New Jersey Boys Pre-season Poll
|2||Don Bosco Prep||18||10||0|
|3||Christian Brothers Acad.||23||3||2|
|4||St. Joseph (Met.)||18||3||3|
The offseason in New Jersey high school hockey saw a major change affecting the public-school ranks when the state’s governing body, the NJSIAA, approved a rule to allow schools of any size to form co-operative agreements, albeit subject to case-by-case approval (i.e. only teams with dwindling participation numbers will be approved). Previously, only smaller schools had been eligible to combine. As a result, there were three separate mergers (continuing a growing trend), while four other schools added co-op partners, strengthening those squads but weakening the high-enrollment Public A state-tournament field.
When the season begins, however, the private schools could produce a memorable race for the top spot. Six-time defending private champion Delbarton (23-3-4) starts at the top but does not have the same talent advantage it often does after losing its top four scorers from last year, three to graduation and one to a family move. It was therefore a welcome break for head coach Bruce Shatel when senior Chad Otterman, who did not play last year due to junior hockey commitments, returned to the high-school game for his senior season. Otterman, a 6-foot-3, 197-pound Division I prospect in both hockey and lacrosse, adds another physical presence to an already big team and should provide some needed scoring punch.
Aside from Otterman, the Green Wave will rely on senior Peter Welch (4-8-12), junior M.J. Melillo (5-5-10), and sophomore Anthony DelGazio (3-8-11) as scoring options, along with promising freshman Steven Agriogianis. Seniors Will McCarthy (4-4-8) and Sean McLaughlin (5-3-8) also return. Delbarton is stronger on defense, where senior Michael Gilfillan (2-10-12) leads a blue-line corps that includes senior Matt Savarese (0-3-3), junior Sean Petrie (eligible in late December after transferring from Morristown), sophomore Andrew Petrillo (2-7-9), and freshman Michael Gordon. Another big question mark is in goal, where freshman Troy Kobryn will challenge sophomore Kyle Riegler for the starting spot opened by a hip injury sidelining senior Brian Forness.
Shatel’s typically robust schedule includes games against prep schools Brunswick, Hotchkiss, Dexter, Hill, and Lawrenceville, as well as a mid-January showdown with three-time defending Massachusetts champion Malden Catholic (the winner of the head-to-head game has been ranked No. 1 in the Northeast in each of the last three seasons) and a February game against defending Connecticut champion Fairfield Prep.
The stiffest challenge to Delbarton’s crown is likely to come from Don Bosco Prep (18-10), which surprised CBA in the semifinals to reach last year’s state championship game, only to fall 4-0. The Ironmen have a standout among the best in the state at each position and could have the depth to stay with Delbarton.
Senior goalie Jarred Liscio, the Don Bosco Prep career leader with 17 shutouts, is a returning first team all-state selection and gives the Ironmen a significant advantage over most Gordon Conference foes. Steady senior defenseman Cody Calgano (4-14-18) is drawing Division I interest, while senior forward Dylan Healey (8-8-16 in limited action) returns from a broken shoulder to key the offense.
Healey will be joined on a skilled top line by junior Hunter Garlasco (10-27-37), whose older brother, Michael, skates at Clarkson, and senior forward Greg Jandoli (8 points in 5 games after transferring). The loss of leading scorer Robby Marsanico to the NAHL hurts Don Bosco’s depth, but other key contributors include senior defenseman John Stimola (4-7-11) and junior forward Griffen Welch (6-15-21). Don Bosco Prep will face Massachusetts power BC High, Fairfield Prep, and New York power Suffern as part of its non-league schedule.
CBA (23-3-2) did everything last year except produce in the state tournament. The Colts suffered an agonizing loss to Delbarton in the 2012 state final, blowing a 2-0 lead in the final 10 minutes, then tied Delbarton twice during the 2012-13 regular season and upset the Green Wave in the Gordon Cup final, 5-2. In the 2013 state tournament, however, CBA seemed to lose focus, needing overtime to get through the quarterfinals and losing 5-3 to Don Bosco Prep in the semifinals.
Head coach Ryan Bogan’s team is still one of the favorites this year, led by the third member of the van Riemsdyk family to commit to the University of New Hampshire: Brendan van Riemsdyk (22-36-58), now a senior forward following in the footsteps of older brothers James and Trevor. Senior Anthony Cusanelli (21-30-51) and junior Greg Malafronte (9-19-28) should join van Riemsdyk on the top line, while junior Conor Tierney (15-22-37), senior Billy Antonides (8-26-34), and sophomore Bobby Hampton (10-21-31) make sure there is plenty of firepower to go around. Sophomores Tim Clifton (2-17-19) and Ryan Bogan (8-21-29) lead a young defense corps that also includes junior Austin Tieri (2-12-14) and sophomore James Stanger (0-14-14). Bogan is confident in both sophomore Michael Cernero and junior Connor Silverstein in goal.
Middlesex County school St. Joseph Metuchen (18-3-3) is a surprise choice at No. 4. After all, the Falcons’ appearance in the private quarterfinals last year was their first since 2002, and they have never made the semifinals in the two-tournament era (1995). But head coach Ryan Carter’s team beat Don Bosco Prep during the regular season last year (St. Joseph later fell to Don Bosco in the quarterfinals) and returns its prolific top line of senior Felipe Rodriguez (24-15-39), junior Marc Johnstone (9-18-27), and sophomore Michael Nisky (9-32-41).
The goaltending tandem of junior Nick Castagno (.922, 6 shutouts) and senior Daniel Farb (.926) are aided ably by junior Paul Cimilluca and seniors Joe Farley and Gregg Sutton on the blue line. The Falcons’ weak league schedule has been reduced to just six games, allowing them to toughen up against a difficult non-league schedule that includes a December 10 game against Delbarton, one of just two games against NJSIAA teams on the Green Wave’s loaded non-league schedule this year.
Despite being on its third head coach in less than one year (Brack Healy took the reigns last spring but had to resign in the fall after accepting an administrative position in a New Jersey school district), Bergen Catholic (7-13-3) starts the year ranked fifth. The Crusaders, now coached by Brian Monteverdi, lost only two seniors from last year’s young squad. This year’s team will be led by sophomore goaltender Pete Negron, already among the state’s best, and sophomore forward Evan Wisocky (7-13-20). Junior forward Kyle Marano, junior defenseman Tyler Antonucci, and junior defenseman Lucas Milbank are other key players, with forward Joey Brown and defenseman Kyle Smyth also expected to contribute.
Just behind Bergen Catholic is No. 6 Gloucester Catholic (12-6), the final team in the Gordon Conference’s upper half, the American Division. Head coach Guy Gaudreau has reliable scorers in senior Riley Horvath and junior Trevor Madden, but his best player might be junior Dylan McArthur on the blue line. Junior Andrew Sharkus and senior Andreas Logothetis are both capable in goal, and the Rams will need them against a regionally focused non-league schedule that includes preps Hun and Princeton Day, Pennsylvania’s Holy Ghost Prep, and Mercer County power Notre Dame.
While the private field appears very competitive, there is no questioning the favorite in the public-school ranks. Despite being among the eight smallest schools fielding a hockey team, Ramsey (23-3-3) is an overwhelming favorite to capture its first Public B championship since 2009. The Rams return junior forward Alex Whelan (36-32-68), the reigning North Jersey Player of the Year, and his linemates are back too – senior Connor DiTomaso (22-23-45) and junior Nick Botta (17-24-41). Seniors Chris Butryn (1-10-11), Jim Hunt (5-5-10), and Anthony Pedulla (2-13-15) and precocious sophomore defenseman Brandon O’Callahan (4-8-12) lead the defense, and highly-touted sophomore Tyler Harmon is expected to take over in goal for graduated captain Justin Larkin. Overwhelming favorites in the Big North Green Division, Ramsey’s biggest tests will come in the holiday Ice Vault Tournament and the late-January Bergen County Tournament, when the Rams will carry public-school hopes against the county’s four big private schools.
Like Delbarton, a school with which it shares home ice, most fans slot Randolph (15-9-2) into the state final before the season even begins. The Rams have won three straight Public A crowns and are 7-3 in state championship games in the last 12 years. Randolph does it with amazing depth, and this year’s team is no exception. Seniors Mitch Gaudioso (8-10-18) and Stefan Tamminga (8-8-16), juniors Michael Slavin (8-14-22) and Matt Bruno (6-7-13), and sophomore forward Dan Janson (6-12-18) are some of the key scoring options, while seniors Brendan Siegel (7-8-15) and Luke Wright (6-4-10) lead the defense in front of senior goalie Andrew Holowko (.909). A December 13 matchup with Public B contender Summit should provide a barometer for Randolph’s early ability, but no matter how that one turns out, don’t bet against the Rams in March.
Summit (17-5-4) should provide such a good barometer because the Hilltoppers return 14 of 16 players from last year, including a remarkable 10 from their 2012 state championship team. The most notable are senior goalie Garrett McGowan (.930) and the forward trio of senior Liam McLaughlin (23-45-68, 159 career points), junior Riley Flynn (13-25-38, scored the overtime game-winner in the 2012 state final), and junior Chris Zanelli (21-26-47). Seniors James Strabley and John Burns and junior Hunter Wyckoff return on defense, while the already deep Hilltoppers will be boosted by the addition of junior forward Brady Nelson, who moved in from Colorado, and freshman defenseman Corey McManus. Head coach Keith Nixon has beefed up the non-league schedule to test his team, facing Randolph, Morris Knolls, Chatham, and both Brick schools and participating in the holiday Ice Vault Tournament.
The Skyland Conference typically produces at least two of the state’s best public schools, and defending Skyland Cup champion Bridgewater-Raritan (21-5-4) starts the year as the clear favorite and a threat for the Public A title; the Panthers only graduated two players after reaching the Public A final last year. Head coach Patrick Alvin welcomes back his entire forward corps, including senior Mark Kinsey (20-17-37), junior Will Dimock (6-13-19), and sophomore Alec Casiero (10-18-28), with seniors Steven Cleary (18-10-28) and Tyler Darby (13-16-29) and junior Eddie Weissman (11-5-6) also key to the attack. Juniors Ian Anderson (3-10-13) and Brett Goldstein (5-6-11) lead the defense, while senior goalie Mickey Avenoso was solid in five outings last year.