The Middletown North High School hockey team celebrates a 2-1 victory over St. John Viani in the Handhen Cup final on February 17 at Wall. PHOTO provided by Middletown South Athletics High School

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The Middletown North High School hockey team celebrates a 2-1 victory over St. John Viani in the Handhen Cup final on February 17 at Wall. PHOTO provided by Middletown South Athletics High School

Post-season action on the ice is in full swing, and coach Don Wood and his Middleton North High School hockey team have so far taken full advantage of this. For the past few weeks, the Lions have been playing what the coach called “full hockey”.

The Lions race began when they defeated Middletown South High School, 5-1, and won the Mayor’s Cup.

The team continued to win, and on February 17, the Lions faced off against St. John Viani High School in Holmdell in the Gandhen Coastal Conference Tournament Championship.

The Handhen Cup has existed since 1985 and is named after the late Hank Handchen, who was the first athletic director of Brick Township High School in 1958 and later served on the New Jersey High School Hockey Committee.

The Dowd Cup became part of the Shore Conference Tournament in 2002 and is named after Brick Township High School graduate and former NHL player Jim Dowd.

Since 2008, the Daoud Cup and the Handhen Cup have been part of the Coastal Conference tournament. The 16 best teams of the conference qualify for the tournament and are divided into two networks of eight teams.

In the 2022 Handhen Cup In the final, No. 2, seeded Middletown North, won No. 1 St. John Viani 2-1 at the Jersey Shore Arena in Wall Township and won his first 2016 Handhen Cup.

“The guys really enjoyed playing in the tournament after it was gone last year” because of the coronavirus pandemic, Wood said. “Our victory over Middletown South (in the Mayor’s Cup) pushed us to a deep run and win this (Handhen Cup) championship. These kids bought everything we wanted in the last month of the season. ”

Senior Colin DeLanzo became the hero of Middletown North in the Handhen Cup final when he scored a goal for the Lions with a score of 7:55 in the third period. DeLanza leads the team with 21 goals and added six assists.

DeLanza’s goal changed the momentum in the game when a few minutes before the Lancers equalized 1-1 through a goal by Alec Osher.

Junior Andrew Gross scored the first goal of the game in the second period and brought the Lions ahead 1-0. Gross leads the Lions in points (34) with 10 goals and 24 assists.

Middleton North held the Lancers until the end of the third period to claim the title. Junior goalkeeper Luke Hrzan made 24 saves to keep the Lions in the lead.

The teams met on January 20, and St. John Viani won 3-0.

Wood said the defeat was fresh in the minds of the Lions heading to the Handhen Cup final. He said that the players understand what they need to do to prevent such a game from happening again.

In the end, the Lions did what needed to be done as they won the fifth Shore Conference Championship program (three Daoud Cup titles and two Handhen Cup titles).

“It’s nice every time you win a Shore Conference championship,” Wood said. “These guys wanted to create their own heritage. They all know the history of our program and that we expect to compete annually for the title of Coastal Conference and the title of state. ”

The Lions started the 2021-22 campaign with a score of 9-2-1. The team jumped and lost four games in a row, dropping to 9-6-1.

Since winning the Mayor’s Cup, Middletown North have been 4-1 in their last five games and are currently 13-7-1 in the state tournament.

Wood said the depth of the team pays off in the future. Middletown North is expected to get a boost in defense if senior Charles Tims returns during the state tournament.

“This season we have had more depth than in previous years. We had a lot of junior high students this season, ”Wood said.

Senior Jace Koenigsmark played well, making 23 assists and scoring eight goals.

Sophomores Ryan Cook, Joseph Wall and Jack Turner contributed to the team’s success. Wall recorded nine goals and nine assists; Cook scored eight goals and nine assists; Turner added seven goals and four assists.

Middleton North is number 6 in the NJSIAA Public B state sectional tournament and will host the first round on February 22 at Wall High School in Wall City.

Wood believes that any team can win the Public B Championship and believes that his team has everything it takes to win the second state championship under the program.

“It’s a strong top-down bracket. I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone won. Hope we can make a solid run. It should be a good state tournament, ”the coach said.

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