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New Jersey Morris County: Morristown-Beard wants another title

MORRIS COUNTY

Morristown-Beard (16-7-4) – The Crimson take aim at a third straight Mennen Cup title for the second time in eight years (2009-11) and appear to have the defense to do it. Of their top five players at the back, four are seniors in goalie Danny Porth and defensemen A.J. and Christian DiCesare and Marc Tietjen, joined by juniro Sam Schappel. Up front, senior Alex Borowiec (12-18-30) and sophomore Brayden Patricia (11-9-20) lead the way, with freshman Gavin Puskar one of the key additions. The Crimson have scheduled four Gordon Conference opponents, including county rival Delbarton, on top of the challenging Mennen Division schedule.

Justin Leifer Morristown

Justin Leifer
Morristown

Morristown (13-12-3) – After reaching three consecutive state championship games from 2012-14, Morristown finally suffered a relatively early exit in last year’s quarterfinals. It may have just set the stage for this year. The Colonials return 12 seniors, including eight from the 2014 state champinship team, and will be among the favorites in the Mennen Division and the Public A state tournament. The senior trio of Bradley Greik (20-10-30), Jakob DeFares (13-9-22),and Christian Rodriguez (9-11-20) lead the way up front, with three more in Kyle Beyer (4-24-28), Justin Leifer (5-6-11),and Nick Swiontkowski (4-6-10) on the blue line. Underclassmen do provide the goaltending, with both sophomore Evan Szary and junior Harrison Brown capable of backstopping wins.

Bryan Early Randolph

Bryan Early
Randolph

Randolph (19-5-3) – After winning seven Public A titles in the last 10 years, Randolph is expected to win. All the accolades rarely come easy, however, and this year will likely be no exception. Senior Dan Janson (18-12-30) is a proven scorer, and classmate Chris Holowko (4-11-15) can set him up, but head coach Rich McLaughlin will need a balanced scoring effort to compete in the Mennen Division. Senior captain Bryan Early (4-11-15) will lead the defense alongside imposing junior Jack Zimmer, with junior Luc Swedlund hoping to take over in goal after making four starts last year.

Morris Knolls (14-9-1) – Morris Knolls has earned a top-four seed in 12 of the last 13 years (they were fifth in 2008), and there’s no reason to believe the two-time state champions won’t contend in Public A once again this year. Senior Danny Cangelosi (11-10-21) and juniors Chris Conway (7-9-16) and Alex Welch (7-8-15) lead the offense, with defenseman Robbie Schweizer part of the blue-line corps in front of goalies Jon Szynalski and Jonathan Cavallone.

Chatham (15-4-5) – After winning the Mennen Division by 1.5 games last year, Chatham was hit hard in two of its biggest games of the year, falling 5-0 in the Mennen Cup final and 4-0 in the Public B semifinals. Head coach Frank Gilberti resigned after clashing with parents, and Brendon Herr takes over a team in transition. Seniors Ryan Barnett (18-14-32) and Austin Pierce (6-9-15) are back to lead the offense, with senior Mark McNally (1-6-7) joined by freshman Kieran Krauss on the blue line. Another freshman, Jake Brown, could see early minutes in goal.

Kinnelon (11-11-3) – Having established itself as a regular in the ultra-competitive division, Kinnelon – the smallest school in New Jersey to offer a non-co-op hockey team – will likely run into depth issues this year. Head coach Jeff Myhren does return Pat (9-9-18) and Sean (3-12-15) Grant and Steven Gakos (6-8-14), while junior Sean Hoffmann is expected to get the bulk of the starts in goal.

Montville (12-8-2) – After winning the Haas Division in 2013-14 and both the Halvorsen Division and Halvorsen Cup last year, Montville finally stayed put in the same division, returning to the Halvorsen as favorites under third-year coach Meg Hishmeh. Senior forward Emerson Emery starts the year with 94 career points, while junior defenseman James Reynolds heads the back line. Untested juniors Matt Irizarry and Jakub Czaja will compete to earn the starting spot in goal.

Roxbury (12-10-2) – Roxbury will be one challenger in an unpredictable division, with juniors Nick Zaragoza (10-18-28) and Dylan DeGraw (11-9-20) and sophomore Billy Hefferle (15-6-21) leading the attack. Junior Connor Mutz returns in goal, while sophomore defensemen Shane and Dillon Miller join returnee Johnny Facchini on the blue line.

West Morris Central (13-10-1) should be one of the division favorites after returning 12 players, including senior Anthony Piombino (13-12-25) and senior Tim Polglase (.930) in goal.

Jared Finnerty Madison

Jared Finnerty
Madison

Madison (27-2) enjoyed a dream season in 2014-15, going 27-2 and only falling to powers Morristown and Ramsey. The Dodgers move up to the second-tier Halvorsen Division this year for the first time since Morris County adopted its tiered format in 1985-86. It will present a stiff challenge, especially after rising sophomore Jack DeBoer, a BU commit, transferred to Salisbury. Still, head caoch Dave Hansen returns junior goalie Kavi Sinha, senior forward Michael Gleason (22-28-50), junior forward Charlie Cleaves (12-24-36), and senior defenseman Jared Finnerty (4-14-18) and has scheduled aggressively, adding extra games against public-school powers in addition to league-scheduled crossovers against the Mennen Division.

Mendham (11-15-1) and Pequannock (2-16-1) will be aiming to knock off one of the top teams and qualify for the state tournament.

In the lower two divisions, co-ops Park Regional (9-10-3), Mount Olive / Hopatcong (6-13-3), Mountain Lakes / Boonton (2-16-1), and Newton / Lenape Valley (6-17-3) will compete with stand-alone schools Sparta (10-7-5) and Jefferson (17-3-4), the latter just up from the Charette Division. The fourth-tier Charette Division continues a running battle between several lower-profile programs, led by Par Hills / Parsippany (13-7-3) and High Point / Wallkill Valley (5-16), set to be challenged by Vernon (9-9-3), Gill St. Bernard’s (4-13-2), and Morris Hills (1-20).

Jonathan Yardley
Jonathan Yardley has been covering high school ice hockey in New Jersey since 1996. A native of Morristown and a Delbarton alumnus, he graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas in 2005. A radio and television broadcaster, he has called games for the 2003 NCAA championship Rice baseball team (2002-05), the 2011 Major League Soccer Eastern Conference champion Houston Dynamo (2008-11), and ESPN3 (2012-13), among other teams and outlets. He grew up watching hockey at Mennen Arena and for five seasons (1996-97 to 2000-01) wrote a weekly newsletter and ran the webpage for the MCSSIHL, the Morris County high school league. He now writes for Hockey Night in Boston in addition to website and blog maintenance.
Jonathan Yardley
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