March 7, 2014 at 6:39 AM
MORRISTOWN, NJ- The Randolph Rams, Morris Knolls bitter rivalry is at its core just that, bitter. And for every 3-game win streak for one squad, the trend is bound to be reversed, and future retribution marked down to be revisited at the first possible opportunity. Frequent foes, with their boisterous student sections have their tightly checked contests highlighting the teams schedules, with this year and this night being no exception.
The Rams and Golden Eagles clashed at Mennen in the Group A semifinals on Wednesday night, 2 weeks after Randolph beat Knolls in a shootout. But with their swarming defense and strong performance in net by Zack Flake, the Golden Eagles edged out Randolph 1-0, taking their revenge for a season series of losses.
After a scoreless first period, which saw chances for each side, Randolph killed a penalty to start the second period, but Morris Knolls began getting comfortable in the offensive zone. Senior Andrew Holowko made numerous second chance saves as the Rams survived a periods worth of offense, until 22 seconds remained when Knolls broke through and made it 1-0 as a wraparound chance found Matt Mezik's stick and the back of the net.
Randolph's frenzied tries at an equalizer fell short, including one in the last minute of play that lit the lamp but was waived off by the referee as the net was dislodged. “We did it in spurts tonight. We didn't come out and work the whole game,” said Coach Rich McLaughlin. “It's always a one goal game with Morris Knolls, it happened to go that way today.”
Its been a long and fruitful run for the seniors, who came so close to finishing their careers as they've finished the last three seasons. “They had four great years, they really put in a lot of time and effort, “ said McLaughlin. “They won 3 state championships, they came that close to winning a 4th. They deserved better than today, but that's the way it goes sometimes.”
Led by their core of seniors, captain Brenden Siegel, goaltender Andrew Holowko, assistant captains Luke Wright and Stefan Tamminga, and forwards TJ Lindquist and Mitchell Gaudioso, the Rams are losing some of the heart and soul that led their late season push. “We didn't have one guy scoring every goal. Everyone had an even amount of points, there was no all-star. We looked to everyone to step up,” said Siegel after the game. “Made memories here I'll never forget,” he said as he looked up at the rafters.
For Randolph it was a bitter end to a tough campaign and a magical few years, but the loss is made so difficult because of the tradition and success of Randolph hockey, which elevates every facet of the game for the Rams. It elevates the program, the school, the expectations, the practices, the bond between players and the play itself, but also the heartbreak.
But for outgoing seniors they can rest easy that Randolph hockey will be here long after they are gone. With Coach McLaughlin behind the bench, there is a steady presence in Randolph hockey, the programs legacy is not in flux.
“A lot of guys come back after they get out of college or while they're in college, they talk about how important it is for teams to do well here and how much people talk about it. When they find out you're from Randolph their eyebrows go up, their heads go up. They get a lot of respect from people, and its something we work on every day,” said McLaughlin, who now has 21 years as the coach of the Rams.
Its a tough pill to swallow for the seniors, but even moments after the loss, when it would seem impossible to have the perspective of looking forward not back, the kid with the biggest shoes on the squad, departing senior, captain Brenden Siegel said it best: “They just have to take this and use it next year. Take this and get revenge next year.”