WEST ORANGE, NJ- And back to the rock they go. The Randolph boys ice hockey team finished their march through the first three rounds of the NJSIAA Public B playoff bracket by taking a 5-0 win in the semifinals against Middletown South on Wednesday Mar. 4. As the No. 1 seed, the first three games went as expected for the Rams, but the next game at the Prudential Center will be the one that defines their season.
What makes things even more interesting, is the Rams will have the opportunity to get revenge for last year’s finals loss, as they will face off against Ridge once again in this year’s championship game. In last season’s final, Ridge netted three goals in the final 10 minutes to blow open a 1-1 tie and take home a 4-1 win.
In the semifinals against Middletown South at Cody Arena in West Orange, Randolph grabbed a 1-0 lead late in the first when Ben Yurchuk scored in the final thirty seconds of the period.
“We talked before the game about our plan and what needed to get done in order to win,” said Captain Michael Sofia. “We knew it was not going to be an easy game and that we would have to make their goalie uncomfortable in order to score. Eventually we got to him when we picked up a big goal to end the first which set us up for a big second period."
Middletown South came out of the locker room with some jump in the second period however, and kept the puck down in the Rams end for the first few minutes of the period.
But once the Rams flipped the ice, the floodgates opened, and the goals started to come.
“We drove to the net hard in the second period,” said captain JT Zangara. “We knew their goalie did not like pressure near his net. If we drove hard then we would be able to finish pucks.”
Nick Gallo kicked it off with a shot from the right faceoff circle off a combo pass from Yurchuk and Zangara. Later in the period, Kyle Barbera drove up the left-wing boards and centered a pass that was deflected in by Evan Xhumba as he and Zach Gallo crashed the net, giving the Rams a 3-0 lead. Xhumba followed that up with another goal, this time in front right on the goalies' doorstep, to give the Rams a commanding 4-0 lead.
The Rams settled into a comfortable possession game at that point in the action was limited for some time until the fifth and final goal was scored with five minutes left. Yurchuk took a pass from Gallo and walked in on net from the left corner before slipping a shot past the goalie for the 5-0 lead that would hold up until the end.
Gavin Einfeldt recorded yet another shutout, turning away all 18 shots he faced. Yurchuk had 2 goals and 2 assists, while Zangara had 3 assists.
“Winning a state championship in something we will remember forever,” said Sofia. The last two senior classes have come up short so this is for them as much as it is for us. We are playing for everyone who has ever thrown on a Randolph jersey, so we just want to come out and give it our all.”
Randolph will now attempt to plant their flag at the top of the rock when they play in the championship game at Prudential Center on Monday, March 9 at 8:45 PM.