WALL TOWNSHIP, NJ – For the first time in the history of the ice hockey program at Sparta, the Sparta Jefferson United team won their second round of the NJSIAA state tournament. Playing down in Wall Township, SJU defeated Freehold Township 4-2 on Friday night. The move to the final eight.
“It’s the farthest each team has been in a while,” Zach Harmel said.
Goalie Logan Hanek, having been tested in three playoff games, is looking more confident in net. The freshman stopped 22 of 24 Patriot shots.
The only goals scored by “Township” were on power plays. The first goal of the game, a Freehold goal, came in the last 5 minutes of the first period.
SJU answered back less than a minute later as Mike Kwiecinski grabbed the puck, took it down ice and getting his own rebound, poked the loose puck in for a shorthanded goal.
Kwiecinski found the net again at the top of the second period, this time assisted by Mike Holovach and Brendan Erickson.
Jaxon Mase also put up two points with a goal in both the second and third periods. C.J. Leonardo and Harmel assisted with his first. Leonardo paired up with Mase again in the third for the final goal of the game.
Brendan Erickson has been the point leader of the team all season. He has added 17 goals and 19 assists to his four year varsity total of 120 points so far.
Leonardo has put together 24 points this season with nine goals and a playmaker 15 assists.
Mase has 15 goals and eight assists for 23 points in his short season. Mase, new to the school, had to sit the first 30 day but has made up for lost time.
Harmel close behind for the new team with 22 points; eight goals and 14 assists.
Playing their first year as a co-op team, SJU has come together playing unified as the season culminates in playoffs. Offensive lines have gained confidence in each other passing more effectively. Defense pairs getting a better understanding of when to get back to cover the net and when to take advantage of the breakaway opportunity.
“Sparta Jefferson has been a work in progress all season,” Harmel said. “Finally being in States, we realize the potential we have as a team. Being the underdogs against Freehold made us rally and play a hard game, allowing us to advance in the playoffs. We will keep the motivation going and keep playing the way we know how.”
SJU is hoping for a good crowd to show up cheer at Mennen on Monday as they play Randolph in the quarterfinal game. The puck is scheduled to drop at 4:30 p.m.