Chrzan’s ‘good day at the office’ yields state title


Tom Horak/For NJ Advance Media

Senior Luke Chrzan of Middletown stops a shot during the NJSIAA Public Group B state final game. Middletown North won 3-2.

Henry Frieman and Ryan Lemberger

After senior Luke Chrzan skated off the ice at the Prudential Center following a 3-1 Middletown North loss to Northern Highlands in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Public B State Championship in March 2022, he knew he would be back.

“It sat in the back of our minds for the whole offseason,” Chrzan said. “Come the first day of the offseason, it was our goal to come back to the [Prudential Center] and finish the job.”

Chrzan found himself back on the same ice on March 6, nearly a year to the day since the loss, in the position to secure Middletown North its first hockey state championship title since 2015. 

The goaltender saved 30 of 32 shots on the net and carried the Lions to a 3-2 victory. He was named the First Star of the game—the most valuable player—by both the Asbury Park Press and 

“It was a good day at the office,” Chrzan said with a grin.

Chrzan smiled as the jumbotron at the Prudential Center introduced him and his Lions teammates before the championship game against the Chatham High School Cougars. He settled into his goalie crease inside the New Jersey Devils’ home rink, skates scraping the ice, waiting eagerly for the puck to drop. 

A bright orange student section stood boisterously behind him, roaring his name every time he stopped the puck. The vibrant throng of Middletown North students and fans filled more than a quarter of the Prudential Center’s 4,094-seat lower level.

Middletown North started the scoring five minutes into the first period after a rocket shot by Lions forward Lachlan Haegar spurted underneath Chatham goaltender Nate May. The game was physical and Chatham generated a few chances, but Chrzan held strong and the period ended with Middletown North leading 1-0.

A bumpy 47 seconds saw Chatham goals from brothers Ronan and Doyle Curry, giving the Cougars a 2-1 lead. The Lions drew even, however, after a breakaway chance from forward Joey Wall found the back of Chatham’s net. The teams went to the third and final period deadlocked at 2-2.

With nine minutes left in the 3rd period, Lions forward Chris Imbriale scored, putting Middletown North up 3-2 with nine minutes to play. The Chatham onslaught intensified in their quest to even the score.

Chrzan weathered the storm, stopping 24 of 26 shots in the final two periods. Chatham had a power play opportunity, meaning they had an extra attacker on the ice, with less than three minutes left in the game. Chrzan stopped a couple of shots on the net and Middletown North killed the penalty to raucous cheers. 

He was in the center of the dogpile after the final horn sounded, throwing his stick and helmet off to celebrate with his teammates.

They finished the job.

Chrzan and the other team captains were handed a celebratory New Jersey Devils jersey with the lettering “PUBLIC B” and the number 23, likely to be framed in the hallways of Middletown North for eternity, as well as the state trophy. A fitting end to the career of one of Middletown North’s greats.

The state title was a capstone accomplishment on a life devoted to hockey––Chrzan began playing goalie when he was 8 years old. He practices 3 to 4 times per week and has a specific goalie coach.

“[Hockey is] everything to me,” Chrzan said. “That game being the last game of my youth hockey career, everything built up to that one last final moment.”

After only starting one game his sophomore year, Chrzan played lights-out hockey to secure a starting position in both junior and senior year. However, Middletown North Head Coach Don Wood mentioned his team spirit as the main reason he was voted captain, a rare feat for goaltenders.

“He’s been the ultimate teammate,” Wood said. “It was like having another coach out there [on the ice]. When Luke spoke up, they listened.”

Chrzan finished his high school career with a 91.3% save percentage, stopping the puck 1,140 times and allowing just 99 goals in 51 games. His senior year was his best, as he saved 92.6% of shots against him. For reference, Linus Ullmark, one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, currently has a 93.8% save percentage. 

“He solidified his position this year as best goaltender in the state,” Wood said. “[He is] definitely the best goaltender in the history of our program.

Senior Luke Chrzan of Middletown stops a shot during the NJSIAA Public Group B state final game. Middletown North won 3-2. (Tom Horak/For NJ Advance Media)