Moorestown puts together team effort to win SJHSHL Tier I-A championship

Moorestown defeated Cherokee, 4–0, on Monday night for the club’s first Tier I-A championship since 2010.

Moorestown’s №44 Gavin Berardi, goalie Griffin Conroy and №50 Luke Dobbs celebrate after the Quakes finished off their 4–0 win over Cherokee. (MIKE MONOSTRA/The Sun)

The Moorestown Quakes Ice Hockey Club knew it would take a team effort to end the program’s nine-year championship drought in the South Jersey High School Hockey League Tier I-A division.

Moorestown needed a strong effort from its entire roster to reach Monday’s SJHSHL Tier I-A championship game against Cherokee. From leading scorer Luke Dobbs’ overtime game-winner in the first round against Eastern to defenseman Charlie Banquier’s shootout-winning goal in the second round, the Quakes got contributions from all over the roster in the postseason.

In Monday’s championship, it was senior Andrew Jordan’s turn to make an impact. After scoring just three goals in the regular season, Jordan scored twice on Monday to help the Quakes to a convincing 4–0 win over Cherokee in front of a standing room-only crowd with hundreds of Moorestown High School students in attendance.

Prior to Monday’s win, Moorestown had the longest active championship drought out of the four teams currently in the SJHSHL’s Tier I-A division at nine years. However, many of the players on this year’s team have championship experience, having previously won a title in the middle school division together. Jordan believes this was key to the team’s success.

“The difference from middle school to varsity is such a huge step,” he said. “The guys on that team, we weren’t ready to take that step right away. Myself included, I was on JV my first year.”

“To come back and win after four years of nothing is huge,” Jordan added.

While it had been a while since Moorestown’s last Tier I-A title, the varsity program has had plenty of success in recent seasons. In the last four years, Moorestown finished with a winning record three times. In 2017–18, the Quakes lost just one game in the regular season, but were upset in the playoffs. After last season’s success, head coach Daryl Sporer was confident his team had the talent to win a title.

Left: Moorestown goalie Griffin Conroy tries to freeze a loose puck in the first period. Right: Anthony DeFrancisco looks to play the puck out of his team’s zone. (MIKE MONOSTRA/The Sun)

“We did really well last year, we just faltered in the playoffs,” Sporer said. “These guys (also) play for a lot of winning club teams. So they do have a winning mentality.”

“Our coach, Daryl, knew this was our year,” Jordan added. “We had a good squad. Sure, we lost a couple key seniors last year, but he knew this squad was going to take it to every single team.”

Moorestown had a deep team in 2018–19. The Quakes only had one player, Dobbs, ranked in the top-10 in the SJHSHL in scoring. However, Moorestown did have 10 players score double-digit points over the course of the season, the most of any team in the Tier I-A division.

The Quakes needed their depth to survive the Tier I-A double elimination playoffs. As the third seed, the Quakes first upset №2 Eastern, 3–2, in overtime and then stunned Cherokee, 4–3, in a shootout victory to put themselves in the finals.

Facing Cherokee again on Feb. 11, Moorestown needed just one win to take the championship, while the Chiefs needed a win to give the Quakes their first loss of the playoffs and force a final game for the championship. In that Feb. 11 game, Moorestown had a 3–2 lead with less than 10 minutes to go. However, a power play goal from Cherokee in the third period and then another one in overtime gave the Chiefs a 4–3 win.

“Last game, we knew we had it,” Jordan said of the Feb. 11 game. “We were up one goal with 10 minutes left in the third. It was just dumb penalties that gave them the tying goal and ultimately the winning goal. So we knew as long as we kept our heads this game, we’d win.”

“The players were very confident they could take this,” Sporer added. “Cherokee is a very good team, they’re a very tough opponent, but we played them very well the last time, even though we didn’t win.”

Charlie Banquier throws a check in the first period. (MIKE MONOSTRA/The Sun)

A number of Moorestown players came up with huge games on Monday. Goalie Griffin Conroy kept the game close early for Moorestown when he stopped 11 Cherokee shots in the first period. Sporer also credited Banquier with shifting the momentum with a few hard body checks in the first period.

However it was in the second period when Jordan completely changed the game. About five minutes into the period, Jordan scored the Quakes’ first goal of the game on a wraparound to make the score 1–0.

Andrew Jordan celebrates after scoring the first goal of Monday’s game as the Moorestown student section cheers in the background. (MIKE MONOSTRA/The Sun)

Prior to Jordan’s goal, Cherokee had a huge lead in shots on goal and most of the play was in the Moorestown zone. After Jordan’s goal, the Quakes stole the momentum, adding two more goals from Ryan O’Connell and Zachary McEvoy late in the second period and a second goal from Jordan late in the game to seal the win.

Moorestown will have a chance to win more hardware in March. The Quakes are one of six SJHSHL teams participating in the 2018 New Jersey/Delaware Flyers Cup, according to sjicehockey.com. The Flyers Cup will begin on Monday, March 11,

Regardless of what happens in next month’s tournament, Sporer believes the team’s championship and its success this year will have a major positive effect on Moorestown’s program for years to come, noting the hundreds of fans who came out to support the team on Monday.

“We have a pretty strong program, we have a lot of kids in the middle school program,” he said. “Hopefully this will keep them interested and they’ll see how fun this is, when you’re playing in front of all of the students in the stands and you have 600 or 700 people in here. It’s exciting.”

Moorestown takes a team photo after defeating Cherokee, 4–0, to win the SJHSHL Tier 1-A championship. (MIKE MONOSTRA/The Sun)