MORRIS TWP. – One more point. That’s all the Parsippany Regional hockey team needed in its final MCSSIHL regular-season game of the season against Morris Catholic on Saturday to secure a berth in the Haas Cup playoffs.
Led by a four-goal performance from sophomore defenseman David Zilinskis and strong goaltending from Justin Wellman, Parsippany was able to lock down that postseason spot with a 7-2 victory over the Crusaders at Mennen Arena.
The two teams, which were both vying for the final Haas Cup playoff berth, had skated to a 5-5 tie in their only other meeting last week. Parsippany needed only a tie while the Crusaders need a win to earn a trip to the postseason.
Parsippany will play Hass Division regular-season winner Park Regional in the opening round of the Haas Cup.
The crucial victory came on Senior Night, with Parsippany senior Wellman stopping 17 shots while senior captains Jake Weiss and Suveer Singh each contributed a goal and senior Tim Coppinger added an assist.
“This was a huge emotional game for the seniors and a big game for the playoffs,” said Zilinskis, who leads his team in scoring with 18 goals. “We started a little slow but warned up to it as the game moved along.”
Parsippany Regional never trailed in the game but only led 4-2 early in the third period before breaking it open on late goals by Zilinskis, Singh and Weiss.
“I think there were some nerves early,” said Parsippany Regional head coach Anthony Egidio. “There was a big crowd for Senior Night, and it was a playoff-type atmosphere.”
After somewhat of a sluggish start, Parsippany grabbed the lead at 7:33 of the first period when Zilinskis skated past the Crusaders’ defense in the neutral zone, cut across the high slot, and first a wrist shot past Morris Catholic netminder Jason Briant.
Parsippany Regional held an 8-7 shot advantage over the opening 15 minutes of play.
Scoring chances were difficult to come by for much of the second period before Zilinskis struck again for Parsippany, this time on the power play, beating Briant on a wraparound shot at 11:07.
But just six seconds later, the Crusaders got on the scoreboard, cutting the Parsippany lead in half when Aldino Guadagnino scored on a breakaway off the center-ice faceoff, slipped a forehand shot between the pads of netminder Justin Wellman.
But Parsippany struck twice over the final 2:03 of the period to grab a three-goal lead heading into the final 15 minutes of play.
First, it was sophomore winger Nicholas Sibilla who pounced on the rebound of a shot by freshman defenseman Kyle Kirk and fired it into the net past Briant. Then with just 22 seconds remaining in the period, Zilinskis completed his hat trick when he scored his third goal of the game to make it a 4-1 game heading int the final period.
The Crusaders made it interesting early in the third period Declan Norton netted a power-play goal at 1:57 to cut the deficit to 4-2.
But solid goaltending down the stretch from Wellman and late goals off the sticks of Zilinskis (his fourth of the game), Singh, and Weiss put an exclamation point on the playoff-clinching victory.