New Jersey HS Hockey: Big North Conference Preview

Gary Demopouloshttp://www.hnibnews.com
Gary Demopoulos has been covering prep school hockey for the HNIB News for over 30 years, and has been the editor of the HNIB News since 2005. A former sportswriter and news editor at the Woburn (MA) Daily Times Chronicle, he has been the HNIB News' key reporter for Mens Prep School hockey since 1988, as well as womens hockey, both at the prep school and high school levels. for almost 20 years. Gary also helps organize and oversee HNIB's many summer tournaments and festivals for scholastic players.

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Here’s a look at a handful of programs that will vie in one of the Big North Conference’s four divisions. The divisions are Freedom, Liberty Stars, Liberty Stripes and Patriot.

FREEDOM DIVISION

PARAMUS/LYNDHURST

Coach: Jake Rizer

The ability to shut down the opposition’s key players will be vital to any success the Spartans have this year. Coach Rizer feels defense and goaltending will be a team strength.

Up front, junior Jake Renzi (10 pts) will be a catalyst for the offense. Three juniors who should be involved are Parker Lillo, Drew Kaider and Kai Barbara.

Senior Brandt Rohdieck and  junior Alex Sendecki are cornerstones for the Paramus blue line. The teams also returns a pair of varsity goaltenders in junior Jack Costanzo and junior Matt Novotny.

NORTHERN HIGHLANDS

Coach: Jason Beswick

There is a lot of optimism at Northern Highlands, which returns some talented players at all three positions. Expect the Highlanders to be a serious challenger for the Freedom Division title, and hopefully more.

Senior Will Fuller leads the offensive attack. Joining him as key returners up front for coach Beswick are senior Aiden McGivney, junior Will Brown and sophomore Vincenzo Capano. Three freshmen ready to chip in are Jake Baratta, Brent Beswick and J.T. Gandara.

On defense, senior Alex Zeng will be a cornerstone. Senior Nick Lardieri moves back from forward to add solid depth to the blue line.

In the nets, coach Beswick calls sophomore Daniel Moor a big key to the season, coming off an impressive freshman campaign in last winter’s abbreviated season. Sophomore Erez Yacobi is also in the mix.

TENAFLY

Coach: Andy Escala

The Tigers were right in the mix in the Freedom Division last winter and the expectation is for them to be a team to watch again in 2021-22.

Junior Michael Crosby (15 pts) was honorable mention all league from the forward ranks last year and leads the offense along with sophomore Aidan Marom. Sophomore Hunter Escala is back as well up front. Ready to challenge for serious minutes are senior Michael Falek, junior Isaac Wilk, sophomores Luke Simon and Chris Bafer, and freshman Ben Garth.

Tenafly also returns its top four defensemen from a year ago in senior Tinos Raftis (13 pts), a first team all league selection last season, senior Max Jimenez, sophomore Devin Knause (honorable mention all league) and sophomore WonHee Cho.

In the nets, senior Quinn McCarthy returns from last season’s club. New sophomore Jan Balasack and freshman Dmitri Jefferson join the rotation for Escala, who registered his 300th career coaching win last year.

PASCACK

Coach: Sean Cosgrove

Strong senior leadership will be a key for Pascack, which expects to have a strong defensive corps.

The offense will flow around senior Camilo Ramirez (9 pts) and sophomore Zack Groves. Newcomer Erik Wrynn hopes to chip in.

The defensive braintrust has senior Hunter Donne, senior Alan Stepanov and sophomore Kevin McNamara. Look for Tyler Rothstein to have a role.

Junior Aidan Rybacki returns between the pipes.

LIBERTY STARS

LAKELAND

Coach: Nick Crouch

The two-time defending Liberty Stars champions are in rebuilding mode this year, but still need to be watched.

Catalysts up front for the Lancers will be junior Brian Cole (12 pts), junior Tristan Davison (7 pts) and junior Charlie Wogisch (10 pts). A blue line anchor is senior Vincent Stoffel.

Mark Johnston
Mahwah

MAHWAH

Coach: Brad Segall

The Thunderbirds could be an intriguing bunch this winter, with some depth and talent in the upper classes.

Leading the way offensively for coach Segall’s troops are Mark Johnston (14 pts) and Anthony Miller (16 pts). The junior trio of Jack Kunish, Johnny Russenberger and Eddie Kane will be key contributors as well.

On defense, senior Kyle McGuire will be a force. Senior Shane Rittler will be another key blue liner. A returning starter in goal is Harris Haber, who fashioned a .910 save percentage.

A newcomer to watch will be Alex Goffredo, who has returned from the prep school ranks.

WAYNE

Coach: Justin Liscio

There is optimism in the this program, a co-op of Wayne Valley and Wayne Hills. A nice mix of older veterans and new, younger players could take this club a long way.

Seniors Luke Hulbert, Josh Flom and Joey Riina will team up with junior Josh Shpungin and sophomore Michael Brogna to form the offensive nucleus for the Knights.

Key blueliners project to be senior Ben Friedman and junior Alex Scheuplin, while junior Kareen Rifai and freshman Dominic Tirella will handle the goaltending.

Sophomores Matt Burke and Aidan Danubio and freshmen Tyler DeMartino and Matt Smith are newcomers looking to have an impact.

WEST MILFORD/PEQUANNOCK

Coach: Chris Scarpa

A young team with the bulk of its roster being sophomores and freshmen, WMPQ will look to turn some heads this winter.

Back in the fold up front are seniors Charlie Biegel and Langdon Frey, junior John Biegel and sophomores Aidan Lindgren, Aurick Nieshalla and Carson McGuire. Two freshmen to keep an eye on: Kyle Gregory and Derek Pizzariello.

The defensive nucleus will feature senior Jake Zekar and the sophomore triumvirate of Jake Pedicone, Matt Watt and Raymong Goetz.

Sophomore Nick Lombardo projects to start in goal. Senior Jack Longo is back as well.

PATRIOT

CLIFTON

Coach: Michael Santosuosso

The Mustangs were winless in the division last winter and look to turn things around.

Senior Vlastimil Ciberej and junior James Troller will spearhead things offensively. Senior Jurij Dubas is a returning goaltender.

Defensive cornerstones for Clifton are Patrick Biernat and Joe Wiebe. A freshman looking to crack the lineup is Tom Nicol.

RIVER DELL

Coach: Kyle Scancerella

Heading into his third season on the bench, coach Scancerella feels his squad will be competitive and hopes to challenge for the Big North Silver championship.

Up front, junior captain Riley Ehrenfeis (9 pts) and junior Kristian Bush (8 pts) are offensive leaders for the Hawks.

Senior assistant captain Tim Wanvig anchors the defense, while in goal, sophomore Liam Freel, who played in three games as a freshman, will take over as the full-time starter.

River Dell should have a large group of freshmen newcomers that will look to step in.

Nick Shteynberg
Fair Lawn

FAIR LAWN/DUMONT/BERGENFIELD

Coach: Joe Bonafede

The Cutters went undefeated in division play a year ago and are hopeful they will be in the mix again this winter.

Back up front are senior Nick Shteynberg (17 pts), who led the club in scoring last season, senior Paul Reissner and senior Jake Dargento.

Blue line leaders for coach Bonafede project to be senior Tyler Kulbanskiy (6 pts) and sophomore Daniel Kulbanskiy (7 pts). Senior Zack Levitzki appears primed to take over the starting goaltending position.

A new player to watch is Michael Ferrante.

LIBERTY STRIPES

RIDGEWOOD

Coach: Michael Lucchesi

In order to challenge for a division title, the Maroons will need their young and inexperienced players to step up to the challenge and fill the void left by those who graduated.

Dan McCarthy
Ridgewood

The offense will have a nice nucleus of returners in senior John Dunphey (committed to Princeton for lacrosse), senior Chris Canone, junior Jacob Kailberda and junior Carson Kopff.

Senior Dan McCarthy and senior Luke Botti will hold down the fort on the Ridgewood blue line. Freshman Finn Doherty will challenge for a spot.

In the nets, senior Jack Laub is a returning varsity netminder. Freshman Jack Scali joins the rotation.

PASSAIC COUNTY TECH

Coach: Andrew Frey

Now in its third season as a program, the Bulldogs continue to trend upward. “We are young, but the make-up of this team is quite good and if we are in the state tourney it wouldn’t surprise us. The future is extremly positive for PCTI,” said coach Frey.

The offense is driven by senior Manny Ammendola (14 pts) and juniors Brian Gaboda (10 pts) and Chris Beazley (9 pts).

On defense, sophomore Joseph Kwiecinski (22 pts) is back after being a First Team All Passaic County selection last winter. Junior Evan Tomasi is a returning starter in goal.

Frey added that the team welcomes 11 freshmen and three transfers to pre-season workouts.

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