WALL – Manasquan/Point Pleasant Beach junior goalie Steven Gibilisco stopped 17 shots in a decisive second period and held defending champion Wall to one goal as sixth-seeded Manasquan rode some timely scoring and Gibilisco’s unflappable goal tending to a 2-1 upset win over second-seeded Wall for their first Dowd Cup championship since 2008.
“That’s how you win championships,” Manasquan head coach Adam Houli said. “You need a goalie who’s going to make those stops for you and you get timely goals. It really was a perfect example of a championship game. You get timely goals, you get timely saves, and everybody bought into it. It was an exciting time on the bench.”
Those timely goals Houli was talking about came from brothers Matt and Mike Franzoni with Matt finding Mike for the game’s opening score with 8:32 left in the first period. The Warriors then appeared to be on the verge of taking a 1-0 lead into the second period but with just four-tenths of a second remaining in the first period, the Knights’ Thomas Falletta snuck one past Gibilisco as the horn sounded to tie the game at one.
After the scoreless second period, Matt scored the go-ahead and eventual game-winner with 10:12 left in the third period off assists from Luke McNamara and his brother Mike.
The Franzoni brothers, sophomores that transferred from Saint John Vianney after their freshman years, have been a huge part of the Warriors success this season since taking the ice in January. They each scored a goal and an assist in the cup final giving Mike a team-leading 18 goals along with 11 assists for 29 points and Matt 10 goals and 10 assists.
“They’re spark plugs,” Houli said of the brothers. “They have an offensive touch that not many people have in the state, let alone this country. For us to get them (is a blessing). They had timely goals for us and put the puck where it needed to be and buried it when we needed them to.”
The Warriors (15-2-1) won the Shore Conference A Central with an 8-0-1 divisional record this season while Wall (20-3-2), who finished third in the A North, dropped from tenth in the state to 19th after the loss.
With 10:12 still remaining in the game following the go-ahead goal and Wall’s top-scoring line of Zach Torantino, Ryan Burns and Larry Hooper still searching for their first points of the game, the Warriors could’ve gone into a prevent defense to protect the lead, but instead opted to continue forechecking and try to prevent Wall from breaking out of their own end while continuing to attack at their end.
The strategy paid off as the Warriors did what no other team had done in 22 previous games this season by keeping Wall’s top line without a single point.
“There were times when I wanted to go and change (the forecheck) but I didn’t want to prevent ourselves from winning by going into a prevent defense,” Houli said. “For us we just kept going and kept going, it’s what got us here, why change it now? “
Houli said his team – who was scheduled to play Wall earlier this season but had the game postponed on three separate occasions – wanted to make a statement against their rivals.
“It’s amazing but it’s a credit to our players, they really bought in this week,” Houli said. “We talked about the opportunity to make a statement, and what better time to that than in a championship game against Wall.”
Gibilisco, who finished with 33 saves, added, “It feels amazing, I can’t believe it. There are no words.”
UPDATE: As the second seed, Wall advanced to the NJSIAA Public C semifinals before falling to No. 3 seed Chatham, 6-1, while No. 11 seed Manasquan was eliminated by sixth-seeded Mahwah, 5-0, in the second round of the same bracket.