New Jersey HS Hockey – MCSSIHL Team Previews: Mennen Race A Battle; Mt. Olive, Bernards, Morristown In New Divisions

Gary Demopoulos
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 is a look at many teams that make up the Morris County Secondary School Ice Hockey League. The Mennen Division race is shaping up to be a great one.

HAAS DIVISION

ROXBURY (1-13-2)

Coach: Jon Benbow

It was a rough ride for the Gaels last season, notching just one win on the season. However, the senior-heavy crew is confident history will not repeat itself this year,

With 12 seniors on the roster, leadership will not be in short supply. However, it is goals that need to be in abundance this season, as head coach Jon Benbow notes that’s where his team needs the most improvement.

Senior Jake Calanni holds the title of highest scoring returner, registering eight points, six of them being goals. Mikey Guadagnino will make his return between the pipes after posting a .830 last year. Forward Michael Nelson will look to use his experience with the North Jersey Kings when he makes his debut in the varsity arena. 

HANOVER PARK REGIONAL (8-11-3)

Coach: Tom Levis

Championship pedigree is undeniable for Park Regional and their 7 Haas Division Cups. The same goes for their head coach Levis who looks to check the box for career win #300 this upcoming season. 

The Park Regional squad looks to return to those winning ways. Michael Monahan, who tallied the second most points for Park Regional last year will look to eclipse his 34-point career high. Alongside him on offense will be Matt McDermott, Stanley Gelman, Sean Breen, Mat Lasota, and multiple others that will be making their return to Mennen Arena.  Wyatt Lieto, Jason Harty, and Dominic Perrello will all be patrolling the blueline, as they did the season prior. 

However, a new goalie duo awaits Hanover/Whippany. Anthony Perrello and Dylan Marion, two sophomores with minimal varsity experience, will take over goaltending duties. Some newcomers in front of them will be Mike Capozzi, Chase Olszewski, Giovanni Bruno, and Andrew Steinberg.

BERNARDS (15-4-3)

Coach: Paul Manore

After winning the Charette Division playoff championship in back-to-back years, the question is whether Bernards can do the same as they venture into the Haas Division for their first time.

This Bernards team had no shortage of firepower last season, led by returner Tanner Clemson’s 28 goals and 27 assists. Jimmy Hathaway’s 29 goals led his team in that category, while brothers Dylan and Ryan Leonard combined for 50 points. All three will be joining Bernards for another season. 

Returning defenders Justin Gordon, Troy Cuttic, Will Rogus, and Justin Kutakoff will hope to offset the loss of Aidan Gallagher and his 32 points. Coach Paul Manore expects Abbey Gallagher and Finn Spitaleri, who both missed significant time due to injury last season, to be big contributors in Bernards’ first Haas Division crusade.

In net, Baylyn Shankman looks to improve on an already impressive high school resume, which boasts a .901 and 2.44 from last year. 

VERNON (9-11-0)

Coach: Christian Conway

The Vikings lost 80% of their scoring, so things could be tough offensively, at least in the early going. They will need to stick to a sound defensive structure and capitalize on scoring chances.

In senior Devin England (30 pts), Vernon has a guy who can put up some stats on the scoresheet.

Three solid defensemen are back with juniors Luke Zabriskie (13 pts) and Christopher Gay (14 pts) and senior Johnathan Chromcik.

Vernon does have a returning starter in goal in senior Max Badu.

CHARETTE DIVISION

MORRIS CATHOLIC (5-11-3)

Coach: Chris Foer

After falling from first to fourth in the Charette Division between 2021 and 2022, the Crusaders hope to restore some of that earlier success.

The growing program, a co-op with St. Elizabeth, will be without its top scorer from last season, Evan Lord. However, Declan Norton’s 20 points were not far behind and he makes his return as a senior this year. Another senior forward expected to produce is Aidan Dominick. 

Forwards Mercer Acuna and Tyler Raucci, as well as defenseman Colin Shephard all enter their sophomore season with high expectations. Senior Danny Mark will likely return to his post between the pipes as the starter, backed by fellow returner Jack Wilson.

As a team with a thin roster, all players are expected to play and play hard.

MONTVILLE (2-19-1)

Coach: Anthony Iannone

The Mustangs are hopeful a new division will produce more success this season. The two-time Haas Cup Champions are eager to make an impact in the Charette Division this year, with an eye on a postseason run.

They will rely heavily on their four seniors for leadership, along with their second year starter, junior Alex Riley. Matthew Trifari, another junior, seeks to build on a strong sophomore campaign, where the center tallied 10 goals and added 13 assists. Senior Matthew Crowell led the defensive platoon last season with 20 points. 

High expectations are in store for incoming freshman defensemen Aidan Stepian and Cole Riley. Stepian gears up for high school hockey after recording strong numbers with Montclair Blues 14U AA.

PARSIPPANY REGIONAL (1-14-0)

Coach: Anthony Egidio

The coaching staff here are excited about the season and the potential for some marked improvement.

Driving things in the offensive zone will be the trio of junior Nicholas Hornung, sophomore Max Ingersoll and senior Larry Liu. Sophomore forward Joe Gasparro will be a big help, while freshman Robert Hemenway should slot in immediately.

On defense, senior Kyle Kirk, an Honorable Mention All Conference choice last year, returns with his leadership skills. Junior William Shoemaker is back as well with a key role, while freshmen Parker Enslow and Matthew Hemenway will see good minutes.

The staff is high on new freshman goaltender Andrew Nicholas.

HALVORSEN DIVISION

MENDHAM (11-7-1)

Coach: John Kovacs

The 2022 Halvorsen Cup champions will rely on experience this season when defending their title.

They must contend with the loss of their top gunner, forward Tristan Aitkenhead, but Coach Kovacs is confident that his senior-heavy squad will be up to the task. Seniors E.J Gleie, Michael Gionco, and Blake Stevens, who all had tremendous junior years, will be leaned on heavily. 

On the defensive side, Mac Goggin, who led all defenseman in points last year for Mendham, will be manning the blueline again this year, alongside fellow seniors Freddie Nounan and Dave Barounis.

Gavin Thrun will enter his sophomore year after solid work in net last season. He will be joined by incoming freshman goaltender Brandon Eigner. Freshman Brendon Eigner will join the defensive group. 

MOUNTAIN LAKES/BOONTON (6-11-0)

Coach: Clint McDonough

Juniors Benji Forman and Jonathan Garibaldi project to be leaders up front. Andy Barrasso, Tristan Forrest and Jack Fitch are back as well.

Defensively, seniors Logan Przestrzelski and Kieran Christy, and junior A.J. Wenzel will have key roles.

Newcomers looking to make an impact are Anthony McLaren, Cody Roller, Kyle Wenzel, Andrew Wilmot, Scott Soukup, Tommy Catanzaro, Bobby Carlson, Jimmy Elliot, Nick Fidacaro, Alex Maniatis and Dom Signorile.

MT. OLIVE/HOPATCONG/HACKETTSTOWN (17-5-3)

Coach: Ryan Tatarka

After going undefeated in Haas Divison play a year ago, MOHOHO will head into this season in the Halvorsen Division. The team must take care of business in the defensive zone if it is to have success in its new digs.

JL O’Toole
Mt. Olive

The team will have plenty of firepower, led by returning seniors Nick Cioce (34 pts), Christian Hertzig (42 pts), Frank DiLoreto (32 pts), A.J. Twist (38 pts), Liam Murphy (25 pts) and JL O’Toole. That scoring group will get fortified with the arrival of senior Ethan Tillery and sophomroe Daniel McGarry.

Defensively, a lot is expected of the returning trio of senior Braden Ensminger (+22), senior Ryan Twist (+22) and sophomore Liam Parr (+15). Junior Sebastian Slawinski and sophomore Tyler Muscolino will provide solid depth.

In goal, senior Nick Gargiulo had 16 wins last winter, and senior Zach Bahammou also is back.

MENNEN DIVISION

Hollis Humphries
Morristown Beard

MORRISTOWN-BEARD (14-12-1)

Coach: Scott Greene

The Crimson will field their youngest team in a few years, but they will still be a solid outfit and a threat in the Mennen Division.

A kingpin in the forward ranks will be senior Hollis Humphries, coming off a huge, 54-point season. Senior Hutch McDonald (14 pts), junior Peter Cross and sophomore Nick Squashic will have increased offensive roles. Freshmen Charlie Fernandez, Kevin Fraga, John Gonnella and Ryan Tartaglione join the squad and hope to be factors.

Hutch McDonald
Morristown Beard

A pair of sophomores – Evan Jones and Lucas Krzanwoski – will be leaders on the blue line with senior Mack Plante. Also back are senior Charlie Hutchinson, junior Grayson Strauss and sophomore Robert Magnotta.

Senior Julian Melendez and sophomore Casey Connor are back in goal. Both saw considerable time a year ago.

CHATHAM (5-14-1)

Coach: Brendon Herr

The Cougars are on the hunt for their first league championship as coach Herr enters his 8th season as coach at Chatham.

Isaac Suh, a returning forward who posted 10 points, is expected to build on that production this upcoming season. Doyle Curry, a key piece of the Chatham blueline, has seen his point totals increase each year. He hopes to keep this trend going into his third season.

Some other key returners will be forwards Ronan Curry and Matt Nacinovic, and defenders Dillon Gagliardi and Jeff Burke.

RANDOLPH (10-7-3)

Coach: Richard McLaughlin

A 30-year head coach with nine state championships and four league championships is always a recipe for success for the Rams.

Randolph finished last regular season in second place, a feat that could be more challenging this year with Morristown Beard as the favorite and Morris Knolls coming off a regular season title last year.

Despite being a younger team, they will lean on key veterans like sophomore forward Jase Zangara, whose 35 points led the pack last year. Forward Zach Gallo enters his senior year after a 29-point outing last year.

Junior Ashton Feinberg will be relied on to provide leadership to a younger defensive core. Coach McLaughlin has faith his returners will continue to improve. This includes senior goaltender Connor Thomas.

Isaac Stock, a forward, will make the leap from JV to varsity this year, with high expectations.

MORRISTOWN (15-6-3)

Coach: Ian Anderson

The Colonials are ready to challenge for the top echelon in both the Mennen Division and the MCSSIHL as a whole under new head coach Anderson.

Two juniors – Jackson Byrne (17 pts) and Liam Wilson (18 pts) – will have lots of responsibility in the scoring department.

Junior Brody Toye (11 pts) and senior Chris Kay are solid in the back end. A returning netminder is junior Thatcher Neville.

MORRIS KNOLLS/HILLS (16-9-1)

Coach: Tim Kepler

The defending Mennen Division regular season champs will be right in the mix again this winter. “We have a core of returning players that will lead by example and show our younger players what it’s like to be a family, how to be good teammates and work as one,” said coach Kepler.

Junior Luke Dickerson (48 pts) and sophomore Jake McCloud (27 pts) return as the Golden Eagles top two scorers. Seniors Ryan Manz and Allan Williams and juniors Jack Martinez and Michael Simone all are important parts to the offense as well. Four new forwards looking to pitch in are senior James Napolitano, juniors Brendan Gleason and Eli Singley, and sophomore Dylan Williams.

On defense, senior Bryan McCarter (18 pts) is an anchor, with senior Ryan Walter and junior Tommy Ryerson helping out. A freshman ready to go is Brandon Strunck.

In goal, senior Aidan Marvin had a 2.59 gaa last season.

** Jake Basile contributed to this report

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