WEST ORANGE, NJ - The Millburn ice hockey team had the chance at immortality on Saturday afternoon in their heated match up with the Governor Livingston Highlanders with the Kelly Cup on the line.
The two teams had met twice before. Splitting the first two, Saturday served as a rubber match. Early in the season, Millburn trounced Governor Livingston, in Berkeley Heights, 5-0. The Highlanders seemed incomplete offensively, failing to get any of their 18 shots past MVP Miller goalie Gabe Nadell.
It seemed as if Millburn owned their Kelly Cup rival this year. However, the Highlanders surged with the return of star forward Danny Kramer, who missed the first 12 games of the year due to injury. In their second meeting, Governor Livingston handled Millburn 3-1. This time, the Highlanders pressured Millburn's crease a little bit more and bested Nadell.
Fittingly, the two squads found themselves chasing the Kelley Cup in the championship game of the conference tournament as well.
Millburn started the game quickly and physically. However, Governor Livingston skated confidently than Millburn and were lethal on the boards. Towards the end of the first period, Ryan Monroy, who scored against the Millers in January, was in the right place at the right time sent the puck past Nadell. His goal gave the Highlanders a 1-0 lead, which was all they needed.
Kramer is not the lone messiah of this Highlander team. Nick Papa, Governor Livingston's goalie, led his team to the championship game. Papa limited opponents to two goals or less in 12 of his last 14 starts and handled each of Millburn's 21 shots on goal.
In the end, Governor Livingston took all the marbles, winning the season series en route to becoming Kelley Cup Champions. Carson Wahlers sunk the empty netter to secure the 2-0 win.
Millburn didn't end the day empty handed. Millburn's Coach Doria won Coach of the Year. Nadell won the Kelley conference's Most Valuable Player Award and was placed on the Kelley Conference first team. In addition, Alec Stupp and Matt Cohen made second team all-Kelley conference.
On Monday the 20th, Millburn will face off against Central Regional in the first round of the NJSIAA Public B State Tournament.