NEWARK, NJ – After a slow start in the first period, top-seed and returning state section champions Morris Knolls ice hockey battled it out to seal a hard-fought victory against a tenacious second-seed Montclair in overtime, 3-2, in the final round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Tournament, Public A, on Mon., March 9, at the Prudential Center in Newark.
A nail-biter from start to finish, Montclair held Morris Knolls at bay for the first 14:27 minutes of the game, at which time the Golden Eagles eventually made their first shot on goal.
After ending the first period with both teams scoreless, Montclair’s George Osterberg put his team on the scoreboard first with a powerplay goal made with 3:20 minutes remaining in the second period.
Not to be outdone, Morris Knolls’s Jason Kwestel answered with a goal 19 seconds later. Kwestel would have an opportunity to take the lead before the end of the second period with a penalty shot opportunity created when a Montclair player covered the puck in the crease. Montclair goalie Lucas Podvey, however, denied the shot.
With nearly six minutes left in the third period, the Quinns teamed up to take the lead for Morris Knolls. Jeffrey Quinn sent the puck to Jake Quinn to put Morris Knolls ahead for the first time in the game.
Montclair’s Brett Janifer answered with a powerplay goal 1:21 minutes later to tie the score once again and ultimately send the game into overtime.
Morris Knolls began overtime with 3:19 minutes to burn on a penalty kill that resulted from a five-minute major for boarding assessed against Jake DiLoreto with 1:41 minutes remaining in the third period.
One minute and 15 seconds after the Golden Eagles deftly managed the penalty kill, Kwestel deflected a shot from Dylan Idland to score the game-winning goal and make Morris Knolls repeat state section champions and the first Morris Knolls team to earn back-to-back titles.
Morris Knolls goalie Elliot Marken and Montclair’s Podvey both stared down 28 shots on goal, with Marken getting 26 saves and Podvey getting 25.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game and would come down to special teams,” said Morris Knolls Head Coach Tim Kepler when asked about the team’s plan heading into the game. “Unfortunately, [Montclair] scored two powerplay goals on us, but our penalty killers came through in the end. I’m so proud of everyone.”
As for how it feels to come out on top, “It feels great…amazing,” shared Marken, echoing the sentiments of many of his teammates expressed while returning to the locker room. “I can’t imagine how it feels for the older guys…the seniors. As good as it feels to me, it must feel much better for them,” he smiled.
Morris Knolls skates away with a 18-6-3 record and Montclair with 18-6-2.
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