Delbarton, Bridgewater set for TOC final
NJSIAA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
At Kean University, Union, 7:30
BRIDGEWATER-RARITAN (20-0) VS. DELBARTON (16-6)
SEEDS: Bridgewater-Raritan 1, Delbarton 3
MSG VARSITY POWER RANKINGS: Bridgewater-Raritan 1, Delbarton 3
COACHING ROYALTY: Chuck Apel of Bridgewater-Raritan is 412-180 in his 31st season. Chuck Ruebling of Delbarton is 421-106 in his 26th season. Ruebling is third all-time in New Jersey and Apel fourth.
TRENDS: Bridgewater carries a 35-game winning streak into the game, the fourth longest ever assembled in New Jersey. The Panthers' last loss came against Hunterdon Central, 6-5, on April 23 of last year. Delbarton has won five straight games since 5-3 loss to Long Island power Chaminade May 19.
LAST TIME OUT
Bridgewater-Raritan squandered a three-goal lead after three quarters, but outlasted Ridgewood in three overtimes, 8-7, when Ray Mastroianni buried a 16-yard cannon off a feed by Scott Bieda on an extra-man opportunity with 3:06 to go in the semifinals Wednesday at Kean.
The Panthers set the early tempo, outshooting Ridgewood, 23-4, in the first half, but were able to forge just a 4-2 lead against the superb play of Maroons' goalie Noah Pounds. The steady junior turned away nine shots in that first half and made 16 saves for the night.
Ridgewood tied the game at 6-6 with three quick goals in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, but John Longordo got the lead back for Bridgewater on an unassisted goal with 7:57 left. Ridgewood forced OT on a goal by Peter Reuter with 5:16 left in regulation.
Junior pole Jared Kaden and senior middie Steve Danyluk played outstanding defense in the late stretches of the game to help kill two penalties, and Kaden gave the Panthers possession by winning the faceoff to open the third OT.
Delbarton turned in a defensive masterpiece Wednesday in the semifinals with a surprisingly effective zone that hamstrung Summit's usually confident shooters and helped provide the offense with critical early possession time. Summit, which had reached the three previous T of C finals, managed only three first-half shots while Delbarton built a 5-0 lead behind two goals apiece from Sean Donnelly and John Shaffer and one from Kevin Lewis.
The combination of solid, drawn out possessions by the offense and tough, heady defense gave Delbarton goalie John Schisler a respite from pressure in the first half. The junior was challenged in the second half, though, and came away with six of his seven saves.
T OF C HISTORY
Bridgewater-Raritan claimed its first title last year by snapping Summit's state-record 68-game winning streak with a thrilling 6-5 win. Scott Bieda and Tyler Konen netted two goals apiece and Ryan Hollingsworth and Ray Mastroianni had one each for the Panthers. Bridgewater lost in an earlier round in 2009. Prior to the T of C format in 2004, Bridgewater had won an overall state championship in 1998 with a 19-0 record.
Delbarton won the first three T of C titles in 2004, '05 and '06, then lost three straight in '07, '08 and '09. The Green Wave also claimed overall state championships in 1999, 2000, '02 and '03.
LAST MEETING: Delbarton defeated Bridgewater, 13-3, in the semifinals of the 2009 T of C. The Green Wave bolted to a 5-0 lead in the first quarter behind the offensive spark of senior Ryan Foley and maintained its comfortable margin with strong goalie play from senior Billy Hurley. Foley and Ryan Stevens scored three goals apiece and Mike Marone added two goals and five assists for Delbarton. Alex Eaton, Sam Nepveux and Brandon Connor scored for Bridgewater.
Bridgewater-Raritan averages 13.2 gpg. and allows 3.95. It has scored at least eight goals in every game this season and has reached double figures in all but four. The defense has yielded double-digit goals only once, a 17-10 victory over Westfield May 26 in the Group 4 semifinals.
Delbarton averages 11.3 gpg and allows 5.68. Strangely enough, the Green Wave reached the T of C final coming off its lowest scoring three-game scoring stretch this season, 22 goals. It certainly helped that they gave up only 10 goals in that span. Delbarton's season low was three goals in a 5-3 loss to Chaminade of Long Island and its high came in a 19-5 win over West Essex.
Bridgewater-Raritan: The defending T of C champion will have try, first of all, to neutralize the stellar faceoff work of Delbarton's Austin Williams. He won 80 percent of his draws in the semifinals against Summit and has had those kinds of staggering numbers multiple times this season. Bridgewater had just the man to combat Williams, Hofstra-bound senior Vince Colatriano, but he was injured for the rest of the season in the Panthers' Group 4 championship win over Hunterdon Central.
Junior Brad Pietrucha did an excellent job facing off for the first three quarters of Bridgewater's semifinal-round game against Ridgewood on Wednesday, and that contributed greatly to his team's 6-3 lead entering the fourth. Ridgewood then claimed the first four draws of the fourth quarter and knotted the game at 6-6 within the first 2:00 of the period. Jared Kaden won the faceoff to start the third OT for Bridgewater and Ray Mastroianni stuck the winning goal :54 later.
It always goes back to this basic truth: you can't shoot without the ball in your stick and you can't score unless you shoot.
Another key for the Panthers will be to simply keep on keeping on as their electrifying offense goes. Mastroianni, Ryan Hollingsworth, Scott Bieda, Justin Higgins, John Longordo and others all got numerous quality looks on the Ridgewood cage, but simply caught up with a very good goalie, Noah Pounds, at the top of his game that evening. Stuff happens. Bridgewater averages almost 14 goals a game this season against some reputable defensive squads. It will be important for the Panthers to remember that and not hold back when opportunities arise.
Delbarton has developed somewhat of a loose, let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may fatalism about its destiny ever since the stirring come-from-behind upset over Don Bosco Prep for the Non-Public A championship. Bridgewater will want to meet that bold attitude with its own brand of cool confidence. If the Panthers play as if they are trying to protect something of great value--rather than just let their wide range of abilities flourish--the Green Wave will definitely exploit their tentativeness. Sounds ridiculous, but Bridgewater has to forget that it is undefeated and defending champion.
It is easy to overlook Bridgewater's defense because of the depth and explosiveness of the offense. Evan Mock, Connor Murphy, Andrew Hengenmuhle and Kaden have turned in a remarkably consistent season so far. They will make Delbarton work hard for every shot it takes.
Delbarton: Merely revert to the first sentence of the Bridgewater key to understand the Green Wave's foremost priority. Austin Williams has been exceptional on faceoffs all year and a cut above that during the playoffs. If he simply stays the course, Delbarton's offense is going to place a great deal of pressure on the Bridgewater defense because of possession time.
But the Green Wave must take advantage of Williams' work by unleashing quality shots, not just eating up time. Bridgewater strikes fast and furiously at the slightest whiff of momentum, and then they come back for more just to be sure you noticed. Delbarton is very good at conducting a deliberate passing game, but Bridgewater middies Jared Kaden (on the pole), Steve Danyluk and Kyle Coulter also do an outstanding job of anticipating passes and igniting transition.
The Green Wave are playing a scary combination of loose and cohesive since their stunning overtime win over Don Bosco Prep, 8-7, for the Non-Public A title. They stormed back from a four-goal deficit in the last 1:45 of regulation and completed the mission with a goal by John Shaffer. That wild rally has created a bond and trust in one another that seems unshakeable. Yet, that experience also taught the club that the ride to the top has a way of stopping abruptly. The Green Wave are thoroughly enjoying the journey and plan to continue the fun for 48 minutes on Saturday.
Delbarton's strong defense, led by Will Reynolds, Kohl Geibel and Brendan Huston, generally has success by challenging teams with a man-to-man, or subtle mixtures of man and zone. It committed itself to a zone look against Summit and wound up allowing only one goal, which was remarkable against such a competent offensive team. This is not to say that Delbarton should dispatch a zone against the Panthers (they have obliterated every one they saw thus far), but it must firmly believe in the scheme regardless of the foundation. Bridgewater is experienced and talented enough to spot the slightest sign of uncertainty or confusion and attack that without mercy.
Bridgewater-Raritan: Scott Bieda, Sr. A (54 goals, 47 assists); Ryan Hollingsworth, Sr. A (51-34); Ray Mastroianni, Sr. M (33-13); Evan Mock, Sr. D; Zack Jones, Sr. G; Connor Murphy, Sr. D; John Longordo, Sr. M (36-19); Jared Kaden, Jr. LSM (faceoff); Andrew Hengenmuhle, Jr. D; Justin Higgins, Sr. A (23-22); Steve Danyluk, Sr. SSDM; Kyle Coulter, Sr. SSDM; Mike Serrante, Sr. M (20-5); Mike DiPascali, Sr. M (9-8); Brad Pietrucha, Jr. M (faceoff); Ryan Mygatt, Jr. M (9-3); Joe Carroll, Jr. LSM; Thomas Goodberlet, Jr. D.
Delbarton: Connor Bilby, Sr. A (22 goals, 35 assists); Will Reynolds, Jr. D; John Schisler, Jr. D; Austin Williams, Jr. M (6-4, faceoffs); Michael Bicknese, Je. LSM; Brendan Huston, Jr. D; John Shaffer, Sr. M (23-6); Sean Donnelly, Sr. A (30-7); Cole Ricciardi, Sr. M (19-9); Dillon Confalone, Jr. M (10-1); Kohl Geibel, Sr. D; Sean O'Keefe, Sr. D; Jack Clarke, Sr. A (11-7); Matt Killian, Jr. M (17-6); Evan McQuiston, Sr. M (10-5); Kevin Lewis, Jr. M (12-7); Thomas Fowler, Jr. A (6-7); Jordan Dowiak, So. M (9-0); Chad Otterman, So. D.
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS