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Jackson Memorial looking forward to state ice hockey tournament

Jackson Memorial High School's Cody Jablonski (23) skates the puck around the goal post in the defensive zone at a game against Middletown South on Feb 13 at the Shore Conference Tournament. Jackson Memorial took a loss in the 4-1 game.

The Jackson Memorial High School ice hockey team is ready to make a stretch run in the state tournament

The Jaguars, seeded 10th, will face off against seventh-seeded Morris Knolls High School on Feb. 23 in the second round of the Public B state tournament at Mennen Arena in Morristown at 5:45 p.m.

Jackson Memorial sophomore forward Kevin Lalley felt that the team’s experience in the Shore Conference Tournament will help it during the state tournament.

The Jaguars were knocked out of the Shore Conference Tournament when they fell to Middletown High School South, 4-1, in the semifinals of the Handchen Cup at Jersey Shore Arena in Wall Township on Feb. 13.

“I love how we didn’t give up,”  Lalley said. “We competed the whole game. Everyone skated. We were all physical. We know it’s a hard loss, but we just kept going.”

Lalley scored Jackson Memorial’s only goal, which came on the power play with 2:28 left in the third period to slice the Jaguars’ deficit to 3-1 at the time.

“We needed to play a higher-quality team,” Lalley said. “This was a very good team. I think this is going to prepare us. The physicality, the speed — this is really going to prepare us for what’s to come. This team showed us what we really needed to do.”

Lalley believes the team can make a good run in the state tournament.

“I think this year, we’re going to go far,” he said. “We have the right group of guys to get it done. I know last year, we came up a bit short, but I think we can do it this year.”

In last year’s Public B state tournament, the Jaguars were eliminated in the second round by the top seed, Glen Rock High School, by a score of 3-0. Glen Rock went on to win the championship.

Jackson Memorial advanced to the semifinals of this year’s Shore Conference Tournament with a first-round victory over Howell High School, 4-1, on Feb. 8 at Howell Ice World.

They Jaguars are 15-5-1 on the season.

Middletown South was led in its victory over Jackson Memorial by senior left wing Deven Ralph, who connected on three goals. He gave credit to Middletown South’s defense in the victory.

“We were just getting the pucks deep,” Ralph said. “We played defense first. We were able to get on them early and put the puck in the back of the net.”

The victory sent the Eagles to the championship game against Saint John Vianney High School on Feb. 15 at Jersey Shore Arena. Despite taking a 2-0 lead, the Eagles were unable to hold off a comeback by the Lancers, who picked up a 7-2 victory to claim the Handchen Cup title.

“I think this win over Jackson gives us a lot of confidence,” Ralph said.

Middletown South, which is 14-5-2 on the season, earned a first-round bye in the Public B state tournament. The Eagles, seeded fifth, were scheduled to play the winner of 12-seeded Point Pleasant Borough High School and 21st-seeded High Point Regional High School on Feb. 21.

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