Notre Dame (16-8-3) The Irish, runner-up for the Egan Cup last season, are prepared for an even stronger campaign under coach Andrew Ducko (110-39-9 in seven seasons). Forward Matt Sellers returns to bolster the offense and will carry 136 career points into his final campaign with Notre Dame along with Jason Janora (28 points), Sean Whittaker (34 points) and Danny Murphy (17 points). The blueline is experienced with seniors Matt Delorenzo (14 points), Will Garrison (12 points) and Keelan Brush all returning with junior Dalton Bennett. Senior Mike Bonavico and junior Jackson Weidling will see action in goal.
Morris Knolls (8-12-5) The Golden Eagles had a rare subpar campaign last season at 8-12-5 but are ready to soar back to contention in the Mennen Division while contending again for a state championship. First-year coach Tim Kepler takes command from mentor and veteran coach Walt Keiper. Kepler will have ample offense to deploy with returning forwards Chris Conway (12-21-33), Alex Welch (16-11-27), Dylan Lynch (2-6-8), Thomas Housel (2-4-6), Carl Ertle, Trevor Campenella, Kieran Regan (3-4-7), Kyle Conklin and Jacob Walsh. Nick Rupp (7-5-12) anchors the blue line with support from Brett Coleman, Douglas Fischer, Ryan Martinez and Tikhon Ryerson. Hunter Koch returns to start in goal. Knolls should make a strong push for the Mennen Cup and Public A championship this winter.
Randolph (19-5-3) On paper the Rams may not appear to be much of a scoring threat but that has never stopped them from building a state power over the past 15 seasons and claiming two Mennen Cups and eight state championships. Rich McLaughlin enters his 24th season at Randolph with a 364-157-52 log (382-169-54 career record, one season at Livingston) and has always guided the team to an impressive season based on disciplined play and execution. Randolph was stung by a 6-3 loss to Morristown-Beard in the Mennen Cup semifinal in 2016 but rebounded by skating to the NJSIAA Public A final, where it suffered a 2-0 loss to Morristown. The Rams always dependable two-way forwards this year include juniors Adam Redgate (6-5-11, plus-16), C.J. Mortello (3-7-10, plus-15), Dylan Quinn (6-6-12, plus-16), William Zimmer (6-8-14, plus-20) and Nick Civetta (7-9-16, plus-29). Senior Matthew Siegel (plus-34) is being counted on to stabilize the defensive corps. In goal, senior Luc Swedlund returns after putting a sturdy 17-4-3 record together with a 1.58 GAA last season. Junior Scott Kimiciek (2-1, 2.33 GAA) is a reliable backup in goal.
Freehold Township (10-12-1)
The Patriots boast a nearly intact roster returning from last season and are counting on that experience and skill to help them emerge as a public power to be reckoned with this winter. Coach Michael Celano will be able to send plenty of forwards who can score over the boards in seniors Max Halvorsen (21-21-42), Tyler McNamara (17-15-32), Brendan Liebross (11-12-23), Alessandro Mancuso (5-6-11) and sophomore Niko Neron (3-7-10). Senior defensemen Julian Kislin (21-16-35) and Matt Golba (1-5-6) provide steady minutes along with sophomores Nicholas Bianca, Anthony Altini and Tyler Sanborn. Senior Nick Raiola and Michael Ottone are a dependable goaltending combination. “This should be a very good year for us,” said Celano. “Our upper classmen have exhibited great leadership and the team is ready to build upon the last few years of hard work.”
Summit (11-14-1) The consistently successful Hilltoppers finished in uncharted territory last season when they finished with a record under .500. Expect that to be a one-year occurrence. Summit returns much of a young, swift roster that gained seasoning last year. Much is expected from senior Matt Galgano, junior Will Vitton and sophomores Luc Radice and Charlie Collins. On the defense the Hilltoppers are loaded with returning senior Corey McManus, junior Johnny Puskar and sophomore Greg Moller. Three impressive freshmen could emerge with lots of ice time in Jake Puskar, Aaron Tobias and Spencer Myers. Junior Wilson Lees and freshman Nikita Prymak are vying for starts in goal. Coach Keith Nixon enters his 23rd season just 10 victories shy of the 300 mark (290-225-46) as the Hilltoppers seek their sixth Union County Cup and their first Public B state championship since 2012.
Kinnelon (10-13-3) Colts’ coach Jeff Myhren (143-90-26 entering his 11th season) is hopeful a bunch of underclassmen will emerge to provide depth and some scoring punch. Senior Sean Hoffman returns in goal after a strong season in helping lead Kinnelon to the Mennen Cup final and the Public B Round of 16, where it lost to Madison, 5-4, in overtime last season. Up front, senior forwards Sean Grant, Richie Neufeld, Jack Nussbaum and Joe Burns and junior John Loch all return with high expectations and leadership ability. The staff has high expectations at the other end of the ice for senior Garrett LaLonde and junior Jameson Dugan.
Southern Regional (18-5-4) Coach Matt Hayes, entering his eighth season, will suit up much of a squad that claimed the Dowd Cup and skated to the Public A quarterfinal round before bowing to Randolph, 3-1, last year. Junior forwards Paul Keyes and Hunter Bello are the top offensive sniper for the Rams. The defense looks strong bolstered by seniors Trent Markley, Tyler Golomb and Reno D’Agostini. Steady senior Cameron Conrad will start in goal. “Our boys are capable of making another run in the Shore Conference,” said Hayes, “and the state tournament.”
Bridgewater-Raritan (13-8-3) The Panthers should not be underrated in the always-strong Skyland Conference, or in the state tournament. Coach Patrick Alvin (211-104-33 after 13 years) has been impressed with the play of senior Sarik Vasani (3-21-24), who shifts from forward to defense, and junior defenseman John Flaim. Junior Forwards Jake Goldstein and Jake Gottlieb combined for 27 goals last year and will be counted on again for production. Newcomers Lucas Timm, a sophomore forward and exchange student from Germany, and freshman forwards Corey Bertola and Ben Matton-Conover could emerge as difference-makers. Senior goalie Corey Fewer posted a 7-5 record and is back in goal.
Mahwah (16-9-3) The Thunderbirds impressed last season, especially with non-conference victories over Kinnelon, Summit and Chatham. Three underclassmen will key the speed-oriented offense in juniors Shane Ciongoli (14 points), Anthony DeAlto (22 points) and sophomore Brody Selman (40 points). Senior Evan Levitsky (8 points) will anchor the blue line with junior Nick Carabin (16 points) and sophomore Michell Hansen. Two solid performers will share the duties between the pipes in junior Jared Moss (2.80 GAA) and Ryan Selman (1.50 GAA).
Chatham (10-13-2) The Cougars should be improved this season as coach Brandon Herr enters his second season behind the bench. Herr will employ a swift lineup that includes 11 returning skaters, featuring senior forwards Jeff Haley and Sam Ortaloni. Junior defenseman Tanner Acone will get many minutes in front of senior goalie James Boles and sophomore Zach Pendergrast. Look for newcomers Alex Laferriere, Danny Mahoney and Dave Andreychuk to emerge as consistent skaters.
Seton Hall Prep (5-14-4) With his first season in the books, former Pirate skater and second-year coach Mike Atkinson is expecting a much improved club this winter. Seton Hall evolved into a hustling, hard-working team in 2015-2016 and returns junior forwards Stephen Buck (12-8-20) and Matthew Robinson, juniors John O’Hern (4-3-7), Devon Dobres and Kevin Bishop and sophomore Thomas Colucci (9-9-18). Seniors Thomas Freda and P.J. Murphy, junior Jake Sandomeno and sophomore Devlan House are strong skaters in the defensive zone. Returning senior goalie Jack McConeghy posted a 2.37 GAA with two shutouts. Sophomore John Profaci (2.83 GAA) will see duty in the crease as well.