Marlborough, MA- The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs overcame a two-goal deficit to defeat the Jersey Hitmen 3-2 in the USA Hockey Tier III Junior A National Championship Game and take home their third-straight National Title.
The Hitmen seized the territorial advantage in the first period and jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. Nick Geraci skated into the zone and sent a pass from the corner into the slot to Colin Markison, and the Vermont recruit one-timed the puck behind Monarchs goaltender Brian Billett 6:09 into the game.
Andrew Kurlandski put the Hitmen up 2-0 with 11:19 left in the opening period when Corey Callen sent the puck to Geraci, who skated around the puck and found an oppportunity. Geraci sent a long pass across the slot to Kurlandski, who stationed at the top of the circle, let loose a wrist shot and scored top-shelf.
Corey Callen nearly made it 3-0 when he exited the penalty box and stormed into the zone on a breakaway. Billett read Callen perfectly, but Callen made an excellent move to fake out the goaltender and shot, but Zach Menard caught up to the play and fired the puck out of the zone just before it crossed the line.
Entering the second period down 2-0 against the Hitmen would seem demoralizing for any team, but the deficit energized the Monarchs, who controlled play and threw 18 shots at goaltender Jon Morrow. Their effort began to pay off when Ryan Corcoran pinched in and shot from the side. Adam Kaiser picked up the rebound, turned, and fired at the net. Kaiser’s shot hit the net just inside the post. Morrow held strong for the final 13:13 of the period, and the Hitmen led 2-1 going into the final period.
Last year, the Hitmen led 2-1 early in the third before the Monarchs exploded for four goals, giving them the win and the National Title. Hitmen Coach Toby Harris and his team were determined to not let that happen again. On the other bench, Sean Tremblay and company knew what would need to be done to retain their crown. The result was one of the fastest periods of hockey in the entire tournament
Despite the best efforts of the Hitmen, the Monarchs tied the game with 7:59 to play when Adam Kaiser sent the puck to Matt Mangene in the corner. Mangene then passed the puck to Jeff Hannan in the slot, and Hannan shot the puck past Morrow.
Patrick Kiley proved to be the hero with 4:42 remaining when Jeff Hannan sent him a pass from the corner. Kiley waited at the top of the slot and sailed a shot at the net that Morrow appeared to have stopped, but the puck trickled into the net and the Monarchs were in front for the first time all game.
The Hitmen pulled Morrow with 57 seconds remaining, but were unable to send the game into overtime.
The win gave the Monarchs their third Tier III Junior A National Championship in as many years and kept their perfect record in the tournament intact. Since the inception of the Tier III Junior A National Championship, the Monarchs are the only team to ever win the title.
The Eastern Junior Hockey League congratulates the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs and Jersey Hitmen for their excellent seasons and representation in the National Tournament.
-Mike Klein, 31 March 2009 -EJHL