The Golden Eagles secured the NJSIAA/NJ Devils Public A championship over top-seeded Hillsborough on March 4th, 2019. This was their third State Championship Win. “This win was bittersweet because of how our season began,” said Tim Kepler, the Eagles head coach. “It was a result of a lot of hard work and coming together as a family and then a team.”
Kepler has been a hockey coach at Morris Knolls High School for the past fourteen years, but this is only his third year as head coach. “Knolls won their first state championship in 2005, and I came the following year,” stated Kepler. Knolls won the state championship again in 2014 and now in 2019. This is his first state championship as a head coach.
“I have been a Rockaway Township Police Officer for the past 22 years and enjoy giving back to the community and my alma mater ,” says Kepler. Kepler leads by example both on and off the ice and treats his players as if they are family. “This was one of the best examples of teamwork that I have ever encountered,” said Kepler.
The team captains were Tikhon Ryerson and Kieran Regen who did an excellent job of leading by example both on and off the ice. Kieran had broken his collar bone prior to the season but worked tremendously hard to get back on the ice. With unfortunate luck, he broke it once again early in the season and was able to come back just before the playoffs. work to do. The coaching staff knew from the individuals on our team and the talent we possessed that we still had a chance at making the playoffs,” stated Kepler.
The coaching staff got together and re-organized and made adjustments to the forward lines and defense pairings. “We knew if we wanted to make the playoffs we were going to have to buckle down and become a family and play together as a team,” said Kepler. The coaches went to the team and made them aware of the situation and the changes that they felt needed to be made. “We told them it was up to them to play together as a family and to fix the little things, and good things will happen,” said Kepler. “We reference our 2014 team that was under .500 and got into the playoffs using an at-large bid, and they won the state championship. Never before has this occurred in the state of New Jersey.”
Our first game after the coaches meeting was Morristown, and we beat them 5-1 proving a strong win for us. The next team was Roxbury, and we defeated them 6-1. We then took on Morristown Beard and skated to a 5-1 victory and shut out Red Bank Catholic 6-0. These four wins put us at .500 with only three games remaining. We felt confident that we had a good shot at making the playoffs.
Two of the next three games were against top 20 teams in the state, and we know we had to work harder than ever. We played Madison and Summit and tied them both which in our mind was outstanding because they were both top teams with Summit winning the Public C Championship. We knew that after these two ties, we had to beat a very tough Vernon to win a playoff spot. We rallied as a team skating past Vernon 6-0 and made the playoffs. We were seeded number two in the playoffs which surprised all of us because of our overall record. However, you have to take the strength of our schedule into consideration.
The first round of the playoffs we faced off against Old Bridge the number eighteen seed and defeated them in OT 2-1. Jason Miesegaes scored the winning goal in OT. Our next opponent was Hunterdon Central the number seven seed and Public A Division returning state champions. We defeated them 3-2 again in OT. The winning goal came from Jacob Walsh. This brought us up against Paramus/Lyndhurst/Hackensack the number six seed in the semi-finals who we defeated 4-1. This secured our birth in the state championship game. We skated into the championship game at The Rock against the number 1 seed and heavily favored Hillsborough. The momentum that we had going into this game clearly showed in the final score of 6-1.
In the beginning, we took on two penalties, however, with a couple of outstanding saves from our goalie Ty Franchi and an excellent job from our penalty killers, we held them scoreless through the end of the first period. We came out on the ice for the second period on fire and scored (4) goals, (2) from Sean Murray, (1) from Gehrig Eckoff, and (1) from Jason Kwestel. They scored on us as well in the second period making it 4-1. We entered the third and final period, and Sean Murray scored (2) more goals to seal our 6-1 victory. Jacob Walsh’s outstanding performance on the ice was instrumental in assisting Sean Murray to secure his (4) goals. Overall our defense led by Robbie Singley, Timmy Kepler, Tik Ryerson, Derek Coleman, Joe Rabeno and Gavin Walsh shut down the states leading scorer by holding him to only one goal the entire game. I cannot express the feeling and sense of pride that I have for this team and how lucky I am to have the privilege of coaching them. My coaching staff is tremendous with the amount of time they dedicate to our program. Our players embraced the coaching staff and the strategies we implemented by coming together as a family. We are looking forward to another exciting year.
# Last First Gd Pos Ht Wt
1 Franchi Ty 12 GOAL 6’1 180
2 Walsh Gavin 11 DEF 5’9 160
4 Eckoff Gehrig 10 FWD 5’7 120
6 Betz James 11 FWD 6’0 170
7 DiLoreto Jake 10 FWD 5’7 130
10 Murray Sean 12 FWD 5’9 140
11 Ryan Andrew 10 FWD 5’8 170
14 Singley Robbie 12 DEF 5’10 135
15 Kepler Tim 10 DEF 6’1 175
18 Moskowitz Jason 11 FWD 6’1 220
19 Rabeno Joe 12 DEF 6’1 215
22 Miesegaes Jason 12 FWD 5’10 165
23 Conklin Kyle 12 FWD 6’2 170
26 Idland Dylan 10 FWD 5’10 150
36 Kwestel Jason 10 FWD 5’7 155
40 Rush Andrew 12 GOAL 5’9 140
42 Coleman Derek 11 DEF 6’2 150
45 VanDine Sean 12 FWD 5’8 135
46 Ryerson Tikhon © 12 DEF 6’0 155
47 Walsh Jacob 12 FWD 5’11 155
51 Regen Kieran © 12 FWD 5’10 155
3 Florio J.D. 10 DEF 5’10 150
12 Rossi Dominick 12 FWD 5’9 155
35 Appleby Kevin 12 GOAL 5’6 130
49 Torres Nick 11 FWD 5’5 130
16 Dreisbach Danny 10 DEF 5’7 110
COACHES & STAFF
Head Coach Tim Kepler
Assistant Coach Bruce McCarter
Assistant Coach Bart Battista
Assistant Coach Zach Lancaster
Head JV Coach John O’Dell
Assistant Coach Anthony Sholz
Goalie Coach Trevor Tironi
Stats Kay-Lee Treier