Kearny-North Arlington-Secaucus hockey win McMullen Cup

With several key players back and healthy from the previous season, winning the McMullen Cup  was a top goal for the Kearny-North Arlington-Secaucus ice hockey team well before it laced up the skates for the start of the season.

“Coming into the season, that was always the goal,” Kearny head coach Tim Firth said. And so after last season was over, everybody got healthy. We came back with, again, a similar group of guys who have been all playing together for the last few years. So at the start of the season, that was a big goal. It was something that we thought we could accomplish. It wasn’t something that we talked about a lot, but it was something that we were all working towards.”

Wednesday night, those goals were met and for the second time in three seasons, the Kardinals skated around Codey Arena as McMullen Cup champions.

Spurred by two third period goals by Aiden Stamm, the third-seeded Kardinals rallied past top-seeded Millburn, 3-2, in West Orange.

Stamm tied the game with a wrist shot from the left circle to tie the game at 2-all, 3:56 into the third period. Nine minutes later, Stamm struck again. After receiving a pass from Ian Fu behind the net, Stamm wrapped around, and from the right circle, fired a shot inside the near post for what proved to be the winning goal with just 2:05 left.

The goal capped off a dominant McMullen Cup Tournament for Stamm, as the junior scored seven goals with four assists in three games.

“He is definitely a gamer,” said Firth. “His play is able to rise to the challenge every single time. And when the stakes matter the most, he finds another level and it’s incredible to watch.”

Stamm, who earlier this year became the program’s career scoring leader, set a new single-season mark for goals with 38 and smashed the previous single-season points record with 62 points.

He was hardly the only one who rose to the occasion in the postseason. Senior defenseman Kevin Zidiak, who helped anchor the blue line with Fu, tied the game at 1-all in the final seconds of the second period. The defensive standout was also critical on the offensive end with two goals and six assists in the McMullen Cup Tournament and finished a stellar high school career with 99 points, the fourth most in program history.

“It started with our defense with Ian Fu and Kevin Zidiak, two of our bigger defensemen,” Firth said. “They put in monster minutes, they stuck with the game plan. They made the right choices, good decisions in all three of our tournament games.”

Zidiak had four assists in an opening round 6-3 win over Hoboken-Weehawken. Senior Chris Crawford scored twice in the game.

Three nights later, facing a West Orange team it lost two twice in the regular season, Kearny erupted for a 9-3 win as Stamm had four goals with two assists, Crawford had three goals and two assists, and Fu dished out four assists.

“We learned from some mistakes throughout the season. There were some situations, there were some games where we felt that it was a winnable game and we just let it slip away,” Firth said. “These are all things that we’ve talked about in practices and before games going over some of these things. How do we fix this? How do we fix that? This is what we need to do, this is what you need to do. And it all started coming together in those last three playoff games. Everybody bought in, everybody recognized what they individually could do better.”

Kearny’s season ended on Friday with a loss to Fair Lawn in the Play-In Round of the NJSIAA North, Public Co-Op Tournament. While the tri-op has only been in existence for five seasons, this Cup win, its second in three years, shows the potential staying power of a still young program.

“Two playoff runs like that in three years definitely sends a positive message that the three of these schools put good work together.”

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)