It was a battle for the Sussex Cup between the Vernon Vikings, and the co-op program of Sparta/Jefferson. SJU’s relentless attack was just slightly bested in this one, as Vernon clinched the win on an overtime put-back goal.
SJU was led by James Battaglia, who put together another three-goal day to add to his fantastic start to the year. United was held together by their goaltender Logan Hanek, who despite the loss, had 59 saves.
Sparta/Jefferson came out in a quick and exciting fashion as Battaglia was able to intercept a Vernon pass, drive down and beat the Vikings defense, giving United a quick 1-0 lead just one minute into the game. The team’s leading scorer wasn’t done yet, as Battaglia again would score in the period improving the SJU lead to 2-0 after the first.
Vernon came back in the second and flipped the switch early on SJU. The Steinbeck duo of Ayden and Evan put together two quick goals to start the period, drawing the game to an even 2-2. However, SJU showed some fight. They would answer before the period came to a close as again it was Battaglia scoring for United, giving them a 3-2 heading into the third.
Vernon came out fresh again to start the period. Two quick goals by TJ Santaita gave the Vikings a confident 4-3 lead with just five minutes remaining on the clock.
With little time to answer, Battaglia had another chance for Sparta/Jefferson as he broke down the Vernon defense then dealt a pass out to his teammate Alex Cohen, who finished for a goal to tie the game with just a minute remaining in the game. That goal would stand as vital, and force overtime in the decade closing Sussex Cup.
In overtime, SJU was just slightly bested by Vernon as the puck was gliding up against the boards. That’s when a deflection by the referee led to a put-back goal for Evan Steinbeck and helped the Vernon Vikings win their fourth straight Sussex Cup.
Although SJU was unable to hang on, James Battaglia put on a show, scoring and sharing the puck during the final game of the 2010s. However, even his effort wouldn’t have kept United in the game if it wasn’t for Logan Hanek, who stopped 59 of the 64 shots he saw during the game. That is why Hanek has earned the player of the game award for SJU.