Stingy Randolph shuts down Morris Knolls
After a convincing 3-0 victory over Morris Knolls Friday night, it’s clear the road to the Mennen Cup still goes through Randolph.
Connor Ryan scored twice and assisted on his team’s third goal, while Mike Pollio stopped every shot he faced as the Rams defeated the Golden Eagles, 3-0.
“He played very very well,” head coach Rich McLaughlin said of Ryan’s performance. “He’s been our go-to guy this year, and that whole line has been doing really well.”
Randolph’s top forward line of Ryan, fellow senior captain Nick Hollowko and sophomore Stefan Tamminga was on the ice for all three Ram goals. Tamminga picked up two huge points in a huge game, only his third on the varsity squad.
“We were moving the puck, working hard in the corners and doing everything you need to do to score goals, and they came for us tonight,” said Ryan. “Every time we play this team the juices are going. This is the rivalry.”
It was an important game, not only for bragging rights with plenty of students on hand and players on both sides playing for the same travel program, but instrumental towards building up points to earn that coveted spot atop the Mennen Division come season’s end.
“Every point is going to matter this year because everyone is going to beat everybody,” coach McLaughin said. “Kinnelon, Morristown-Beard, I don’t think there’s going to be any real upsets. It’s wide open this year, it really is.”
Despite being a perennial public-school hockey power, Randolph seemingly had more unanswered questions about its 2011-12 squad than senior-heavy Morris Knolls.
Over 70 percent of the scoring is gone from last year, yet McLaughin’s current crop of seniors answered that question -- at least for a night.
“We’ve got to come out and fill their shoes; we have to step up now,” said Ryan of this year’s senior class.
But why so dominant for so long?
Randolph has captured public championships in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011 and appeared in the finals in 2005 and 2010. Coach McLaughin credits a commitment to hockey throughout the community.
"We have a lot of young guys playing in the local programs, the Freeze and the Colonials, and it really helps develop great hockey,” McLaughlin explained. “We skate every day, we’re lucky enough the parents care enough to get us ice every single day, they pay big money to get us on the ice to practice every day and that’s a huge advantage for us.”
With the help of car washes and fundraisers, the Randolph community has spent over $60,000 in total on the Rams hockey season.
It should be noted however, that the Golden Eagles had more students and noise filling their side of Mennen Arena and tried mightily, but could just not will Knolls to net one despite many good chances on Pollio.
Nevertheless, both sided of this rivalry know these two trains are destined to cross tracks later on in this journey. Ryan knows if Randolph wants to repeat as State A champions, they will certainly have to deal with the Golden Eagles again.
“We’re going to see these guys again in the regular season and I’m sure we’ll see them in the playoffs,” he also added with a smile, “but it was sure nice to get the first one."
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