Morris Knolls Ice Hockey win NJSIAA Co-op State Championship
The Morris Knolls ice hockey team celebrates with their fans after winning the 2024 NJSIAA Co-op State Championship. (Photo by Catalina Fragoso - JSN)

Ya Gotta B(Eli)eve: Singley's heroic goal notches Morris Knolls it's 5th State Title

Electric. That’s the only word that can describe the atmosphere and conclusion of Game 2 in the NJSIAA State Finals.

6th-seeded Morris Knolls Golden Eagles looked to cap off their magical run against Governor Livingston. Since Knolls lost to Randolph on February 7th, they have been the hottest team in New Jersey hockey, winners of 5-straight heading into the game.

The Highlanders came into Monday looking for their third straight state title, beating Knolls two years ago on this same ice. Brady Silverman has been the leader for Governor Livingston on the offensive end with 34 goals before this game’s puck drop.

1st period 

Both teams skated to center ice with the crowd roaring in hopes of leaving as state champions. The Golden Eagles struck first less than a minute after the opening puck drop. After the Highlanders had a man sent to the sin-bin, Dylan Williams connected on a power play goal to give Knolls the early 1-0 lead. 

The back-to-back reigning champs wouldn’t let the early goal affect them from playing their kind of game. Just minutes later, Jackson Benward sent one past Knolls goalie Nick Trento after an excellent feed from Jacob Watchel, tying the game at 1. The Highlanders went on the power play later in the frame, setting them up to jump out to their first lead of the game.

After Jake McCloud nearly scored a shorthanded goal for Knolls, Brady Silverman put the Highlanders ahead. The Senior deked around a defenseman and put home a beautiful wrister past Trento for the power play goal.

2nd period

After the break, both teams looked to gain momentum and continued their aggressive play. Governor Livingston got the scoring started in the 2nd period, with Senior Anthony Labisi forcing the puck past Trento from close range, giving the Highlanders a 3-1 lead. 

Morris Knolls now faced a do-or-die moment just minutes into the 2nd period of the game. Another Highlanders goal would put this game away, and it was time to see if this Morris Knolls team had one last run in them for the state title. 

The Highlanders pushed Trento to the limit, firing shots on goal looking to go up three goals. The Freshman goalie denied each shot that came his way, giving the Golden Eagles a chance to get back in the game. Michael Simone sent a long wrister into the back of the net with under four minutes in the period, sending Knolls into the intermission now only trailing 3-2.

3rd period

As both teams took the ice to start the 3rd period, it began to set in for the players and parents that this would be the final period of the season. For the Senior player,  it could be the last period they play in their entire lives. Fifteen minutes to leave everything out there on the ice. Fifteen minutes to achieve hockey immortality. 

The Golden Eagles cut their deficit to just one goal late in the 2nd period but had more work to do. Morris Knolls continuously pushed the puck in the offensive zone, only to be denied by the stout Highlanders’ defense.

Tim Kepler’s squad adjusted their offense game plan to start the 3rd period. Knolls began taking long-range shots on goal after seeing success earlier with the Simone goal. The adjustment proved to be the turning point in the game. Jake McCloud buried a long wrist shot past Scott Capan to light the lamp and tie the game at 3-3. 

Time began to wind down, with both teams putting pressure on the opposing goaltenders, firing shots on goal. The game looked destined to go to Overtime, with neither team wanting it to get to that point. 

With 38.4 seconds remaining, a hero was born for Morris Knolls. With the puck in the offensive zone, Michael Simone delivered a pass to Eli Singley out in front of the net. The Senior Forward buried a one-timer to put the Golden Eagles up 4-3 on the doorstep of immortality. Singley fell to the ice, raising both arms in the air as Simone wrapped his arms around him in celebration. 

The goal was Singley’s first of the year and will be remembered in Morris Knolls' history for years. The final horn sounded, and the sea of gold in Section 5 erupted as their Golden Eagles capped off their magical season as North Co-Op State Champions. 

Morris Knolls took the ice on Monday as an underdog team driven by heart. It was only fitting that the Eagles left the ice with hearts of gold.

FINAL: Morris Knolls 4 Governor Livingston 3