December 6, 2013 at 10:50 PM
MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ - It was certainly an ice hockey matchup for the ages when the defending NJSIAA Public B State Champion Chatham Cougars took on the highly ranked Randolph Rams, winner of three straight Public A state titles.
High levels of anticipation and tension mounted leading up to the game, and the game certainly delivered.
Chatham took the lead with 5:11 left in the third period when Robert Graziano scored off a pass from Teddy Simson, but Luke Wright scored his second goal of the game on a power play with four minutes left to earn Randolph a 4-4 tie on Friday night at Mennen Arena.
The stage was set with student sections from each town piling up. A good game was certainly expected, as both teams entered with records of 1-0. Previously, Chatham won its season opener against Kinnelon with a final score of 5-1, while Randolph beat Morris Knolls in their season opener, 2-1.
The beginning of the game started fairly slowly, with each team struggling to gain significant possession of the puck. However, with 4:42 left in the first period, the Cougars started to heat up. Junior Jack O’ Connor connected for his first career varsity goal with a smooth flick of the wrist past Randolph goalie, Garrett Stenberg, to put the Cougar lead to 1-0. It seemed that Chatham possessed all the momentum, and that Randolph was struggling to get going.
However, the second quarter is where the true fireworks occurred. With 13:40 to go, Wright connected for his first goal past a diving Chatham goalie, C.J. Albanese, who finished with 22 saves. The goal was certainly earned, as Albanese has proven himself as a dominant force in the net, as he helped the Cougars to a state championship win as a sophomore.
The intensity did not let up, as the Cougars fired back with a goal by senior Brett Montgomery. The goal was a pretty one, as Montgomery expertly placed the puck right between Stenberg’s legs.
Chatham kept the momentum going, as junior forward Bryn Casey flicked a beautiful shot into the upper left hand corner past the stretched arm of Stenberg with 10 minutes left for a 3-1 Chatham advantage.
Neither Randolph nor their loud fan section gave up hope, as Brendan Siegel netted a gaol for the Rams with 7:30 left in the second period. Randolph scored again with 2:55 left in the second on as shot by Dan Johnson to make it a 3-3 game entering the final period.
In the third period, both teams, each so highly ranked, knew they had to give everything they had to walk out with the win. Senior captain Graziano knew just this, as he scored a huge goal for Chatham with 8:17 left in the third and final period. The goal came from a quick slap from Graziano, who was stuck in a large pileup at the Randolph net with players from both teams.
It seemed as though Chatham had secured the momentum, and the win, but that was not the case as Wright was able to swat a goal in past a fully outstretched Albanese, who came inches short of saving the goal. As time winded down, each team put everything they had left into the game, but neither team prevailed. The game ended in a 4-4 tie, with neither team going home victorious.
The Cougars’ next game is against Morristown-Beard at Mennen Arena on Monday, Dec. 9 at 4:30.