By Brian Deakyne
RED BANK — In a season filled with success, the Bulldogs fittingly put on their best performance, on the biggest stage, in front of the biggest crowd.
Second-seeded Rumson-Fair Haven scored four goals in the third period to pound fifth-seeded Marlboro, 6-1, Saturday night in the Dowd Cup final at Red Bank Armory.
Captain Gary Cali lead the Bulldogs, who earned their first Dowd Cup championship, with a hat trick before a packed house against the defending Dowd Cup champion Mustangs.
“It’s awesome. The kids earned it. It’s a team effort. Even the guys that weren’t even in the lineup pitched in,” Rumson-Fair Haven head coach Chris McCafferty said. “Top to bottom, we played four lines the whole game, we played five defensemen the whole game. I’m proud of my team.”
Cali scored two of his goals in the second period, and added a tap-in goal in the final minute of the third period, before leading a victory lap around the ice in front of the Bulldogs-heavy crowd.
“It feels amazing. Me and my other seniors have been trying to win this cup for four years. We’ve come close, but nothing like this. I’m really proud to take the Cup home,” Cali said.
Cali curled around the net and threw a pass in front that was intended for linemate Brian Robinson, but the puck hit a Marlboro defensemen and ricocheted into the back of the net.
Later, Cali was on the receiving end of a pass thrown into the crease, and he banged home his second goal of the game — this time on the power play — with 2:30 left in the second period.
Hunter Rotchford ripped a pass along the ice to Cali with 42 seconds left in the game, and the senior captain simply tipped in his third goal of the game, putting the exclamation point on arguably the biggest win in Rumson-Fair Haven hockey history.
“It’s just an amazing feeling to be able to bury the team and keep putting goals in. Everybody knew what had to be done,” Cali said.
Troy D’Amico put RFH on the board first, when he put home a rebound goal in the early stages of the second period. The puck bounced around the crease before landing on D’Amico’s stick to the left of the goal, and he lifted it in.
Later in the period, Luke Kornblatt did much of the same, taking a rebound and slipping it into the back of the net, extending the Bulldogs’ lead to 2-0.
Charlie Gravina added a power play goal in the third period. Adam Sheridan set the goal up by hitting D’Amico with a pass along the right wing, and D’Amico placed a pass on Gravina’s stick just outside the crease, and he finished the goal with 3:53 left in the game.
“We didn’t really change any of our plans. We stuck to our gameplan from start to finish, and I knew they had a couple good players. We have a good team, I wanted to focus on playing within ourselves and sticking to our plan and we did,” McCafferty said.
Rumson-Fair Haven out-shot Marlboro, 54-23 and Dominic Padula made 22 saves in the win.
The Bulldogs’ converted on two of their five power play chances and killed off four of their five penalties.