is your final. Oh…that goal for the Lancers with 8:34 to go? That was their last shot of the game! 28-9 shots in favor of Ridge. Total domination tonight!

Non-Public Championship - #2 Delbarton vs. #1 Christian Brothers Academy

Welp…it’s the MAIN EVENT OF THE EVENING! The top 2 teams in New Jersey High School hockey will square off to wrap-up the 2021-22 NJSIAA Hockey season!

CBA looking to be the third team in NJSIAA history to go undefeated through the season (the first team to do it was St. Joseph’s Montvale, who went 26-0-1 in 1983-84 and outscored their opponents 279-39, and St. Augustine was the second when they went 23-0 in 2006-07), or will Delbarton claim their State record 14th Championship? We’ll have both teams wearing colors tonight, as the Colts are in light blue, while Delbarton is in their road greens.

And we start tonight’s game with dueling student section chanting. A Delbarton “Let’s Go Green Wave” was met with boos from CBA. CBA fans then follow later with “Waves Are Blue”. Dueling cheers and boos upon video board exposure. The atmosphere is hyped!

The first period was as advertised. Lots of speed, physicality, good offense countered by stellar defense and top-notch goaltending. 0-0, shots 8-7 Delbarton after 15 minutes.

Jason Kai, are you serious??? This dude has elastic for limbs, and he just proved it with those last couple of saves! This should be 1-0 CBA, but Kai was in a mood of denial!

CBA has DOMINATED play in the second, so go figure that the first goal is scored on a wonky shot. Patrick Reilly follows a rebound by shooting the puck directly across the crease. Fortunately for him, Kai is down from the first shot, and it’s a bank shot that goes in. 1-0 CBA in the later stages of the second. Shots? Oh yeah, CBA had plenty of them! 20-2 in favor of CBA. Kai is the reason this game is still 1-0 after the second.

CBA double their lead in the third. After killing off a penalty, William Thygeson picks up a puck that bounces off of the linesman and scoots ahead in a 2-on-1 and buries it past Kai. It’s 2-0 Colts, and this is looking like it’s CBA’s night.

Why in the world would the CBA student section do the tomahawk chop???

Delbarton is throwing everything they can now at CBA, but John Donohoe is being a rather stingy last line of defense. They pull Kai with 2:22 to go, but Reilly shoots 180 feet into the empty net, and we get a goalie assist for Donohue to make it 3-0, and the celebration is already underway for the boys wearing light blue tonight!
Shots are 35-22 in favor of CBA (10-8 Delbarton in the third), and it was that second period that did it. CBA goes undefeated, and captures their ninth State Championship.

The Season Is Over

What a day this was at Prudential Center!  A massive amount of thanks and gratitude goes to Kyle McKenna, Caela McLoughlin, the staff at Prudential Center, as well as Elizabeth Nodeland and everyone with the NJSIAA. We also thank all of the student athletes, coaches, parents, boosters, administrations…so many people that make what we do possible. Today was a blast for all of us to cover!

And while the season ending is a sad day for us hockey nuts, we know we’ll be back in November to start our coverage once again on Morris Sussex Sports!

And so…one last time…for George Muha and Caitlin Langan back at World Headquarters…for my partners Sean Bretherick, Mike Gurnis, and Dave Hashagen…and all of the others that have called, shot, or produced games all season long…I’m Bret Leuthner. Five champions have been crowned here in Newark. Until next season, we say goodnight…from Prudential Center!