Glen Rock advances to state hockey final with 4-1 win over Middletown North

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Senior captain Jake Kinney, pictured above facing off in an earlier game this season, scored a hat trick and added an assist in Glen Rock’s 4-1 win over Middletown North Wednesday at Codey Arena in West Orange.

The Glen Rock hockey team is going back to the state hockey finals for the second straight year, and senior captain Jake Kinney is leading the way. Kinney had a hat trick, plus an assist, as Glen Rock, the No. 1 seed in the Public B bracket, put away upstart Middletown North 4-1 Wednesday in the semifinals at Codey Arena in West Orange.

“He’s been doing it all year, so it’s kind of a recurring theme,’’ Glen Rock coach Anthony Yelovich said of Kinney, the Panthers’ all-time leading scorer. “He’s one of the greatest players in the state. And in the beginning there, we needed someone to step up for us, and he kind of put us on his back.’’

Kinney’s 24th goal of the season put Glen Rock ahead just 3:24 in the game, but Middletown North, the scrappy No. 13 seed, tied it 25 seconds later.

Kinney, though, scored his second of the game with 1:09 left in the opening period to give the Panthers the lead again and Matt Maselli made it 3-1 with 43 seconds left in the period to put Glen Rock in control entering the first intermission.

“That was big – a big relief at the end of the first,’’ Kinney said. “It was a big feeling in the locker room. And we knew it wasn’t our best (period), but we were still up and we knew we had a good shot.’’

Kinney scored his third goal of the game, on the power play, at 1:07 of the second period and that ended any suspense as Glen Rock (21-3-4) booked its ticket to the final. The Panthers outshot Middletown North (14-8-4) 38-21 in the game, and will face No. 10 seed Wall, which knocked off No. 3 Middletown South, 7-3, in the final Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Mennen Arena in Morristown. The state finals are being held there this year because of a scheduling conflict at the Prudential Center.

The Panthers care little about where the game will take place, of course. They have been the favorite to win the state title all season long, after having lost in the championship game to Ramsey a year ago. Glen Rock is ranked No. 7 in the Top 20 in the state, the highest ranked public school. And with their top challenger, No. 2 seed Northern Highlands, falling to Mahwah in a second round upset, and No. 3 Middletown South losing to Wall Wednesday and No. 4 Chatham falling to Middletown North in the second round, the door to winning it all is wide open for the Panthers to capture their first state title.

“This was one of our goals,’’ Yelovich, who is in his first year coaching the team, said of reaching the final. “We wanted to play the last game of the year – I guess it’s a goal achieved.

“But we’re not content. We still have another goal in mind.’’

“Last year obviously didn’t end the way we wanted to,’’ Kinney said, referring to Glen Rock’s 5-1 loss to Ramsey in last year’s final. “This year we’re hoping to make some history.’’

Ian Stephenson contributed reporting to this article.

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