Freshman goaltender leads Pingry's Morristown Beard to third girls hockey state title

NEWARK – The biggest obstacle standing between the Morristown Beards and a third straight girls ice hockey title may have been a 3/16-inch-thick piece of metal.

Crimson senior goalie Gracie Myers’ skate blade “exploded” as she walked from the locker room onto the Prudential Center ice Monday afternoon, according to coach Bruce Driver. It popped out of the clasps and he couldn’t put it back.

Driver, who won the Stanley Cup in 1995 with the New Jersey Devils, sent a message for backup. Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs crews rushed to fix Myers’ skate in time for the second period.

By then, freshman goaltender Hanna Mortazavi had stopped nine Pingry shots and the Morristown Beard were on their way to a 2-1 win.

The Reds are the only state champions in girls hockey.

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(Morristown Beard goalie Gracie Myers (36) makes a save against Pingree in the NJSIAA girls ice hockey final at the Prudential Center in Newark on Monday, March 6, 2023)

Mortazavi “started to freak out a little bit” when he didn’t see Myers warming up. As Myers stood with his teammates for the national anthem, Driver debated who should start the final out.

He chose Mortazavi. Her response? “Oh my God, I have to do this.”

“I was definitely a little nervous, but I knew the team had my back and was going to be there to support me no matter what,” said Mortazavi, a Morristown resident who played in eight games this winter.

“It’s amazing. I love this team. It’s definitely different, especially with the crowd, the setting. Everything about him was very different. It was a great experience, so I think I’m ready for the next few years.”

Girl raising game

Although the Morristown Beard (15-6-3) remain the only team to win a girls title in New Jersey, the number and level of opponents has grown.

The first mention of girls hockey by the National Federation of State High School Associations was in a 1973-74 participation survey, with 96 players at 26 schools. New Jersey’s first team was named two years later: just one, with 25 players.

That number has grown to 8,983 players on 699 girls-only teams in 16 states in the 2021-22 school year. However, girls ice hockey does not make the top 10 in schools or participants, lagging behind more established sports such as volleyball, soccer and swimming.

Game Growth: New Jersey girls ice hockey tournament provides opportunity for players ‘wanting that glory’

New Jersey had 527 players in the NFHS survey, behind Minnesota (3,232), Massachusetts and Wisconsin. However, as of the 2002-03 school year, the number of girls’ teams in New Jersey has grown from six to 18.

Thirteen of those are in the New Jersey Interscholastic Ice Hockey League, which has two divisions — and will add a third next winter, according to Driver.

Driver helped found the Morristown Beard program in the 200-01 season, joining Pingry and Princeton High School as well as independents Lawrenceville, Stuart Country Day and Princeton Day.

“Every single game we played was competitive,” said Driver, who wore only his Stanley Cup ring Monday — no memorabilia from the girls’ last two titles.

“It seems like things are leveling off a bit. We are seeing a bit more equality in the teams. (I’m) fortunately standing here as champion for the third time.”

More on Morristown Beard?

This was the fourth time the Morristown Beard and Pingry had played. The Crimson came out on top in all four, including a comeback victory in the Librera Cup final on February 16.

The Big Blue (13-5) finish their season with wins in 12 of their last 14 games – both losses to the Morristown Beard.

Senior Lily Warnock and junior Kailyn Cain scored the goals for the Purple. After the match, Warnock held up an autographed Devils girls’ championship shirt after the game, joking that as it was her number 23 – the same as the title year – she wanted to keep it.

Junior Charlotte DiMar was the first Morristown Beard to score in a state final, netting a goal from a scramble in front of the goal with 8.6 seconds left. The Reds fell short of Summit 3-0 in 2020 and beat Princeton Day 7-0 last winter.

Still clutching the NJSIAA trophy to her chest, Gracie Myers was pleased with the outcome. In just a few hours, she went from helping out repairing equipment in the back hallway of the Prudential Center with her father, Brad Myers, and Crimson goalie coach Rob Massimi, unable to even look at her teammates on the ice, to another state championship.

“When I got back on the ice and could skate again, it was like something clicked. I knew I was going to play well,” Myers said. “Our team can play well together. We like each other very much. The fact that we’re winning all these titles, we’re so together. We are just a team, a family.”

Jane Havsey is a sports reporter for the Daily Record. Read more about her work here.

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