After his championship goal on Sunday at the Prudential Center, Brian Begley’s name forever will be linked with Morristown hockey.
And it’s not even his favorite sport.
“That actually would have to be lacrosse. I’m playing college lacrosse at Loyola University next year,” he said, moments after whipping a backhand pass from Cam Szary past Ramsey goaltender Tyler Harmon to give the Colonials a 1-0 victory and their first state title on ice.
Brian hastened to add, however, that hockey was his “first love,” dating to age four when he started skating.
The hockey crown bookends his high school career. As a freshman, he won a state championship with the football team.
In between, he had some near-misses: Losses in the lacrosse finals and two straight title defeats in hockey.
“It’s the best I’ve ever felt,” Brian said after Sunday’s victory. “We knew it was a group of special guys coming into the season, and we made this our goal from day one. We wanted to win the state championship. The last two [defeats] were the most disappointing thing in the world.
“Those seniors worked their tails off, just to get to that special moment. Because Morristown, coming up, you’re never that ‘great’ team. We’re just a bunch of blue-collar guys. But with this group of seniors, we knew we could do something special with this team,” said the senior co-captain.
Morristown (16-8-2) got a huge confidence boost by ousting Chatham in the semifinals, Brian said. Last year’s champs had been unbeaten by any public school this season.
Ramsey entered the finals with a gaudy 28-2 record, but Morristown felt it played a tougher schedule.
Sunday’s showdown could have gone either way; Ramsey clanked a shot off the goalpost in the second period. But the Colonials had studied video of four Rams games. They stuck to Coach Bobby Jones’ plan of keeping close tabs on 43-goal-scorer Alex Whelan and clogging the middle of the ice.
“Defense has been our strong point, and letting the other team work around the perimeter, allowing shots from the perimeter. As long as Shane [Brown, the goalie] can see it, he can save it,” the coach said.
Ramsey out-shot Morristown, 22-16, though few of those shots really tested the Colonials’ junior netminder.
“Everybody in there really played their butts off,” Shane Brown said outside the winning locker room.
When Brian broke the scoreless tie with just 33 seconds left on the clock, the goalie’s first thought was: “Where’s Whelan going to be on the next shift?”
He acknowledged Alex Whelan, a junior being recruited by Division I Quinnipiac College, as a great player.
“We know how he likes to cut to the center. We just figured, you keep a stick on him, keep him in check the whole game, and we’ll be able to come out on top.”
Shane said it was fitting that Brian scored the game-winner. That pleased their coach, too.
“He’s a great athlete,” Bobby Jones said of Brian. “Him, along with the other two captains, Jack Szary and Cam Szary, they were outstanding all year, providing the right kind of leadership.”
Brian has received the same reviews from lacrosse mentors. Michael Marone, who coached him all the way back in the third grade, told Colonial Corner Sports that Brian was “one of the hardest workers on the field at all times.”
“Whether he is doing a drill in practice or playing in a state championship game, he is going 100 percent. This makes him and his teammates better every day,” MHS lacrosse coach Jeff Bigas said when Brian signed his letter of intent to play for Loyola.
Not bad, for a blue-collar guy who dabbles in hockey.