Morristown-Beard coach Randy Velischek stood at the podium, addressing the six NJISAA High School Hockey Tournament finalists.
Valischek was a member of the New Jersey Devils when the team made it to the postseason for the first time in 1987.
“We had veteran players on the team and the message they gave us was, I was a pretty young player at the time, they said ‘Savor this. Relish it and savor this moment because it might never happen again,’ ” Valischek said.
When you’re young, you don’t realize it. You say, ‘Well we have a chance to get back here.’ I was 25 uears old and I figured I’m playing the game for seven or eight years or whatever. Ulimtately I never played in another playoff game. That was it. It was the last time I got to play in the postseason.”
Valishcek’s Morristown-Beard team will take on Christian Brothers Academy in the Non-Public final, while Morris Knolls and Bridgewater-Raritan will face off in the Public A final. The last puck will drop on Ramsey and Morristown in the Public B final on Sunday night.
“All of you understand what it’s like to play in the postseason,” Valischek Everything is ratcheted up, everything’s ramped up, it’s a great time. It’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
Velischek’s team made it the finals after upsetting No. 1 Delbarton, who’d won six state championships in a row.
“These gentlemen here on Wednesday night did something this school has never done, they beat Delbarton,” Velischek said. “It’s been 44 games and 20 years and it seemed like it was an impossible hurdle so to all of you congratulations.”
Morristown-Beard will take on Christian Brothers Academy, who’s returning to the final after losing to Delbarton in the final in 2012.
Christian Brothers Academy finished the season 24-3, led by Bobby Hampton’s 71 points (32g, 39a), while three players have over 40 points this season. The Colts defeated St. Rose, St. Joseph Metuchen and St. Augustine Prep en route to the state final.
“Every year we make this our season goal,” CBA coach Ryan Bogan said. “Sometimes we fall short, sometimes we make it. It’s an experience that our players and players around the state are never going to forget.”
In addition to taking down Delbarton, Morristown-Beard beat Gloucester Catholic and Pope John in the tournament. Luke Moser’s 35 points (17g, 18a) leads the offense.
Last season, Bridgewater-Raritan made it to the state finals. But they lost 4-1 to Randolph at The Rock.
“I’ve heard NFL coaches, college coaches talk about just getting back is even tougher the second time than it is the first time and our team definitely experienced that,” Bridgewater-Raritan coach Patrick Alvin said. “It was a very difficult road,we had a few injures here and there along the way and we were able to overcome.”
Tyler Darby’s 28 points (17g, 21a) leads Bridgewater-Raritan’s offense, while Mickey Avenoso has a 0.94 save percentage.
Morris Knolls defeated Randolph, last year’s champions, 1-0 in the semifinals.
Walter Keiper leads Morris Knolls offense with 33 points (19g, 14a). Zach Flake holds a 0.92 save percentage. The Golden Eagles took down High Point, Jackson Memorial, Ocean Township and Randolph in the tournament.They defeated Randolph 1-0 in the semifinals.
“We battled all year, we hovered around that .500 mark all season, we played a very tough schedule, an out of league schedule as well,” Morris Knolls head coach Walt Keiper said. “It’s been up down, the boys came togheter in the tournament and I’m very proud of them.”
For the past two years, Ramsey made it to the semifinals. For the past two years, they didn’t advance to The Rock.
On Thursday, Ramsey took down Mendham 7-0 to advance to the finals.
The Rams will face Morristown in the last game at The Rock.
“I don’t think being here is going to be enough for them,” Rams coach Bob Toy said. “Over the past couple years they worked real hard to get here and now that they’re here they want to make the best of it and their job will be done if and when we’re able to be successful.”
The Rams, who defeated Mount Olive, Madison, Roxbury and Mendham, have tallied 30 points in the tournament. Alex Whelan leads the offense with 80 points (43g, 37a).
Last year Morristown lost to Chatham 3-0 in the Public B championship game. The year before that, Morristown fell to Randolph 1-0 in the Public A championship. This season, Morristown defeated Indian Hills, Wayne Hills and Summit — before taking down Chatham 2-1 in the semifinals.
“This season has been a little different than the past two years making it here,” Morristown coach Bobby Jones said. “I know it’s our first trip back but this is a little bit more gratifying I think that we put a little bit more work than in the past years. That’s a testament to the kids and the commitment and dedication as well as the assistant coaches.”