WEST ORANGE, NJ – The Governor Livingston Highlanders overtook the Millburn Millers on Saturday afternoon at Codey Arena in the Kelly Cup Finals, achieving the goal they set at the beginning of the season (to win a conference title).
Before the puck dropped, a ceremony honoring the Kelly Conference All-Stars took place. Danny Kramer, Robert Monroy and Carson Wahlers were honored from Governor Livingston.
Gov. Livingston fans flooded in; students arriving decked out in GL apparel. Varsity jackets, sweatshirts, and even a morphsuit created the sea of red that occupied a section of the arena. Even before the game began, the student section was on its feet, cheering on the team.
“They’re just amazing. They’re like the seventh man on the ice,” said captain Robert Monroy.
The puck dropped as, “Let’s go GL!” filled the arena. Throughout the first period, possession went back and forth, but neither team was able to create an advantage. At 10:14, Millburn’s Alex Johansson was charged with tripping, resulting in a power play. Though Gov. Livingston created multiple opportunities, the boys were unable to score. However, with a minute left in the first period, Ryan Monroy, assisted by Kyle Wahlers and Robert Monroy, scored the first GL goal.
“We were just going to play our game; we weren’t going to let them dictate who we were,” captain Danny Kramer said.
Four minutes into the second period, Sam Charlat of Millburn received a tripping penalty. GL was unable to score on the power play. Shortly after, Billy Alexander spent some time in the box for crosschecking. Thirty seconds later Jacob Miller joined him with the same penalty, leaving the Highlanders with three men to face the Millers. The boys constantly sent the puck down the ice, making sure to stop any scoring opportunities Millburn tried to create. Both teams made attempts, but the second period remained scoreless.
“They [Millburn] weren’t able to get a lot of sustained pressure because we were working on breaking the puck out of the zone, breaking up plays,” said head coach Matt Anderson.
The action on the ice also carried over to the stands. The student section was constantly cheering, even taking part in a spirited battle with a group of Millburn kids on the other side of the arena. Muted shouts of, “Let’s go Millburn!” barely made it across the ice. “We can’t hear you!” followed from the GL kids, echoing throughout the arena. After sophomore goaltender Nick Papa snatched the puck from the air while GL was down two men, the GL student section erupted with cheers and shouts of, “We love Papa!”
“He just played his heart out. Today was by far his best game,” said Monroy.
“He made the saves he needed to save, and we made sure that he didn’t have to face anything too tough,” added Anderson.
“I know that they’ve [the defense] got my back,” Papa said.
Less than thirty seconds into the third period, Carson Wahlers was charged with crosschecking, but Millburn was not able to make any progress on the power play. The Highlanders dominated this period, allowing the Millers little possession of the puck.
“We’ve been playing with a lot more structure and we have everything put together nicely, so that when we get in a tight game like this ....we’re limiting the other team’s opportunities and trying to get slightly better ones,” said Anderson.
Trying to create opportunities, Millburn pulled goaltender Gabe Nadell with a little over a minute left in the game. This proved counterproductive for the Millers, as Carson Wahlers flicked the puck into an open net at 14:36, assisted by Kyle Wahlers.
Just seconds remained in the third period, and the student section began to celebrate. “We won the cup!” and the chorus of “Goodbye” by Kristinia DeBarge floated from the supporters.
The game ended with a score of 2-0.
Millburn goaltender Gabe Nadell made 19 saves on 21 shots for the Millers.
Governor Livingston goaltender Nick Papa made 21 saves on 21 shots for the Highlanders.
As soon as the buzzer sounded, sticks, gloves, and helmets hit the ice as the team raced to the GL goal. The boys came together in a huddle, and eventually fell to the ice in a dog-pile, cheering all the while. Following their celebration, the team rushed to the side of the rink, where the Highlander student section was waiting for them. Jumping up on the boards, sweaty hugs and congratulations were exchanged. After this, the team gathered on the ice once again as captains Danny Kramer and Robert Monroy were awarded the Kelly Cup. The pair brought the cup over to their team with pride, thrusting it into the air together.
“It’s all a daze right now. It’s so exciting to win with everyone on our team, it was just 100 percent effort from everybody,” Kramer said with a smile.
“Words can’t explain how I’m feeling. Four years ago, we had eight kids on our team and we were losing every single game. We kept progressing, Danny and I bringing the team up, and now we’re seniors and we won the Kelly Cup, it’s unbelievable,” added Monroy.
The Gov. Livingston Highlanders (15-9-2) take on Sparta at Skylands Ice World on Tuesday, February 21 at 8 p.m. in the first round of the state tournament.