MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ - The Chatham Cougars and Morristown-Beard Crimson met for a rematch of the 2013 Mennen Cup Championship game. Although it was just the Cougars’ third game of the season, it may as well have been a championship game.

The stage was set, the energy was high and the stands were packed.

After a suspenseful game filled with hard hits, phenomenal displays of athleticism and great team efforts, the contest ended in a 2-2 Thursday at Mennen Arena.

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The outcome was not necessarily what the Cougars would have hoped for, but they most certainly showed their resilience and will to win. Moreover, they proved they are able to compete with any team, as Morristown-Beard is known as an extremely successful and competitive program.

“We feel like when we play well and play our game, we can contend with any team,” senior Jack O’Connor said.

For the second straight game, the Cougars had men in the penalty box early. This time, however, the power play cost them dearly. This particular power play led to a goal by Teddy Hatfield for Mo-Beard with 5:54 left in the first period. The goal was the first given up by goalie C.J. Albanese, who has been truly incredible in goal for the Cougars this season.

Another player who has been very key in the team’s success is captain A.J. Albanese, the twin brother of C.J. With three minutes left in the second, A.J. Albanese was hit blindly at the boards by a Mo-Beard player, leaving him lying on the ice. He was obviously shaken up by the play, but was able to skate off under his own power. Albanese’s toughness showed what the team is all about. In the end, the Mo-Beard player received a five-minute penalty for boarding. Albanese was able to return at the start of the third period.

The Cougars were determined to not let the 1-0 lead hang over their heads, and they certainly did not let that happen. Ryan Barnett connected past Mo-Beard goalie Dan Porth for a crucial goal with a mere 26 seconds left in the second. Bryn Casey and A.J. Albanese were credited with assists on the goal for Chatham.

“It felt good to score and tie the game up late,” O’Connor said. “It gave us some momentum heading into the third.”

That momentum was certainly there for Chatham (2-0-1), as senior captain Will Barnett finished his breakaway chance for the go-ahead goal past Porth to give the Cougars the 2-1 lead with 11:26 left in the game. Hunter Acone earned the assist for the Cougars.

Mo-Beard came firing back with a goal from Chris-Brunner Grande a mere minute and a half later to stop Chatham’s momentum dead in its tracks. The final 10 minutes were perhaps the most nerve wracking of the game, with each team coming inches away from finding the net. In the end, the war ended in draw, but perhaps the two teams will meet again.

“It was a great all-around game and our first complete game this year,” Will Barnett said. “Now, we put ourselves in the category of contending with New Jersey’s best.”

The Cougars look to improve their record to 3-0-1 when they take on the Montville Mustangs on Saturday.

Editor's note: Michael Mulford is a senior at Chatham High and participant in TAP into Chatham's scholastic journalism program.