MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ – Monday evening’s state tournament hockey game between defending state champions Morristown and Howell did not provide the most entertaining moments during some stretches of play.
All that matters for the Colonials, though, is that they are still alive in their title chase.
A goal each from Conor Critchley and captain Nate DeFares was enough for twelfth-seeded Morristown to advance with a 2-0 victory over the twenty-first seeded Rebels at Mennen Arena. Now past its first test in the NJSIAA Public A bracket, Morristown—now 9-10-3 on the campaign—will take on No. 5 seed Livingston in Round of 16 action later in the week at Codey Arena in West Orange.
For the first twelve minutes of the game, the Colonials outshot their opponents by a 14-5 margin, but had not found the back of the net. That all changed with a minute to go in the first period, however, when Conor Critchley scored on a close range shot off an assist from both Jay Horan and Sean Donnelly.
Howell came out flying out of the gates to start the second period, and nearly scored just nine seconds in when Ryan Damelio hit a hard shot bending toward goal that was turned away by Colonials goalie Harrison Brown. Brown finished with 16 saves on the day in a shutout effort.
With 1:36 to go in the second frame, Damelio came up with Howell’s best chance of the day. Out in transition, Damelio took a pass in front of the Morristown net and snuck a gliding shot past an outstretched Brown, but the right post was there to bail the Colonials out of a tie game.
DeFares had two very good chances to get on the board himself in the second, but was twice foiled on glove saves by Howell goalie Bobby Dovenero, who finished with 37 saves.
However, with 2:47 remaining in the game and Howell pressing desperately for the equalizer, DeFares put the game on ice with a hard shot from the left wing to double the lead to 2-0. The Rebels had killed off a penalty just twenty-two seconds before DeFares’ clinching finish.
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