MORRISTOWN _ The scoreboard read 5-4 in favor of The Lawrenceville School when time expired.
Kendall Cornine's heart, however, told her that Morristown-Beard, which tied the score and took the lead before the Big Red's Hailey DenElzen connected for the decisive goal with 3:39 remaining, was a winner as well.
"Because of our comeback and how close the game was, I take it as a win," said Cornine, the junior center who notched two goals and two assists. "We were so much closer than the first time."
The Crimson, fresh off their fifth consecutive WIHLMA Championship, certainly were exceptional in their finale on their home ice at Twin Oaks Ice Rink on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
Morristown-Beard (14-4-1) suffered a 7-2 loss to The Lawrenceville School earlier this season but erased that outcome from their minds. Nothing was going to stop the Crimson from putting forth their best effort, not the previous result or the severe colds and coughs they acquired over the weekend.
"We had to push through. We didn't think about it," Cornine said.
Trailing 3-2 after two periods of play, Morristown-Beard refused to quit. Senior forward Kelly Dolan put in the equalizer 5:05 into the closing period. Cornine struck 2:18 later, ripping a slapshot from the top of the circle to put the Crimson up, 4-3.
"At 3-2, we had to pick up our game," Dolan said. "Penalties killed us. We were playing against girls we know from our club teams so we had more drive to win."
Egan Sachs-Hecht scored to pull the Big Red even, 4-4, two minutes after Cornine converted. DenElzen then had what proved to be the gamewinner. Following a timeout with 1:20 remaining, Morristown-Beard coach Bruce Driver pulled goalie Maggie O'Connell (15 saves). The Crimson took five shots on Big Red goalie Sophia Lattanzio (18 saves) in the final 55.8 seconds but she rejected each one.
"It wasn't really nerve wracking," said Lattanzio, a junior. "I knew what I had to do and got it done. It was time to step up. It wasn't my strongest game. I put it behind me at that point. A win is a win so..."
The strategy this time around was to play cohesively and get the puck deep in order to have more scoring opportunities. Morristown-Beard gained a 2-0 first-period lead thanks to goals by freshman forward Emma Polaski and Cornine. Polaski came out of the right corner and fired into the upper right corner of the net.
"We put a lot of pressure on them," Polaski said. "Our "D" zone coverage was good. Losing today wasn't really a disappointment. It was a big improvement."
Mendham's Tess Madarasz, who plays for The Lawrenceville School, sensed the Crimson's intensity and determination.
"Their forwards came out a lot harder," Madarasz said. "They're good skaters. Morristown-Beard had the puck more than we the first game. We played our hearts out for our seniors. It was a lot of fun."
Driver is not the type to make excuses but did note that the Crimson were undermanned. Five penalties hurt far more than the lack of depth.
"Essentially, seven girls played the bulk of the game," Driver said. "That's not an easy thing to do. No one's really feeling well. I told the girls I'm extremely happy with their effort. They showed a lot of heart.
"It's not fun to lose but we had our chances. We couldn't get it between the pipes."
In addition to her goal, Polaski was on the assist side of three scoring plays.
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