Collier, Barnett, Pierce Score in Third Period to Boost Chatham into State Hockey Semifinals

Chatham's Will Barnett after the first of his two goals against Kinnelon in state quarterfinals Credits: Tony Albanese
Robert Graziano and goalie C.J. Albanese celebrate state tournament victory for Chatham Credits: Tony Albanese
Austin Pierce netted the empty-netter to cap a three-goal outburst in the third for Chatham Credits: Tony Albanese

MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ - Senior captain Colby Collier saw his Chatham hockey career ticking away in the third period on Sunday night, down a goal to Kinnelon in the quarterfinal round of the NJSIAA Public B state tournament.

Then he did something to keep his quest to win a second straight state title alive.

Collier knocked in a rebound to tie the game at 7:41 of the third period and - 73 seconds later - Will Barnett scored his second goal of the game, lifting Chatham to a 4-2 victory over Kinnelon at Mennen Sports Arena.

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Chatham will meet the winner of the Summit vs. Morristown quarterfinal in the semifinal round either Wednesday or Thursday.

"Ben Seitz-Sitek took a good low shot from the point and I came around from behind the net and put it in," Collier said. "It could have been my last hockey game ever. It felt really good to tie it up."

Colby Collier talks about his game-tying goal in video below

Chatham coach Frank Gilberti had changed his mind and kept Collier and his second-line teammates on the ice just before the tying goal was scored.

"We actually made a line change right before the puck dropped," Gilberti said. "We had our third line out on the ice and we made a switch and put our second line out on the ice and he scored a goal. A fantastic job. I'm very happy for Colby, he's a senior and he's just a great kid. I was happy for him."

Gilberti had a reason to be happy at 8:54 of the third when Barnett connected for his second goal of the game and a 3-2 Chatham lead.

"That was all Teddy (Simson) and Jack O'Connor," said Barnett, who boosted his season total to 12 goals. "They did all the work and the puck bounced out and I was there to finish it."

Austin Pierce made the final score look a little deceiving when he scored an empty-net goal with 53 seconds left, capping a three-goal third for the Cougars.

Kinnelon's Trevor LaLonde received a centering pass from Matt Civil to score just 1:01 into the first period for a 1-0 lead.

Chatham tied it at 1-1 at 5:54 of the firstr after Teddy Simson hustled for a loose puck and kept it from crossing the blue line. Barnett collected the puck and beat Kinnelo goalie David Neu (22 saves) with a high shot to the glove side.

Civil's goal, which trickled past Chatham goalie C.J. Albanese at 10:14 of the first, made it 2-1.

It stayed that way until Collier tied it in the third period, igniting a three-goal outburst. It was the fourth victory for the Cougars over Kinnelon this season. That included two regular-season games and a meeting in the Mennen Cup playoffs.

"It's tough to beat Kinnelon once in a season" Gilberti said. "We played well in the second and third peirods after a slow first period. We have to be better with our starts. It's going to be big for us in our next game to get off to a good start. If we play like we did in the second and third periods tonight, we'll be okay.

"But you can't spend so much time fighting back just to get even. It's a lot easier when you get the lead and settle into your game. Hopefully, we'll take the lessons we learned into our next game."

Albanese finished with 22 saves for Chatham, making several big stops to keep it at 2-1. In the opening seconds of the second period, Albanese made an excellent glove save of a low shot while falling backwards. In the third, he deflected a potential goal away with his right shoulder.

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