The New Jersey Rockets won the 2012 MJHL Keegan Cup Championship Sunday night and a berth in the 2012 USA Hockey National Championships in Rochester, MN March 30-April 3. The Rockets scored four 3rd period goals and overcame a two goal deficit to take the 4-3 victory over the defending champion Long Island Royals. The Royals also earned a berth to the National Championships with their Runner-Up finish.
The Rockets squeaked into the finals going 1-1-1 in the Round Robin just edging out the Central Penn Panthers by a point. Heading into the finals, the Rockets took a big loss to the Royals in their second game by the score of 5-1. The Royals, who went 3-0-0 in the Round Robin, looked almost unstoppable.
Rockets Head Coach Bob Thornton quickly regrouped his squad Sunday morning for their final preliminary game against the number one seed Central Penn. The two teams kept the game extremely clean and fast paced. As the 3rd period ended the score was tied 1-1. Up to this point, Central Penn’s tournament record was 0-1-1 with only a single point. Panthers Head Coach Andy Scott knew his team needed the final two points, so he pulled his goalie with 1:07 left in OT. The gamble made for a valiant effort, but the Rocket defense was just too impenetrable. The game ended in a 1-1 tie with both teams receiving a point, advancing New Jersey to the Finals.
Sunday night, both the Rockets and the Royals came in ready to take home the hardware. Through the first two periods, Royals goalie Brendan Jones resembled a brick wall stopping all 43 Rockets shots. Royals forwards Vincent Monfredo and James Hall each tallied a goal and an assist pushing the score to 2-0. Heading into the 3rd, the game was looking like it could turn into another big win for the Royals.
Looking at the Rockets roster you see two NCAA D-I committed players in Daniel Willett and MJHL MVP Ryan Hitchcock. You see the MJHL’s Co-Scoring Champion and Rookie of the Year Alec Marsh. You see a team that took only 7 losses all year. One thing is for certain; Never count them out!
As the Rockets took the ice you could tell that these players never had any doubt. New Jersey strung together four 3rd period goals to take the 4-3 win and the 2012 Keegan Cup Championship.
"This group of players worked so hard on and off the ice. Our fitness level, as well as, talent is the reason we captured the Keegan Cup. To develop and win with such a young roster is very rewarding. Nothing changes as we prepare for Nationals," said Rockets Head Coach Bob Thornton.
Congratulations to the New Jersey Rockets and the Long Island Royals for two great seasons. Good luck at the National Tournament.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)