Ramsey coach Bob Toy smiled as he looked over at his team. They were sitting in the concourse of The Rock, waiting to eat at the NJISAA high school hockey championships luncheon.
“I don’t think being here is going to be enough for them,” Toy said. “Over the past couple years they worked really hard to get here. 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.”
Ramsey defeated Mendham 7-0 in the semifinals to earn a berth back to the Prudential Center for the first time since winning it all in 2009. They will face Morristown on Sunday in the Public B Championship.
Surrounded by state high school hockey jerseys, murals of the Stanley Cup and pictures of New Jersey champions before them, Ramsey captain Connor DiTomasso said the team is trying not to be nervous.
“If you let your nerves get to you you tend to not play as well so we try to think of it just like another game,” DiTomasso said.
But DiTomasso admitted the team was a little anxious getting to the semifinals. In the past two years, Ramsey fell in the semifinals — to Summit 3-2 and Chatham 5-2 — failing to make it to the Prudential Center.
After beating Mendham in the semifinals on Thursday, the team celebrated for a little bit. But once they were off the ice, the Rams shifted their focus to Sunday’s championship game.
“They were very business like,” Toy said. “There wasn’t a lot of ripping it up, they weren’t thinking that they just accomplished something. It was, for a man it was we have one more game.
“It was a little maybe a sigh of relief, but it was more along the lines of, okay we have one more ahead of us.”
This season, Ramsey also faced Public A finalists Morris Knolls and Bridgewater-Raritan, beating both of them on the season en route to a 28-2 record.
In the NJISAA Tournament this year, the Rams defeated Mount Olive, Madison and Roxbury. They’ve scored a combined 30 goals.
“Goal scoring is contagious. When it goes in, everybody’s scoring,” Toy said. “When there’s a drought, nothing’s going in the net. You’ve got a wide-open net and can still miss.
“W’ere in a pretty good groove right now and hopefully that stays with us for one more game.”
Alex Whelan, a Quinnipiac commit, leads the team with 80 points (43g, 37a) this season. In the entire tournament, Ramsey has allowed one goal.
“We really have to bare down on defense and obviously keep going to the net and just trying to put pucks on net and score as many goals as we can,” DiTomasso said. “But defense is key. You can’t win a game with just offense, you need defense.”
Tyler Harmon has manned Ramsey’s net in every tournament game, making a combined 53 saves. The Rams limited their opponents to 12 shots or less on goal in every tournament match except against Mendham, when they allowed 20.
“I thought our first two periods were stellar. We were on Mendham early, we got early goals, kept them off, we gave up eight shots in the first two periods to a team that scored over 200 goals,” Toy said.
“Coming into the third period I we backed off the gas pedal a little bit and gave Mendham some opportunities against us. Our goalkeeper was tremendous and Tyler did exactly what he had to do and preserve the shutout.
“If [we have] anything to improve on, it’s [play a] more consistent third period as the first and second.”
Ramsey’s players haven’t skated for a championship on the Prudential Center ice before.
“I don’t know how they’re going to react when they hit the ice,” Toy said.
Unlike Ramsey, Morristown appeared in the 2013 and 2012 Public B Championship. Last year they fell to Chatham, and in 2012 they lost to Randolph.
“All of our guys played high level travel hockey so they’ve been in a lot of big games in a lot of different arenas,” Toy said. I don’t think the size of the barn, the atmosphere is going to affect them.
“When they step on the ice they may get a little star struck but then after the first minute or two of warmups they’ll dial right in and get onto their task at hand.”
In addition to the semifinal losses Ramsey suffered over the past five years, the team also fell to Chatham in the quarterfinals in 2011. In 2010, the Rams lost in the second round 4-2 to West Milford.
“It’s really hard to get back,” Toy said. “All the players out here, really enjoy the next few days because it goes fast, but they are memories that will last a lifetime.”