On Thursday, February 18th, the Roxbury Gaels battled to a 2-1 win over the Madison Dodgers to earn Roxbury their first Halvorsen Cup title.
The Gaels had a rocky start to their season, winning only three of their first twelve games. The team was able to turn things around, however, going on to win ten of their next twelve games.
Roxbury junior Dylan Degraw describes the mindset going into the huge matchup. “We knew we just had to play our game and we had a good chance of winning, we worked hard and left everything on the ice,” says DeGraw.
The Gaels faced off against a Madison Dodgers team that came to Thursday’s game fresh off a solid 8-4 win over Montville. Roxbury captain junior Nick Zaragoza describes their competition. “We came into the game knowing that they were a great, hard working team.”
The energy in the arena was unmatched as the game began, with students, parents, and spectators piling in, eager to watch this heated match-up. Both teams were aggressive on the ice, making some big hits early in the first period. Each goalie started the game with a few impressive saves, however Roxbury was the first team put one in the back of net.
The first goal of the night came from Zaragoza at 9:17 in the first period, with an assist from Degraw. Zaragoza was a physical presence on the ice all night, yet he downplayed his roll in the victory. “I feel it was not an individual effort,” Zaragoza explains. “It was a team effort. I knew what I had to do and came out hard. It was a great feeling winning.”
Throughout the first two periods, the Gaels were successful in keeping the puck on Madison’s end of the ice significantly more than their own, giving them an offensive advantage. Roxbury had more than twice as many shots on goal as Madison by this point in the game. The second Roxbury goal came midway through the second period from Brendan Sanderson, assisted by Jack Hartmann and Johnny Facchini.
Midway through the third period Charlie Cleaves of Madison was able to get the puck past Roxbury goalie AJ Pisani, with help from Aaron Willsea, to put the Dodgers on the board.
But, with the Cup on the line, Roxbury locked down that talented Madison team. “We came out fast and strong in the first period and had a lot of opportunities,” Zaragoza explains. “Once they scored that goal we realized we had to bare down and work hard.”
The Gaels had to maintain that lead over the Dodgers in the third period before claiming the title. “[Our coach] just told us to keep playing our game and kept reminding us why we’re playing,” says Degraw. “We all would have done anything to win the Cup.”
Despite Madison’s strong effort in the third period, Roxbury hung on to a hard fought 2-1 win.
The Halvorsen Cup finals includes playoffs between Mendham, Madison, Montville, Pequannock, Roxbury, and West Morris Central. Past winners are listed below.