Bergen Catholic (9-11-3) Brian Monteverdi has plenty of talent returning. The squad appears bigger, stronger and faster, so the Crusaders will be a difficult opponent for their Gordon Conference rivals. Senior forwards Nicolas Arcaroli (5-11-16), Dylan Saccone (4-11-15), Dylan Pasley (3-2-5) and Riley Kitts along with juniors Will Frassetto (11-4-15) and Tommy Kleinmen (7-8-15) offer plenty of firepower. Seniors William Prinz and Craig Barbaro and sophomore Devon Kelly lead the defense in front of junior goalie Chris Branch (.90 save-percentage).
Bridgewater-Raritan (10-7-7) Coach Patrick Alvin’s squads are always known for their hustle, so expect nothing less this season from the Panthers. To make a run at the Skyland Cup this winter Bridgewater will need to boost its offensive production. The Panthers will rely on their two top scoring threats, senior forwards Jake Gottlieb (16-23-39) and Jake Goldstein (19-19-38) to improve on last season’s impressive numbers.
Chatham (13-7-2) The Cougars opened last season in strong fashion, posting a 5-0 burst, and return several skilled forwards in senior Thomas Winter (6-3-9) and sophomores Alex Laferierre (8-7-15) and David Andreychuk (6-5-11). Sturdy senior Tanner Acone (3-10-13) and junior Colin Pierce will secure a reliable blue line corps for Chatham, which lost to Middletown North, 4-3, in the second round of the NJSIAA Public B tournament last winter. The team is eyeing a serious challenge for the Mennen Cup this season.
Hillsborough (6-12-3) Nearly every game in the Skyland Conference is contested tightly, and this season should be no different for the Raiders, who opened last season with three losses to conference foes. Hillsborough will need a consistent supply of offense and will look to senior forward Dominick Mazzaferro (10-11-21) and sophomores Jude Kurtas (9-20-29), Jason Wolff (9-19-28), Lleyton Soares (8-9-17) and Mike LoRicco (4-11-15) to help deliver it. Seniors Sean Ely and Matthew Palmer are reliable defenders who can move the puck out of their own end.
Indian Hills (16-6-2) The Braves are surely planning on bolting to as good a start as last year, when they ran off a nine-game unbeaten streak (7-0-2) to commence their campaign. With only three seniors, the Braves are young but swift, and could be a surprise team this winter in the NJSIAA Public B tournament. Expect even more from sophomores Jason Atkinson (8-15-23), Rory Maurer (14-16-30) along with senior Mike McCusker (9-10-19) and juniors Drew Lustig (10-9-19).
Middletown South (19-5-0) Coach Tony Nemati has built the Monmouth County school into a perennial contender in the Shore Conference and this season should be no different. The Eagles fell to Wall in the NJSIAA Public B semifinal last season, so this is a team on a mission. Senior forwards Mike Raccioppi (8-25-33), Deven Ralph (14-14-28), Nick Lioudakis (16-14-30) and Craig Bahrs (5-8-13) are all back for another run at the state title. Expect strong seasons from steady senior defensemen Joe Guercio (1-7-8) and Bobby Matthews (2-5-7) along with sophomore Demitri Forand (3-6-9) and junior goalies Clay Simonsen (.901 save-percentage) and Adam Bloodgood.
Montclair (8-10-5) The Mounties will miss four-year starting goalie Ondre Smalec, the school’s all-time leader in wins, but coach Pat Verney (157-83-11) has plenty of skill and depth on the bench. Senior forwards Pat Ledgett (13-12-25), Jake Skorzewski (4-5-9), Cary Collucci (3-4-7) and Dan Korenbaum (1-4-5) offer experience and production. Junior Will Schiffenhaus (6-7-13) and senior John Painter (2-3-5) are excellent defensemen. Sophomores Gus Bylin, Lucas Podvey and Sally Solotaroff-Webber and junior Graham Roy may all see action in goal.
Morristown-Beard (17-9-1) It’s the Drive for Five for the Crimson, as in seeking to attain their fifth straight Mennen Cup championship this winter. Much of that burden will be on the shoulders of standout senior goalie Anthony DelTufo, who will get help from promising sophomore defensemen Thomas Dempsey and D.J. Layden. Senior forwards Brayden Patricia and Alexander Walsh-Kelly need to provide consistent scoring at the other end of the ice.
Morristown (10-11-3) The Colonials won the NJSIAA Public B title in 2014 before capturing the Public A championship two years ago. They’re prepared to make another charge after last season’s below-.500 finish. There is a nice blend of experience in the veterans along with skill in the underclassmen. Senior forwards Drew Shandlay (8-4-12), Spencer Levite, Nate DeFares (10-10-20), junior Riley Keller (5-2-7) and Sean Donnelly (8-8-16) and sophomore and Conor Critchley (7-3-10) provide a solid group. Seniors Jay Horan and Ryan Scott (2-3-5) will help secure the blue line for senior goalie Derek Peck (2.07 GAA).
Morris Knolls (18-6-2) The Golden Eagles were disappointed last season as their quest to win the Mennen Cup and NJSIAA Public A championships went unrealized. The Morris County contingent will rely on solid defense behind defensemen Doug Fischer (9-5-14), Ryan Martinez (1-4-5) and Tik Ryerson and a stellar goaltending duo of Tyler Franchi (11-3-2, 1.13 GAA) and Andrew Rush (5-0, 1.50 GAA). Forwards Kieran Regan (3-5-8), Jacob Walsh (1-4-5), Kyle Conklin (4-3-7) and Jason Miesegaes (1-3-4) will key an opportunistic offense.
Notre Dame (12-12-3) Despite graduating eight seniors, coach Andrew Ducko’s club still has plans on competing in the CVC and the Egan Cup. Senior forwards Ben Killian (11-11-22) and Christian BeChamps (4-5-9) should produce even better numbers while senior Daulton Bennett (1-4-5) secures the blue line. The Irish can rotate a dependable goaltending duo in sophomore Cam Holbrook and senior Jackson Weidling.
Passaic Valley (12-10-1) Coach Mike Sheehan has high hopes his club will be in the thick of the battle for the Big North Patriot League. The Hornets boast a roster that includes 12 seniors and will feature a well-balanced offense with senior forwards Alex LoPresti (30-17-47), Dan Lapinski (11-17-28) and Joe Kubu (3-11-14). Senior defensemen Vincent DiNardo (0-16-16) and Jack Prospero (5-10-15) are reliable in their own end and can move the puck smartly.
Red Bank Catholic (6-15-3) Expect the Casey’s to rebound from last year’s campaign, relying on the sound play in the crease from senior goalie Ciaran McNelis. Coach Joe Zdeb has capable senior rearguards Brian Anderson and Jason Harper. Junior center Logan Gallagher and sophomore forward Zach Ruppert are the top scoring threats for the Shore Conference squad.
Ridgewood (7-12-5) The Maroons are seeking a resurgent season behind junior goalkeepers Nate Loughlin and Ben Rubenstein. Talented junior defenseman Ben Reinke, who finished with 21 points on 10 goals and 11 assists, is a playmaker from the back end along with classmate Ben Reinke. Up front, sophomore Davis Flusche (8-6-14) and seniors Tim Anzano (1-6-7) , Joe Rahaim (2-2-4) and Sebastian Samuels (5-1-6) will carry the attack.
Saint John Vianney (11-8-4) The Lancers look equipped to make serious runs in the Shore Conference and Egan Cup behind a bunch of talented playmakers and leadership. Coach Mick Messemer boasts experienced senior forwards Kevyn Rigatti (10-6-16), Brett Schneider (7-6-13), Joe Zani (2-2-4) and defenseman Dylan Raskin (2-2-4). Junior John Gutt (6-6-12) returns after missing half of last season due to injury along with classmates John Gelatt (F, 14-22-36) and defenseman John Kennedy. The goaltending is in good hands with junior Jeremy Connor (525 saves, 2 shutouts).
Seton Hall Prep (9-10-4) Entering his third season directing the Pirates, coach Mike Atkinson has done a commendable job rebuilding the program. It’s a deeper and more experienced club back this winter that features senior forwards Stephen Buck (17-14-31), John O’Hern (6-13-19), Devon Dobres (2-5-7) and Gavin Angulo (4-1-5) and junior Thomas Colucci. Seniors Jake Sandomeno (0-8-8) and Liam Carroll (4-3-7) and junior J.P. Foley are back on defense in front of first-year goalie John Profaci, a junior who started three games last season.
Tenafly (15-9-2) With both of last year’s goaltenders having graduated, the Tigers will emphasize defensive play even more behind ironman defenseman Nic L’Heureux (12-31-43), who logged close to 40 minutes per game last season and has chalked up 91 career points. Tenafly’s strength is up front, where senior forwards Andy Chang (7-12-9), Julian Tallier (14-21-35; 118 career points), Michael Anderson, who can also skate on defense, and juniors Michael Ranaldi and Socrates Raftis. The Tigers could make another strong run in the NJSIAA Public A tournament, where they were knocked out last season by Randolph.
Wall (18-7-2) The Crimson Knights are a team to be watched carefully and have a voracious appetite for a state title after their run to the Public B final last year, and coach Mike Dianora’s squad itching to return. The offense appears powerful behind senior forwards Ryan Burns (25-27-52), Larry Hooper (14-17-31) and Zach Tarantino (11-45-56). Defensively, the key will be with junior goalie Logan Beattie (.912 save-percentage) and junior defenseman Bobby Seelinger (2-12-14).
Watchung Hills (13-7-6) After falling to Ridge in the NJSIAA Public A final last year, coach Tim Tedesco is preparing the Warriors for another run at the league title. The defense is solid with returning senior Mike Brady (5-22-27) and sophomore Dan Hodowanec (2-5-7). In the middle, senior center Vin Marino (7-9-16) will be looked upon to steady a young group of forwards that include freshmen Cole Hanan and Nate Joglekar.
West Essex (6-12-4) The Knights have a good mix of returning players, highlighted by senior forwards Patrick Coyle, Alex Antonian and Grace Pavlovich along with senior defenseman Spencer Cowen. Coach Marc Gregory has impressive depth up front, too, with junior wingers Sammy Friedman, Connor McCarthy and Connor Barnette. Sophomore center Dominic Sedicino and freshman Alex Laglia could emerge with some key goals.