With 8:39 minutes left in the second period, Morris Knolls forward Danny Cangelosi was on his knees after taking a hit. He wasn’t getting up, so the trainer walked off the bench and to the far boards to attend to Cangelosi. A few minutes later, a couple Golden Eagles helped Cangelosi — who was struggling to skate — to the bench.
Four minutes after his teammates helped him off the ice, Cangelosi was back on the ice and right by Bridgewater-Raritan’s net. The puck careened off the boards and went straight to Cangelosi, who put it past Bridgewater-Raritan’s Mike Avenoso.
“It was incredible. The fans were there, I jumped into the fans,” Cangelosi said.
The tally helped Morris Knolls defeated Bridgewater-Raritan 3-0 in the Public A Championship. It marked the first time a team won a state championship after getting an at-large bid, and the second time the Golden Eagles won.
“The mood is outstanding,” Morris Knolls coach Walt Keiper said. “They’re sky high right now. … It’s perfect.”
After taking the hit, Cangelosi initially didn’t know if he would return or not.
“I was coming up the ice, I turned around and there was a kid who hit me right in the neck,” Cangelosi said. “My windpipe just shut down.”
Not long after Cangelosi returned to the bench, the trainer cleared him to play. But Keiper sat Calngelosi for one shift.
“He’s a greedy little player,” Keiper said. “When he got hit in the throat with that hit, once the trainer told me he was good to go, I actually sat him a shift and he was mad because he wanted to get out there.
“I feel very happy that he was able to get one in.”
With 10:42 minutes left in regulation, Bridgewater-Raritan came close to cutting the deficit to 2-1. Initially the whistle blew after a save from Morris Knolls’ Zach Flake, but the goal light also turned on and Bridgewater-Raritan was celebrating.
The puck had trickled past Flake and just crossed the goal line around the time the whistle blew. After a review the referees ruled it was a not a goal.
Other than the almost-goal, Flake made some key saves for the Golden Eagles. But the team’s defense kept Bridgewater-Raritan from getting good looks at the net.
“Team defense,” Keiper said. “We’ve been stressing team defense for a while with these guys. “We don’t have a lot of scoring, true scoring on the team to capitalize on mistakes and those things, so it’s got to come from the defense.”
Bridgewater-Raritan had two good chances, with Brett Goldstein hitting the top right corner of the net in the first period. In the third, a rebound found Dylan Gottlieb’s stick, but he shot high.
Morris Knolls dominated the first period and scored 1:52 minutes into the game. Alex Urbanski was skating across the net, grabbed a loose puck on a rebound and backhanded it in for the goal.
Urbanski’s tally, the first of the game, stood as the game-winning goal.
“It was huge,” Keiper said. “[It] got rid of the jitters and the nervous emotions that were in that locker room once you get out to the early lead and maintaining the lead and maintain our play.”
Morris Knolls created multiple scoring chances, and the Golden Eagles also had a goal disallowed for a high stick in the first period.
Reed Pelliconi sealed the win with an empty net goal 5.9 seconds left in the game to make it 3-0. Daniel Abaunza, Jake Hepburn and Jonathan Kwestel added points on the night.
Cangelosi, Flake, Walkt Keiper and Matt Mezik made the Public A All-Tournament Team, as did Bridgewater-Raritan’s Tyler Darby and Goldstein.