WEST ORANGE, NJ — Brady Silverman wasn’t about to misfire on another scoring opportunity.
The talented freshman winger, who was denied on a rising attempt seconds earlier, scored an unassisted goal with a low shot 1:29 into the second overtime to give top-seeded Gov. Livingston/New Providence a 5-4 victory over third-seed and defending champion Cranford at Codey Arena in the Msgr. Kelly Cup championship.
“My last shot I had tried to go top shelf and I missed,” said Silverman of his game-winner and 24th goal of the season, “so I knew that if I got another chance I had to change something up. I got through their defensemen and put it low, blocker side and luckily it went in. I really wanted to end it and get these boys a championship.”
His shot ended a classic hockey battle with Cranford that lasted 61:29 and gave Gov. Livingston (12-1) its first Kelly Cup since 2017. The first overtime was a 15-minute period at five-on-five, while the second was played at four-on-four and was slated for 7:30.
“Everyone was tired and just wanted to hold that cup,” said Silverman, who finished the game with two goals and an assist and 39 points this winter. “I have great linemates in (Brian) Kramer and (Matthew) Darata. They get me the puck and I just do the best I can to bury those chances. They’re great guys to play with. What a finish this season was.”
“I can’t even think right now,” said senior co-captain and defenseman Drew Skotarczak. “I think everybody was exhausted just going into the first overtime and then the second one, but we all battled through it. When Brady scored, it was such a relief. It was an incredible game. I’m on top of the world.”
The championship seemed to be fading beyond the Highlanders’ grasp late in the third period, which saw them surrender a 3-1 lead before falling behind 4-3 to Cranford. The Cougars had scored twice in a span of 1:59 to square it at 3-3 before going ahead, 4-3, on a power play goal by Matteo Wilde with 4:46 left in regulation.
“Brady missed the net high and came back to the bench,” Gov. Livingston coach Michael Criscitello said, “and I told him their goalie thinks you’re going up, and you need to change it next time and go low the next opportunity. He’s a shooter and he knows what he’s doing.”
The resilient Highlanders wouldn’t be denied as Brian Kramer roofed a short-side shot with just 35 seconds on the clock for a shorthanded goal to knot it at 4-4 and force overtime.
“The way this game was going back and forth it could have gone four overtimes,” said Kramer, who had a goal and an assist and finished with a team-leading 48 points. “We all stuck together and dug deep. Brady had some opportunities and I felt it coming. On the bench I told him you’re not getting those high shots so pick for the low part. He buried one right where I told him. It was a great, great shot.
“We didn’t know two months ago what this season would look like, so to end the season in this fashion is unbelievable. It was a heck of a game, and it came down to double overtime. Cranford gave it their all and so did we. It was an incredible battle.”
Gov. Livingston skated past Montclair Kimberley in the semifinal round to advance into the championship, while Cranford downed Oratory Prep in their semifinal match.
The Highlanders defeated Cranford, 9-2, in their only meeting this season but Criscitello knew the game would surely be different this time around. Kramer had four goals and three assists in the contest.
The Highlanders erased a 1-0 deficit with a pair of second period goals by Matt Wallen and Matt Darata. Silverman’s power play goal 2:59 into the third extended that lead to 3-1 before Cranford (5-7) stormed back.
Junior goalie Shane Cook was strong throughout, especially during the two overtime sessions, and finished with 35 saves.
This was a physical and a times bit nasty contest with both clubs contesting every inch of ice, especially along the boards. Open ice hits were frequent and the game finished with 27 minutes in penalties for both teams.
“An absolutely great game by Cranford,” Criscitello observed. “They are a different team now. I think we caught them that game coming back from a quarantine, so we knew it would be a different game.”
“It was fun, and maybe we made it a little more fun than we had to,” said Criscitello, “but I can't think of a better outcome and learning experience for our program. Cranford has shown year after year how good of a playoff team they can be. They put us on our heels tonight, but I couldn’t be more happy and proud of what our boys were able to accomplish tonight. They came back and found a way to win.”
It was also another comeback in a sense for Silverman after he broke a skate blade early in the second and missed most of the remainder of the period. Fortunately, his dad had a spare set of steel blades in his car and Silverman was able to switch the broken one out between the second and third.
The Highlanders had to deal with a slew of impediments throughout the chaotic but frantic game. Another skater had a blade break, there were several missed shots and a few posts and the loss of top line forward Darata for 15 minutes spanning the first and second periods, forcing Criscitello to juggle his lines.
“It was looking like the perfect storm,” the coach said, “but we weathered it.”