Chatham Hockey Blasts Mendham, 6-2, to Move on to State Semifinals
Sunday, March 3, 2013 • 3:43am
MORRISTOWN, NJ - Hockey has forever been known as the most physical sport to play. Hard hits and open ice checks are as big a part of the game as scoring a goal. Players expect it. Fans expect. Even the referees expect it.
However, when the final minutes of a game turn into nothing but illegal cross-checks and water bottles being thrown onto the ice from the crowd, the final outcome becomes a side story to everything else. That's what happened during Chatham's 6-2 win over Mendham in Saturday's Public B semifinal at Mennen Arena.
The game was essentially over by the final minutes of the third period, with the Cougars ahead by three, before Kevin Allen scored on a snap shot from the left side of the ice with 59 seconds to go put Chatham ahead 6-2.
As the referees reported the goal, empty bottles began descending onto the ice from the exiting Mendham student section behind the benches. As chaperones and police officers were called over to the scene, the on-ice officials declared the game over for the safety of the players with 59 seconds still on the clock.
"It's an emotional game. Sometimes emotions boil over," Chatham head coach Frank Gilberti said. "It's an emotional game. Nothing more, nothing less than that. My number one concern is always the safety of my players. Luckily there were no mishaps. All is fine."
The bottles were the icing on the cake of a game that got borderline out of control in the final 15 minutes. During the third period, multiple players were sent to the penalty box for excessive roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. In the final three minutes alone, Mendham saw two of their own sent away for high cross-checks that occurred right in front of the referees.
Chatham kept their cool. Instead of giving in to the pressure and overly physical play from the Minutemen, the Cougars took to scoring goals as retaliation.
"We knew we just had to keep pressuring them, not let up. We knew that it was possible that they could come back. We just kept on playing until the end," Gilberti said.
The Cougars scored three unanswered goals in the third period, including two power play tallies that saw what was once a close game, end in a route.
Simson put the game away midway through the final period. He found the back of the net twice in a two minute span to turn a one-goal lead into a 5-2 advantage.
Gilberti told TheAlternativePress.com, "That happens when a player starts to feel it, and that's exactly what happens with Teddy. I remember when he scored his first hat trick against West Essex last year. He said in an interview himself 'After you get that first goal, it just starts to get a little bit easy.'"
The two sides played back-and-forth for the first 13 minutes, before Chatham's Travis Terzer scored during a power play off a wrist shot from the right circle to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead.
After the first intermission, Robert Graziano lit the lamp 20 seconds into the second period to put Chatham ahead 2-0.
"Robert Graziano had a great shot," Simson said. "From there we kept rolling and it was great."
Mendham's Paul Michura responded with his first of two goals in the period to cut the lead in half.
Bryn Casey regained the two-goal lead for Chatham at the midway point of the period, before Michura's second tally made it a one-goal game heading into the third period that ended early with Chatham up four.
While some might see this game as a statement, avoiding costly penalties to win a state tournament game, Gilberti thinks the opposite.
"We're just playing hockey games and looking to win them," he said. "We know how good we are. What everyone else thinks, that's up to them. We knew that we were the better team tonight and I think that we showed that."
The Cougars will face the winner of No. 1 Ramsey and No. 25 Red Bank, who play tomorrow afternoon. The semifinal game will be played at West Orange's Codey Arena on Tuesday at 8 p.m.