WEST ORANGE, NJ - In the single elimination bracket of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, the motto is simple; survive and advance.
Saturday Night, the Millburn Ice Hockey team did just that, scoring early in the first and putting in a complete defensive game en route to a 1-0 win over Governor Livingston.
Duncan Stewart scored the only goal of the game with 6:01 left in the first period off an assist from Fyodor Brylin, and the Millers held tight the rest of the way. In a smothering defensive effort, Millburn was able to limit Governor Livingston to just 11 shots on goal, all of which were turned aside by goalie Eli Nadell for the shutout.
After the game, Millburn head Coach Brandon Doria discussed his team's compete level against the Highlanders, and said he saw a complete effort.
We know that they [Governor Livingston] have some good offensive players on that team from their forwards, even their defense get in the play," Doria said. "So we knew we had to be consistent in the d-zone and strong in the d-zone. So that was something that we focused on leading into the game, and the kids executed.
"Blocking shots, keeping shots to the outside. Eli [Nadell] was able to see all the pucks, so that always helps out.That was definitely a strong team effort from top down."
Doria also said was proud of Stewart's resiliency, when he bounced back from taking a bad penalty to score what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
For Stewart, what he saw from his teammates on the ice was a resiliency that allowed them to clamp down on the Highlanders and deliver a win.
"It means a lot," Stewart said. "We worked our hardest today. It was our best-fought game all year. We played our best defense, we sacrificed our bodies. We always had a hard fight against Governor Livingston. they're starting to turn into our rivals, so it's real nice to get a win here."
Stewart also said it was nice to turn his night around after what he described as a borderline penalty call to send him to the box.
"[It] feels nice to get out of the box, get in there and pot that goal," he added.
And for Nadell, he said having a Kelly Cup Playoffs shutout was special, a feat he credited to the complete defensive effort from his squad up and down the lineup.
"It's definitely special, especially when we played these guys a couple days ago and definitely not the result we wanted, 4-4 tie," Nadell said. "And we knew that was unacceptable. And so to come out tonight, my defense were on it the whole game, 45 minutes. I mean, to limit it to 11 shots, that's absurd.
"For them to be able to do that, for me to be able to see only that many shots, it's easier for me to do my job. And so huge credit to them for tonight."
With a powerhouse Verona squad now looming on Monday, everyone interviewed said that the team knows a complete defensive effort like the one last night is their best chance to move forward in the tournament.
After all, in a single elimination scenario, the motto is simple; survive and advance.
Millburn will continue its chase for a third consecutive Kelly Cup when it faces off against Verona on Monday Night at Codey Arena. Puck drop in the contest is scheduled for 6:15 p.m.