MORRISTOWN, NJ - It took overtime play to decide the Halverson Cup playoff game between Sparta Jefferson United on Wednesday. Madison took the 4-3 win halfway through the fourth period.
Second seed Sparta had beaten third seed Madison twice earlier in the season, 7-6 and 6-4 as part of their first successful season as a co-op team. It is also the teams' first season in the tougher Halverson division of the Morris County Secondary Schools Ice Hockey League.
Playing at Mennen Arena, Sparta jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period. Connor Erickson was the first to find the net assisted by Brendan Erickson. With less than a minute to go in the first Zach Harmel scored on the assist by Jaxon Mase and Matt Redding.
SJU was playing as a cohesive team evident by the many takeaways, well executed passes and dominant time of possession in the first period.
The second period was a different story. Madison took advantage of the only penalty of the game with a power play goal. Madison tied it up before the teams left the ice for the second intermission.
In the third, with pressure in front of the net, Mase scored, assisted by C.J. Leonardo and Mike King.
Madison brought it back to even with plenty of time left on the clock. With several opportunities, SJU could not find the net. In the end SJU had 33 shots on goal.
SJU's goalie, freshman Logan Hanek played tough despite being taunted by the Madison fans throughout the game, with Madison students even moving their seats each period to be closest to Hanek. Hanek stopped 19 Madison shots.
By the time the teams returned to the ice for an overtime period it was after 10 p.m. It took nearly half the period to have the game finally decided with the Madison goal.
SJU now moves onto NJSIAA Public A tournament play, ranked 11. They will play 22 seed Gov Livingston on Tuesday February 21 at 8 p.m. at Skylands Ice World.