Heartbreak to Hero: Delbarton's Nick Faccone Brings Home Non-Public A Championship in Third Overtime
Photo by: Gene Colacino
Overtimes have not been nice to the Delbarton Green Wave’s Lafayette-bound senior faceoff specialist Nick Faccone this year. Faccone, one of the school’s best athletes, was a winger on the state’s most dominant line for the Green Wave hockey team in the winter. He scored both goals for Delbarton in regulation of the Non-Public Championship, before a heartbreaking loss to the state’s biggest Cinderella story St. Augustine Prep just seconds into overtime. His club hockey team, the New Jersey Colonials 18uAAA, played a five-hour, four overtime thriller in the Atlantic District Qualifiers where they fell as the clock struck 12:19 AM to eventual champions the New Jersey Rockets. Faccone then transitioned off the ice and onto the field in the spring, where he has been one of the top players for a Delbarton team that has been Top 25 in the country. Their sole in-state loss came to the Seton Hall Prep Pirates… in overtime. They would see that same Pirates team in the Non-Public A state championship, but the result would ____. Faccone was able to free himself of the ball and chain of extra period heartbreak, becoming the hero as he won the opening faceoff of the third overtime and finished at the net to lead Delbarton to their state-leading 18th title.
While emotions were high in the postgame celebration, the game itself was a true rollercoaster for the Green Wave. The first half was back and forth between New Jersey’s best. Delbarton would strike first, with Faccone winning the opening faceoff and the offense setting up shop in the box. Seton Hall has been lauded for their physical defense all year, and it was evident from the start. Denver-bound defensive midfielder Brody Davis was forcing the Delbarton offense to the top of the box, but they would maintain possession before junior Sean Diczok found an angle on the left flank and hammered the ball through an opening on the inside of the post to beat Pirates’ goalie Adam Angel. Seton Hall would answer right back, as Colgate commit Luke Knezovic waltzed down the right hash from the 40-yard line untouched before dumping the ball over the shoulder of Delbarton’s UPenn-bound goalie Aidan Troy. Holy Cross commit Tyler Juhlin, the first game’s overtime hero, would escape a double team and score to give Seton Hall their first lead at 2-1.
Delbarton would then get two goals right on the goal mouth from juniors Luke Carrillo and Willie Doyle to end the first with a 3-2 lead. The Pirates would respond with Bryant-bound Matt Pepe fighting off Fairfield-bound Green Wave defender Julian Radossich in the alley before walking into the slot and firing a low-to-low bouncer five-hole past Troy. The teams would trade goals going into the half, with Diczok scoring again for Delbarton and Air Force commit Brad Schuster unleashing a long range rocket for Seton Hall to tie the game at four going into the half.
That first half was a game of transition. Both teams had a few possessions where they completely set up their offenses, but the run-and-gun style was finding success. When you put two teams with physically stout defenses and middies that like to push play together, you get fireworks off the rush. The game’s biggest name, Notre Dame-bound Pirates defender Shawn Lyght, was laying the body and shutting down his side of the field. Seton Hall was scoring with bombs from the top of the box and from sharp angles, but Delbarton did a good job of forcing the defenders hand at X and finding cutters for high danger shots.
The start of the second half is where the rollercoaster went off the track for Delbarton. Seton Hall outscored them 4-0 in the third, doubling their total and taking a 8-4 lead. Schuster started the frenzy with another missile from deep off a jump shot, followed by Juhlin adding his second goal from way above the box. Knezovic was then able to bury his second on a beautiful play, cutting to the crease behind the Delbarton defenseand then jumping and catching a high feed from Pepe at X and finding the back of the net while avoiding landing in the crease all in one fluid motion. UMBC-bound senior middie Michael Dunleavy finished the third quarter damage after walking by his short stick defender and whipping one sidearm past Troy on the left side.
The Green Wave may have been down four goals, but their sideline was still filled with high spirits. They cheered as head coach Matt Kovachik turned to Williams-bound senior Charlie Medd in net and were pumped at opening faceoff. Medd and Troy split games throughout the season and it seemed as Troy would stay in for the remainder of the championship game, but Kovachik turned to his deep goaltender room looking for a spark. That spark was immediately granted. Delbarton would win control after a battle between faceoff personnel, and Willie Doyle would deliver his second goal of the game with a top corner snipe. The signature Delbarton cut to the crease would play out again, with Carrillo finding senior Gray Doyle at the top of the crease for another goal. Faccone would add his first of the game, winning the following faceoff cleanly and striking to pull the Green Wave within one.
The Pirates would answer Delbarton’s three goal run, with Davis transitioning off an Adam Angel save and taking it all the way down the field for the goal. Davis is purely a defensive middie, but showed his danger when pushing play and gave Seton Hall much needed insurance. He was dealing with an injury and cramping throughout the game, but was one of the most noticeable players on the field. His heart was evident in his last high school game.
With seven minutes to go, Seton Hall moved the physicality up a notch. A sure goal was prevented as Lyght and Liam Oakes plowed through two Delbarton attackmen right in front of the crease and then forced the ball all the way out of the zone. This physical play did, however, get them in trouble down the line. With just under two minutes left, Seton Hall would take an unsportsmanlike and pushing penalty to go down two men. Sophomore Asher Testa would capitalize on the man up opportunity, unleashing a crease just feet from the net to pull the Green Wave closer. Delbarton would again get the ball back with 18 seconds to play after a Pirates offsides, and it would be Testa again on the doorstep with 2.5 seconds left after a perfectly placed pass from Willie Doyle. This matchup would again be heading to overtime.
The first two overtime periods would come and go, with both teams getting opportunities but defense and goaltending standing tall. Going into the third overtime, many wondered how long this game might actually go. The answer to that was soon realized: exactly seven seconds. Faccone lined up for the draw, smoothly raking the ball forward and putting the burners on towards the net. He went high to low and beat Angel past his leg, shaking his overtime demons and cementing himself in Green Wave and state championship lore. Faccone finished the game with two goals and went 11/14 on the faceoff, giving a big time performance in a big time game. The celebration was special for this Delbarton team that improved with each game this season, perfectly concluding with the Green Wave celebrating in their student section with the Non-Public A championship and the number one seed in the first-ever Kirst Cup.
While this was not the ending the Seton Hall Prep Pirates envisioned, they will undoubtedly be back. They will need to replace the state’s best on defense in Lyght, but many key pieces are returning including Angel and three top players in Knezovic, Juhlin, and Schuster among others. Their passionate student section stayed to be among their peers in a hard moment, individually cheering and clapping out each senior on the team in their last game for a team they put blood, sweat, and tears into. While the state championship drought tacks another year on since the last time in 2004, Seton Hall Prep is as close as ever to breaking the spell.