NEWARK – In a back-and-forth, tight game, Howell held the 1-0 lead over Randolph in the third period.
The Rams searching for yet another state championship, one season after failing to make to the Prudential Center. Despite trailing, Randolph’s mindset never changed.
“We have to get a goal to win, so nothing really changed,” Rams coach Rich McLaughlin said “We just [had] to keep playing our game and get that one goal, got to get one goal. We had another 15 minutes in the third period to get one goal so that’s what we worked for.”
Matt Koop tied the game 6:25 into the third period, burying a rebound. It looked as if the game would enter overtime, but Matt Bruno snuck a wraparound chance into the net with 2:40 left in regulation.
“We’re not pretty,” McLaughlin said. “We don’t have a whole lot of guys who can shoot the puck like [Howell] does. We work on it every day, we crash the nets. [When] we’re going to get a goal, it’s two feet away not 20 feet away it’s going ot be a rebound, it’s going to be something off our head, it’s going to be something off our rear end but that’s the way we got to take it because we just don’t have those highly skilled guys that other teams do.”
McLaughlin said the most difficult time of the game was the second period, when Howell’s Kyle Haullbauer shot the puck past a diving Ram.
“We kind of sat back and let it come to us and we didn’t do that in the first period, we took it to them,” McLaughlin said. “If you look at this team, if you give them time and space they’re going to kill you. They’re really good, they can move the puck, they can shoot the puck. So our whole game was just time and space. We had to take away time and space and we just didn’t do that in the second period.”
Bruno’s goal, so late in the game, was followed by his teammates piling on top of him. Randolph’s defense shut down Howell, giving the Rams its seventh state championship in the past 10 years. It was also Randolph’s fourth win in five seasons.
“They’re all great. Everyone says, which one you like better,” McLaughlin said. “There’s no one you like better each one has its own character if you will, you remember the kids on each one of them and they win it differently each time. It’s a … all kinds of guys I think it’s just a testament if you will to the way these guys are brought up. They work hard, they don’t quit.
“It’s a great day anytime you win.”