MORRIS TOWNSHIP—While not the prettiest of performances, the Morristown ice hockey team’s state tournament run is off to a good start.
Despite conceding a goal to visiting Westfield in the opening period, the top-seeded Colonials rallied for a three-goal second period and tacked on another in the game’s final seconds.
The result was enough to defeat the sixteenth-seeded Blue Devils, 4-1, in NJSIAA Non-Public A Round of 16 action at Mennen Arena.
With the victory, Morristown improves to 21-3-1 on the season and advances to take on Mennen Division rival Morris Knolls in the quarterfinals. That game will be staged at Mennen Arena with a date and time to be determined, but it must be played by Monday.
“I think our kids are under enormous pressure by having that #1 seed attached to them, and that showed early on” said Colonials coach Bobby Jones, “They know what’s at stake in the state tournament, and I think they will respond better as the tournament goes on.”
Morristown dominated puck possession in the first period against the obviously defensive-minded squad from Union County. Morristown had plenty of opportunities to get on the board—including a shot that struck the post—but were unable to score.
However, Westfield was able to get on the board. Two seconds after Morristown killed off a penalty, the Blue Devils scored when Andrew Johnson-Milstein was waiting on the back post of a Luke Hiltwein pass to make it 1-0. Matt Rittendale also assisted on the goal in the Westfield attacking third.
The Colonials got the huge equalizer just under four minutes into the second period. A designed play saw Kyle Beyer feed an entry pass from the right point onto the stick of Christian Rodriguez, who buried a shot from 15 feet away to even things up at 1-1.
With the Union County squad electing to play a more free-flowing second period, as opposed to remaining in their defensive shell in the first, Morristown was able to create more opportunities.
A Rodriguez shot was turned away by Westfield goaltender Eithan Finver, but the Colonials’ Bradley Greik was waiting for the rebound and finished it home with an upper-left shelf blast to make it 2-1.
The third goal that all but sealed it came two and a half minutes later, when Nate DeFeras backhanded in a beautiful looking shot off an assist from his brother, Jakob to double the lead to 3-1.
A largely uneventful third period did produce a goal in the game’s final seconds, when Morristown’s Teddy Dolan scored an empty-net goal to put the exclamation point on the victory. Nate DeFeras provided the assist.
With Knolls—a team Morristown defeated twice in Mennen Division play—on deck, Jones expects his team to be in for another tough challenge.
“(Knolls) always plays us tough. The kids know beating a team three times in one year, especially a divisional rival, is tough to do, but I know they’ll be prepared for it.”
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