By Brian G. Crooker
On December 30th, 2017, Mendham Hockey had it second ever Mendham Hockey Alumni Game. The captains for both teams were Chris Reed and Brian Reed for team White, while John Gionco and Kieran Meek wore the C’s for team blue. When puck drop commenced around 7:00 pm, the on-paper favorite was team blue with its plethora of youth and talent from the likes of Paul Michura, Niko Hedengren, Christian Larrabee, Tyler Marshuetz, Ryan McCann, Anthony Michura, and locker room presence of Sandy D’Emidio and Greg Dodge. Plus, the only current player playing in the game was Jack Purpura in net. The fix was already in.
Or so it seemed. Though nobody seemed to have told Team White that as they had their own playmakers. What team white lacked in speed they made up for in there chemistry. With players that on paper would have been sure bets to write off. They had surely lost a step or two since their senior year banquet speeches. Team White came out strong trading blows right and left with team blue. With players such as Taylor Koze, Drew Koze, Justin Ackerman, Pierce Mead, Dan Sudler, and John Carlson being the catalysts for such a hard fought first period which ended in a 4-4 deadlock.
In the second, the rust seemed to have really been shaken off and the players gained back their old High School form. This couldn’t be more evident than the play from White Goaltender Anthony D’Emidio, who no one could have anticipated after his long 13 year absence from the pipes. White team came on in second period and much in the third, bringing the score to a 12-8 white advantage. But with two quick Anthony Michura goals Blue team got themselves back into the hockey game. And soon after they tied up the 12-12 with a goal late in the third period. Playing a tense end to regulation where players were sacrificing everything to keep the score even. This was no more evident than when Dave Brill took a slap shot to the upper extremities as the final seconds ticked away.
Both teams decided a five minute sudden-death overtime was the direction they were going to go. While scoreless, the second overtime was a thrilling one with opportunities going both way none more bone-chilling than Anthony D’Emidio’s rob of Paul Michura on a breakaway. Though the cinderella story of team white was finally shattered at 1:04 into the second overtime as David Gionco fired a wrist shot passed Anthony D’Emidio to give team blue a 13-12 victory.
This gave long time Mendham Assistant Head Coach Rob Dachisen his first varsity win as he was officially at the helm of Team Blue. Also a special thanks to coach Tim Naval as he coached his team excellently and to Martha Crooker, Richard Crooker, Anne Harriet, Tiffany Reed, Lara Carlson, Michele Brill and many others for helping to make December 30th a success!