If Morristown-Beard wanted to win its fourth straight Mennen Cup on Thursday night, it would have to figure out a way to solve Morris Knolls’ sophomore goaltender Ty Franchi.
“Getting shots to the net is key, historically we don’t shoot a lot, or get pucks to the net,” Morristown-Beard coach Randy Velischek said. “Pretty much the only way to beat this kid is if he can’t see it or if its off a rebound or deflection.”
That’s exactly how Mo-Beard was able to beat Franchi on this night, although it wasn’t for a lack of trying from the tenth grade tender.
The Crimson unleashed 40 shots, scoring three of their four goals via rebound, screen, and deflection, including Will Bonnelli’s deflection of a blast by Sam Schappel that gave Morristown-Beard a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Morris Knolls to win their fourth straight Mennen Cup and 12th overall in the tournament’s 42-year history.
For senior Isaac Davison, it was the most important victory of his career.
“It’s absolutely surreal. We’ve had two great games with them this season. I was nervous, but I knew it would be a great ending,” Davison said. “This is the pinnacle for me. It’s always been the biggest game for me and to win it all four years I’ve been here is nuts. It’s cool to leave a legacy here.”
Davison scored in the first period to tie the score 1-1 after Alex Welch put Knolls up with an early goal, but the Golden Eagles went into the locker room with a 2-1 advantage after the first period with a Chris Conway goal created from a stiff Knolls forecheck.
Despite being down 2-1, Mo-Beard outshot Knolls 14-9 in the first period, and it was more of the same in the second period as the Crimson continued to pepper the net. It was a complete domination of possession as MB put up 15 more shots (to just four for Knolls), but Franchi looked like he was going to win it himself.
“Honestly, after two periods we were dominating the whole game and I was getting a little scared,” Davison said. “We weren’t going to let up. I knew we’d come out strong and carry it all the way to the end.”
Mo-Beard immediately equalized to start the third period when Max Cassella ripped a shot from the point through a screen in front just 43 seconds into the third period. Before the PA announcer could credit the goal, Morris Knolls regained the lead with Conway’s second goal of the game, giving the Eagles a 3-2 lead with 13:54 to go.
The Crimson didn’t get down.
Mike Karrat chased down a Knolls defender skating back for the puck in the MK zone and forced a turnover. Brayden Patricia found Karrat who circled in front of the net, corralled the puck, and put it home, tying the game once again just 60 seconds after Knolls retook the lead.
Bonnelli’s goal came five minutes later, but the true game-clinching play might’ve been made by the goaltender yet to be mentioned.
Anthony DelTufo only had to make 17 saves on the night, but with less than three minutes to go, he made the biggest of the game.
Morris Knolls caught Mo-Beard on a bad change and ended up with a three on none against the junior goalie. With the new skaters bearing down, Alex Welch elected to rip a slap shot, but DelTufo, who crept out of his crease, was on it all the way.
“You gotta give Ty Franchi a lot of kudos, he made some big saves, a ton of them,” Velischek said. “But our guy didn’t have a lot of action and he had to pull it together in that third period. At the end of the day, I think it was a great goaltender matchup.”
Both Mo-Beard and Morris Knolls will head to their respective state tournaments. The Crimson will travel to St. Peter’s Prep in the Round of 16 in the Non-Public state tournament and Morris Knolls will await an opponent as the top seed in the Public A tournament.
For now, Morristown-Beard will celebrate.
“This was a big one for me, but we’re going to fight as hard as we can until we can’t wear this jersey anymore,” Davison said. “I’ll never take it for granted.”