It took the Mendham express a period to get rolling, but once the Minutemen found their skating legs on Thursday their journey to a second Halvorsen Cup title was complete.
The top seeded Minutemen used a three-goal second period to pull away from Roxbury and post a 4-2 victory in front of a crowd of 800 at Mennen Arena. Paul Michura and Grant Jozefek collected three points apiece for the winners while senior netminder Connor Lam stopped 32 shots as Mendham collected its second Halvorsen Cup. Mendham last won the title in 2009.
Roxbury controlled play for the majority of the opening period and outshot the Minutemen, 14-12, but Mendham scored the lone goal off the stick of winger Matt Farina. The junior captain intercepted a pass at his own blue line, skated down the left side and fired a low wrist shot that was stopped by Gaels netminder Ed Sloane. But Farina was able to get a second whack at the rebound and found the back of the net for an unassisted tally. The goal came just seconds after Mendham had an apparent goal disallowed.
“It was an important goal because it changed the momentum,” said Farina. “It put some doubt in their mind and we were able to get things going in the second period. We knew that if we just played our game that we would come out on top.”
The Minutemen regrouped and the dynamic duo of Michura and Jozefek took over in the second period as they stuck for three straight goals in the first six minutes to extend the lead to 4-0.
Michura made it 2-0 just 1:53 into the period when he tapped in a perfect cross-ice feed from Jozefek. Just over three minutes later, Jozefek went to work in the offensive zone, stripping the puck from a Roxbury defender, cutting through the slot, and whipping a quick shot past Sloane. The final goal in the barrage came off the stick of Michura, who took a feed from Jozefek in the high slot and fired a high wrist shot over the shoulder of Sloane. The assist gave Jozefek, who leads the state in scoring, 100 points on the season.
Roxbury gained some life late in the period when Gabe Rowe was able to pick up a loose puck at center ice, skate in alone and beat Lam to cut the deficit to 4-1.
The Gaels scored the only goal of the final period when Ryan Strapp found a rebound and fired it past Lam with just 16 seconds remaining but it was too little, too late as the Minutemen celebrated their second Halvorsen Cup title.
Roxbury 0 1 0 2
Mendham 1 3 0 4
First period: 1. M, Matt Farina, 9:23.
Second period: 2. M, Paul Michura (Grant Jozefek, Cameron Phillips), 1:53; 3. M, Jozefek (Michura, Alex Ferrer), 4:56; 4. M, Michura (Jozefek), 5:54; 5. R, Gabe Rowe, 11:45.
Third period: 6. R, Ryan Strapp (Sam Sherwood), 14:44.
Shots on goal: Roxbury 14-10-10–34. Mendham 12-6-7–25.
Goalies: R, Ed Sloane (25-21). M, Connor Lam (34-32).