Montclair Kimberley Academy ice hockey brings home Kelly Cup, first cup in eight years
It's been eight seasons since the Montclair Kimberley ice hockey team won a title and put up a banner at Clary Anderson Arena.
Finally, the Cougars get that honor again, as they took care of Oratory Prep, 6-1, last week in the North Jersey Interscholastic Ice Hockey League (NJIIHL) Kelly Division tournament at Codey Arena in West Orange.
Five different MKA players scored, led by sophomore Nicholas Sykora, who registered a pair of goals.
It was the program's first championship since taking the McInnis Cup in 2015.
"It feels great," Sykora said after the game in the bowels of Codey Arena as the team was celebrating the title. "To get that goal (the game’s first goal) set the momentum. I'm really proud of the boys."
For one of the team’s seniors, goalie Aidan Meeker, it was sweet for the program, which did not win a game during his freshman year.
Meeker credited head coach Tim Cook, who is on paternity leave this season, for building the club up to winning the Kelly Cup. "I think it’s the culture that has been built," he said.
Bill Bronson, assistant coach along with the other assistant, Ken Smith, agreed with his goalie about the buildup to this season.
"It was the culmination of four years, and it really was a great tribute to the seniors," Bronson said.
Along with the pair of goals from Sykora, Montclair Kimberley received a goal each from junior Sam Rotella, freshman Ibou Conteh, junior Jack MacEvoy and sophomore Henry McCann, who finished the scoring midway through the third period.
The victory was a nice rebound for the Cougars (16-3-2), who missed out on winning at least a share of the Kelly Division regular season championship when they lost to Cranford, 6-2, on Feb. 3.
MKA, which was the second seed in the Kelly tournament, was expected to get a rematch against top-seeded Cranford in the title game. But fourth-seeded Oratory upset Cranford, 4-3, in the semifinals. Montclair Kimberley took care of business in its semifinals game, a 6-1 victory over third-seeded Frisch on Feb. 14.
After a scoreless first period in the finals, the Cougars were stunned by Oratory's Colin Reis, who slipped a shot by Meeker.
Montclair Kimberley found itself down 1-0 to start the second period.
But the Cougars offense would wake up, as Sykora scored the first of his two goals, this one on a power play 40 seconds after Oratory took the lead. Rotella would assist.
And it would be Rotella who, three minutes later, would get a goal of his own that eventually turned into the game-winner. MacEvoy assisted.
To get to the finals, the Cougars took care of the other competition with a 9-1 victory over Kearny on Feb. 9 and the 6-1 win over Frisch in the Kelly Cup quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, respectively.
In the victory over Kearny, MacEvoy registered a hat trick, while junior Gary Hu chipped in a pair of goals. In the win over Frisch, Hu collected a hat trick of his own.
After the win over Oratory, 16th-seeded Montclair Kimberley started the state playoffs with a 6-1 victory over 17th-seeded Paul VI on Feb. 17 in the Non-Public preliminary round at Clary Anderson Arena. MacEvoy continued his hot scoring with another hat trick.
The Cougars have their toughest challenge of the season when they take on top-seeded Delbarton on Thursday, Feb. 23 (time TBA) in the second round of the Non Public state tournament.