STOCKHOLM, NJ - The Chatham ice hockey team remained undefeated Tuesday afternoon, walloping West Essex 8-1 in the first round of the Jefferson Tournament. The tournament, which is being held at Skylands Ice World in Stockholm, NJ, had been pushed back a day because of this week’s blizzard, but the Cougars didn’t seem to be phased at all by the delay. On the contrary, they immediately regained the form they displayed in their last game before taking off for the holidays, where they beat the tournament host 10-0.
The offense was sparked by left-winger Danny Casey who initiated the scoring frenzy about five minutes into the game, collecting the puck in the top left side of the offensive zone and then firing it into the top right corner of the net. He would not remain dormant for long, as only a few minutes later he sent a deft backhand pass to teammate Alex Router at the top of the zone. While Router’s shot was saved, Trip Burke quickly capitalized on the rebound to put the Cougars up 2-0.
While West Essex was able to hold the Cougars off for the remainder of the first period, they would have no such luck going forward. Although they received an early break in the form of a Chatham penalty, Chatham was unfazed. Not only did the Cougars kill the penalty but they also tallied a shorthanded goal. This time it was Router setting up Casey. Casey finished the play easily for his second goal.
Oddly enough, Router would find himself in the same position only a few minutes later. He didn’t waste the opportunity, putting the puck onto his backhand and taking it top shelf for the goal. Two minutes later, Jake Pyhel cleaned up yet another rebound, this time from a Connor Nelson shot, to make the score 5-0, effectively putting the game out of reach with about three minutes left in the second period.
There was some drama to be had in the third period; however, much of it revolved around Casey and Router achieving dueling hat tricks. Before either of them happened though, West Essex was able to end Chatham goalie Jordan Boles’ bid for a shutout, with a deflected shot early in the period. It proved to be the only blemish on the day for Boles, who admittedly didn’t face too much pressure from the Knights' offense. While they were able to get some scoring chances in transition, the Cougars proved effective enough on the back check to prevent West Essex from getting anything other than harmless shots from outside the faceoff circle.
With West Essex now on the board Chatham went back to work, as Casey put in a wrist shot only a few minutes later. With the action between the teams only getting more heated as the period went on, Casey was able to put in another. After being pulled down on a break away and awarded a penalty shot, he converted the opportunity with aplomb. Not wanting to be outdone, Router got his own hat trick, putting in a backhand with two minutes left.
With the victory, Chatham advances to the semifinals of the tournament, which will be held Thursday, again in Stockholm. With a victory the Cougars will advance to Friday’s final.