The Morristown hockey team is hitting its stride.
Since failing to win in its first three games this season (0-2-1), the Colonials have put together and impressive eight-game unbeaten streak (7-0-1) to end the calendar year. The latest victory came over Pequannock, 4-1, in Sunday’s Seventh Annual Jefferson Holiday Tournament final at Skylands Ice World.
Senior Tommy Donofrio led the way with a pair of goals while linemates Cam and Jack Szary contributed with a goal apiece. The Colonials outscored their three tournament opponents by a combined 17-4 margin and appear ready to make their mark in the rough and tumble Mennen Division in the new year.
“We’re playing a lot better now than we were at the beginning of the season,” said Donofrio, who opened the scoring with the lone goal of the first period. “Our lines have settled in and we’re getting contributions from everyone. This is a good tournament for us to win. The competition isn’t as tough as the Mennen Division where it’s a battle every night but hopefully we can keep our streak going after the (holiday) break.”
Morristown defeated Hillsborough in the tournament’s opening round before topping Madison to earn a berth in Sunday’s final against Pequannock, a surprise winner over Hunterdon Central in the semifinals. The Golden Panthers also defeated Jefferson in the first round.
“We’ll take two out of three in this tournament,” said Pequannock head coach Chris Enrico. “We were 0-1-1 last year here so this is a big improvement. It was a big win for us over Hunterdon Central and I thought we competed hard today against a very good Morristown team.”
The Colonials started slowly in the opening period before taking command with three goals in the second. They outshot the Golden Panthers, 42-16, for the game while killing off six of seven Pequannock power plays and netting a shorthanded goal.
“There are things we definitely wanted to work on in this tournament and one of them was our offense,” said Morristown head coach Bobby Jones. “I think this was a perfect tournament for us during the break and hopefully we can carry the momentum back into league play.”
Morristown is 7-7-2 overall but just 1-2-2 in league play. After a game against Summit on Jan. 4, the Colonials will face key divisional battles against Morris Knolls, Morristown-Beard, and Kinnelon.
Donofrio got things rolling for the Colonials against the Golden Panthers in a tight-checking first period when he fired a low wrist shot past Pequannock goaltender Jason Wright (38 saves) at 4:04 for an unassisted goal.
Morristown took complete control in the second period to extend its lead despite three Pequannock power plays. Junior Jack Szary was the beneficiary of some strong forechecking work by his line in the early going when he picked up a loose puck in the corner, skating into the faceoff circle and slipped a wrist shot past Wright to make it 2-0.
The Colonials’ special teams continued to shine when Cam Szary, Jack’s twin brother, scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway at 6:41 of the second. Donofrio added a late power-play goal off an assist from Luke Freeland to up the advantage to 4-0 heading into the final 15 minutes.
‘Our second and third periods have been good,” said Jones. “We’d like to come out and set the pace a little earlier but I think our depth has shown later in games.”
Pequannock finally broke through against Colonials’ netminder Shane Brown (15 saves) at 9:37 of the third period when Jake Tengi scored a power-play goal. The Golden Panthers then had an opportunity to climb back to within striking distance but failed on a 5-on-3 power-play chance with just over four minutes remaining.
Pequannock 0 0 1 — 1
Morristown 1 3 0 — 4
First period: 1.M, Tommy Donofrio, 4:04.
Second period: 2. M, Jack Szary, 1:07; 3. M, Cam Szary, 6:41 (sh); 4. M, Donofrio (Luke Freeland), 11:18 (pp).
Third period: 5. P, Jake Tengi, 9:37 (pp).
Shots-on-goal: Pequannock 4-5-7–16. Morristown 9-18-15–42.
Goalies: P, Jason Wright (42-38). M, Shane Brown (16-15).