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60th New Jersey HS Season ready to get underway this weekend

This winter will mark the 60th season of league play in New Jersey and 43rd of the NJSIAA state tournament.

It will feature a campaign of personal and league milestones, as well as some dilemmas facing two of the state’s perennial powers.

Delbarton, which finished last season as the top team in New Jersey, and Don Bosco Prep (No. 2) will resume their fierce rivalry on the ice this season. But each club will also face some questions when the pucks drop for the 2017-2018 New Jersey campaign.

Hockey analytics aren’t required to deduce the obvious inquiry facing the Delbarton hockey team this winter. Where will the offense come from?

After outscoring their opponents by an average of 4-1 per game and capturing the Gordon Cup and NJSIAA Private championship with a 27-1-2 record last winter, the dilemma now facing the Morristown school surrounds goals. The Green Wave graduated talented forwards Mark Benemerito and Jack Maguire. Last year’s sophomore standout forwards Danny Colon and Jack Malone are also gone as well. Colon is now at Exeter while Malone is skating in the USHL. The four forwards combined for 63 of the team’s 132 goals.

“Can we score enough?” asked Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel. “That will be our biggest challenge. We should be very good defensively, but we lost a lot of production. We need some other guys up front to make plays for us. We’ll see what happens.”

Shatel, 17 victories shy of his 400th entering this season (383-46-35), is confident that a standout blueline featuring returning juniors Jalen Kaplan (7-17-24) and Hunter Macy (5-17-22) and sophomore Bayard Hall (1-17-18) will bolster Delbarton’s end of the ice in front of senior goalie Kenny Burgess, who yielded just two goals in 182 minutes last season.

Scoring threats could emerge among a stable of forwards including Andrew Bosland (17-20-37), Nick Siffringer (12-22-34), Pat Harrington (6-5-11), Brendan Clark (0-4-4), James Falivene (7-3-10) and Mike Balzarotti (5-10-15).

Meanwhile, Don Bosco Prep (20-7-1, No. 2 in 2017) looks to fill the goaltending void left by steady All-Stater Alexei Masanko, who secured the crease for the Ironmen for past three seasons. Max Schwartz, a junior who backup for Masanko last season, will go between the pipes this fall behind a solid group of defensemen led by John Campomenosi, who has committed to Quinnipiac, Thomas Schweighardt, George Weiner and Tristan Frese.

Up front, the Ironmen are gifted with the likes of forwards Mickey Burns (21-36-57), a Vermont commit, Tsubasa Konishi (17-22-39), Tyler Sedlak (15-23-38), Liam McLinskey (13-17-30) and Graham Garlasco.

“I know Delbarton lost a lot of scoring talent,” said Don Bosco coach Greg Toskos, “but they won the Gordon Cup and state championship last year. So, until somebody beats them, they are still Number One.”

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The 2017-2018 campaign will mark some impressive milestones within the New Jersey Hockey community as well as feature an expanded NJSIAA playoff platform for a one-year trial run. Two veteran coaches are certain to each attain the 400-victory mark this season, an achievement reached by just three other coaches in New Jersey history.

Randolph coach Rich McLaughlin, whose club enters the season at No. 7 in the Hockey Night In Boston News Top 10, approaches this campaign just six victories shy of his 400th at 394-178-59. McLaughlin has guided the Rams to eight public schools’ crowns and four Mennen Cup championships. Bruce Shatel of Delbarton comes is also within reach of the 400-win milestone with a 383-46-35 slate.

When mentioning New Jersey hockey coaches, it must be recognized that the dean of them all, longtime Brick legend Bob Auriemma, retired last spring after glorious five-decade run at the Ocean County school. Auriemma built a juggernaut for many years at Brick where he posted a 730-366-97 career record during an amazing 53-year reign that included 21 major championships (11 publics; eight Gordon Cups; one Handchen Cup co-championship; one Dowd Cup). Auriemma, the 1984 Star-Ledger Coach of the Year, was an inaugural inductee into the New Jersey High School Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.

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The last time the NJSIAA expanded the state tournament came in 2008, and an interesting wrinkle for 2017-2018 is the initiation of an expanded classification in the state tournament this winter. Last spring the NJSIAA – the state’s governing scholastic body – approved a one-year trial in creating a fourth bracket in the tournament. As this season begins, 33 of the 95 public school programs in the state are co-ops, many times where two or more schools unable to field a team individually have combined to form one squad. Two cases where a pair of larger schools merged this season were Toms River East/Toms River South and Wayne Hills/Wayne Valley.

Since 2008 the state has crowned three state champions – Private, Public A and Public B. With the addition of Public C, four champions will be decided in March. The classifications are based on school enrollment, the Public C division being the smallest.

This February will mark the 60th annual Gordon Cup tournament, New Jersey’s most cherished in-season event. Livingston won the inaugural Gordon Cup title in 1959, while Delbarton claimed its seventh Gordon Cup in 2017. Seton Hall Prep holds the most Gordon Cup championships with nine, while Brick and Christian Brothers Academy are next with eight apiece; Montclair with six; and Livingston with five.

Meanwhile, the McInnis Cup tournament enters its 25th season as it prepares for its Silver Anniversary. Summit secured its first McInnis Cup last season. Ridge and Montclair Kimberley share the most McInnis Cups with five each.

Two interesting matchups of note this season will occur when Delbarton and Seton Hall Prep meet for the first time this season and resume a long-standing rivalry on Dec. 19, which will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the National Hockey League. Delbarton holds the lead in the all-time series with the Pirates at 33-14-5. Delbarton had earned 17-straight victories before a 2-2 tie with Seton Hall on Dec. 15, 2015.

Additionally, Brick will travel north to Codey Arena in West Orange for a scheduled face-off against Livingston on Jan. 15 as the two former rivals meet for the first time in many years. Brick downed Livingston, 5-3, in the second NJSIAA state tournament final in 1977. The two also played what many consider the greatest state championship in New Jersey history at then-South Mountain Arena in West Orange in 1980.

In that memorable contest before an estimated crowd of 2,500, Livingston’s Joe Tracy – a New Jersey High School Hockey Hall of Fame inaugural inductee in 2010 – scored a shorthanded goal in overtime to give the Lancers a stunning 1-0 triumph over Brick.

Check back with hnibnews.com tomorrow for our New Jersey Preseason Top 10.

Paul Bruno

Paul Bruno

Paul Bruno covered college and high school ice hockey for The Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger from 1988-2012. A 1984 graduate of Seton Hall University, he played collegiate hockey for The Hall in the Metropolitan Collegiate Hockey Conference. He also served as an intern in the New Jersey Devils public relations department during the 1983-84 season. Bruno later coached the Seton Hall University ice hockey team (1985-1987) and has covered the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils training camps as well as the ECAC ice hockey championships in Lake Placid, NY, for the Ledger. Bruno, who has been a contributing hockey writer to New Jersey Monthly Magazine, has covered hockey for Sideline Chatter for the past three seasons.
Paul Bruno
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