Ridgewood stops Chatham in Tournament of Champions

By Mark Kitchin


BRIDGEWATER -Whatever Ridgewood calls its zone defense, the Maroons might as well rename it the “Twilight Zone’. Once the Chatham Cougars encountered it, they were never quite the same.

Blake Feagles scored twice and five different players scored goals in Ridgewood’s 6-3 triumph overChatham in a Tournament of Champions quarterfinal round contest at Basilone Field on Saturday.

Peter Reuter and Jack Allard each had a goal and an assist for the Maroons which also received outstanding goaltending from Noah Pounds. Fourth-seeded Ridgewood, the Group III champs, rallied from an early 2-0 deficit and advances to play top-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan in the semifinal round next Wednesday at Kean University in Union.

Sam Carson, Kyle Howard Johnson and Thomas Guida each connected for the Group II champion Cougars.

Chatham’s Thomas Guida (22) and Kyle Howard Johnson (23) congratulate each other after a first-quarter score.

After spotting Chatham a 2-0 first-quarter lead, Ridgewood switched to a zone defense that seemed to completely throttle the Cougars offensively. Even after they seemed to recover from it in the second half, Chatham hit the goalpipes a number of times and only managed one goal for the final three quarters of play.

“I thought in the second half we responded,’’Chatham coach Tony Calandra said. “We played hard. We were the aggressor, we possessed, we took good shots and the ball didn’t go in the net.

“They were in man and we forced them to jump into a zone. It kind of bit us in the end. We had a game plan and I thought we executed but we just didn’t put the ball in.’’

Chatham has a proficient offense and they had seen zone defenses plenty of times over the course of the season. The Cougars were very patient and tested the Maroons tenacious defense but often could not get open shots or make plays that created better offensive opportunities.

Chatham’s Will Weichert (6) prepares to scoop up a ground ball as Corey Fritts (10) defends the net.

“They played good defense,’’ Chatham attackman Sam Carson said. “They have really good athletes which makes it hard. It was more us not playing as well and playing a little bit stagnant.’’

Carson also gave some credit to Ridgewood goalkeeper Noah Pounds. One of the best junior goalkeepers in the state, Pounds made many solid saves and a few spectacular ones, too.

“He’s always been a really good goalie,’’Carsonsaid. “He made some great saves. He made one on me that was pretty incredible. I thought I scored. I’ve played against him since fifth grade. I know how good he is and he played really well.’’

Chatham got off to a flying start in what was a penalty free contest. An unassisted goal by Guida and Carson’s goal off a David Gill assist made it a 2-0 game with six minutes left in the first quarter.Ridgewood got one back on a Feagles score before the period ended

Chatham’s Sam Carson (19) looks for an opening but Ridgewood’s Peter Loparo is in his way.

The Maroons scored three consecutive second quarter goals to take a 4-2 advantage. The biggest may have been Allard’s goal with nine seconds left in the half to give Ridgewood a two-goal edge.

Shots by Kyle Howard Johnson and Paul Hackett were among the ones that had an audible clang and Pounds’ stop on Carson’s hard shot was a sensational save. However, Howard Johnson got the Cougars back to within one-goal when his righty shot found the low right corner with 2:45 left to make it 4-3. Unfortunately for Chatham it was its final goal of the game.

The Cougars battled and had some fourth-quarter opportunities but the game was put out of reach by back-to-back goals by O’Shea on a breakaway goal off a Peter Reuter feed with 1:44 left and Max Luing with 30 seconds left that sealed the Maroons’ win.

Chatham defenseman Thomas Stephan has no intention of letting Ridgewood’s Connor O’Shea get by him.

“It was a great season, a lot of accomplishments but we still have a lot of work to do,’’ Calandra said. “We did a great job of getting to this point. I’m proud of their efforts but you want to win the last game you play in the season.’’

The Cougars can be proud of their Group II title, the first in school history, but once the Tournament of Champions is reached every team wants to go farther.

 “It didn’t end the way we wanted but it was definitely a season to remember,’’Carsonsaid.



About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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