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New Jersey Preseason Top 10: Keep an eye on Don Bosco

New Jersey Top 10 Poll

RankTeamPR*WLT
1Don Bosco Prep2062
2Delbarton2532
3Christian Brothers2550
4St. Augustine Prep13111
5Glen Rock2333
6Morristown-Beard1952
7Middletown South1172
8Pope John1682
9Ridge2334
10St. Joseph (Metuchen)1543
Warrior-Polls

There is no real secret or innovative approach Don Bosco Prep will take on the ice this winter.

The game is always evolving – and so are the Ironmen.

“The game has become much more of a speed game the past two or three seasons, even at the high school level,” said Don Bosco coach Greg Toskos. “Teams will always have guys playing hard and banging but it is much more of a speed and skill game now and we feel like we possess those two components. Look, Delbarton and Christian Brothers have set the standard for our state for everybody else. This year we feel like we can compete with them.”

Last season the Ironmen rolled through a 10-2-1 regular season record in the elite Gordon Conference American Division and built a 14-3-2 record heading into the Gordon Cup and state tournaments. Along the way the Ironmen had posted a 3-1 record in four meetings with their rivals from Delbarton and Christian Brothers Academy (CBA). But CBA handed Don Bosco a 3-1 setback in the Gordon Cup semifinal round before the Ironmen suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 overtime loss to their rival (CBA) in the NJSIAA Private Tournament semifinal round.

Those two defeats were surely disappointing, but not insurmountable as the 59th season of league play in New Jersey scholastic hockey commences.

“We don’t look at CBA as our nemesis in any way because of those two losses,” said Toskos, 140-89-23 as he enters his 11th season at the Bergen County power. “They definitely had our number in the Gordon Cup and in the state playoffs. But last year was the first time I walked out of a season-ending loss and I wasn’t really devastated. We lost that state game in overtime in a game that went down to the last few seconds and they got a good bounce. Sometimes that happens. We didn’t focus on that, we focused on how we can use that loss to get better.”

For the Ironmen that would mean taking aim at their first NJSIAA state championship as well as their second Gordon Cup crown. Don Bosco won its first Gordon Cup in 2014.

Don Bosco Prep (20-6-2) The Ironmen will open this season on a two-pronged quest after failing to reach the final of either the Gordon Cup or the NJSIAA Private tournament after an impressive regular season last winter. Any squad with championship aspects requires a sturdy anchor in goal, and Don Bosco can sure boast at that position. All-State goaltender Alexei Masanko will man the crease again, a netminder who can singlehandedly steal some games if necessary. The senior posted a .927 save-percentage to go with a sparkling 1.73 goals-against average. But the returning talent does not end in goal as the Ironmen also have standout senior defenseman John Campomenosi back on the blueline. The Quipinniac commit finished with two goals and 14 assists. Joining him on the back line are senior veterans C.J. McGee (2-7-9) and Thomas Reid (3-3-6) and junior George Weiner (3-3-6). Up front the team will miss graduated forward Chris Mazzella (31-12-43), but return a good scoring mix with juniors Mickey Burns (11-31-42), sophomore Tyler Sedlak (15-25-40) and seniors Ryan McLinskey (8-10-18), Toby DiPaolo (4-9-13) and Seiho Jin (3-5-8). With this blend of talent and leadership the Ironmen are counting on making a run to the Gordon Cup, Private championship and a sixth straight Bergen County Tournament crown.

Delbarton (25-3-2) The Green Wave skated their way to the NJSIAA Private championship, the 19th major title under coach Bruce Shatel, in 2016 with veteran lineup and strength from the back end out. Indeed, Delbarton did graduate a large portion of last winter’s roster of skilled performers, including defenseman and Vermont recruit Andrew Petrillo and forwards Anthony Farinacci , Tyler Kobryn and Danny Farr and Andrew Longo (who combined  for 70 goals). But Delbarton has experienced this transition before and thrived. Remember, the Green Wave have failed to post a 20-win season just once in the past 15 seasons under Shatel (18-6-4 in 2005-2006). The Green Wave are in fine shape in goal with returning senior Troy Kobryn, a second team All-State pick, who posted a .932 save-percentage while yielding 30 goals. Senior Mark Benemerito (11-12-23), juniors Jack Chatwin (4-19-23), Hunter Macy (5-12-17) and Nick Siffringer and sophomores John Farinacci (7-11-18) and Jack Malone (8-15-23) will need to improve on last year’s scoring exploits for Delbarton to secure a state-record 11th private championship. Shatel boasts a stunning 356-45-33 career record entering his 16th season at the Morris County school.

Christian Brothers (25-5) The blueline was depleted with the graduation of All-State defenseman Ryan Bogan, who finished with 43 points on 11 goals and 32 assists. But that does not impede the Colts’ annual mandate. “My expectations do not change season to season,” explained CBA’s veteran coach Ryan Bogan, the defenseman’s father. “Our goal is to reach the state final and a chance to play for the championship.” The Colts captured the prestigious Gordon Cup last winter (3-1 vs. Delbarton) but were thwarted in their bid for a third consecutive private state championship as Delbarton gained revenge with a 3-1 victory in the final. There is plenty of talent returning on the ice for the Colts, who will rely offensively on talented forwards Derek Contessa (9-14-33), Corey Clifton (15-15-30) and Liam Noonan (10-12-22), John D’Aniello (9-11-20), Nicolas Lidonici (6-8-14), Dean DiFazio (7-11-18) and John Cernero (4-14-18). Bogan is also expecting newcomers Richard Hilfiker, Chad Schneider, Derek Vastola and Kyle Contessa to make an impact this season. CBA finished fourth in the Gordon Conference American Division with a 7-4 record last season. All four defeats came against Gordon rivals Don Bosco Prep and Delbarton, so the Colts are surely eying a strong run at the division title.

Giovanni Albano St. Augustine Prep

Giovanni Albano
St. Augustine Prep

St. Augustine Prep (13-11-1) Veteran coach Tim Fingerhut, who skated collegiately at Vermont, enters his 11th season running the Hermits’ bench with a career 125-88-21 record. The Hermits finished fourth in the Gordon American Division but scored impressive victories over Don Bosco Prep (3-0) and Pope John (6-3) last season. The forwards will be keyed by seniors Carson Briere, who connected for 16 goals in 2015-2016, and Andrew Carpenter (7 goals). Juniors Kyle Knight (10 goals) and Tyler Booth (4 goals) should emerge as scoring threats, too. Fingerhut is expecting big seasons from on the back end as the Hermits’ rely on seniors Nicko Poulianas and Max Gravenstine and junior Aaron Jared Hannah. Between the pipes seniors Giovanni Albano and Mike Haldeman could share the duties. Watch for freshmen defensemen Peter Poulianas and Austin Cook forward Zach Minafo to emerge as key performers. “We need our goaltending to be sharp and we have to be more efficient offensively, where last season we left too many missed opportunities,” said Fingerhut.

Eddie Corvelli Glen Rock

Eddie Corvelli
Glen Rock

Glen Rock (23-3-3) The Panthers have proven capable opponents over the past few seasons, but last year they emerged as a state power to be reckoned with. Glen Rock is eyeing a similar start to last year when they roared to a 10-1-3 record before bowing to Gordon Conference stalwart Don Bosco Prep, 3-2, in overtime in the Bergen County Tournament. The Panthers shrugged that off and went on a 13-0 run to the NJSIAA Public B championship, where they lost to Ramsey (5-1). First-year coach and former Clifton standout Anthony Yelovich is counting on last year’s success and a roster laden with returning skaters. Seniors Jake Kinney (19-38-57), one of the top players in Bergen County, and Peter Cassidy (25-18-43) and junior Eddie Corvelli (30-15-45) highlight the Panther’s dangerous offense. Senior defensemen Colin Morrow and Leo Pawlika and junior John LaMacchia combined for 78 points and will secure the team’s end with goalies Ryan McAuley (junior) and Max Lindley (sophomore).

Morristown-Beard (19-5-2) The Crimson are prepared to make a run at their fourth straight Mennen Cup championship – and 11th overall — this winter (Morristown-Beard has won nine Mennen Cups outright and shared one in 1994). The club defeated rival Randolph before downing Kinnelon, 4-1, in last season’s Mennen Cup final. Morristown-Beard was eliminated by St. Augustine Prep in overtime in the quarterfinal round of the Private state tournament. Leading the way for the Crimson this time around are standout junior forward Brayden Patricia, who collected 40 points on 18 goals and 22 assists last season. Senior Issac Davison (12 goals) and sophomore Gavin Puskar (5 goals) will be expected to pick up the scoring charge. Coach Randy Velishek (113-49-9 entering his seventh season) will deploy senior Sam Schappel and sophomore Max Cassella as dependable defensemen; and the coach is also impressed with freshmen D.J. Layden and Thomas Dempsey. The Crimson will lean on junior Anthony DelTufo in goal along with sophomore John Cohen.

Middletown South (11-7-2) The Eagles put together a strong campaign last winter, but coach Tony Nemati and his club are expecting more this time around. Middletown South (6-2-2 in in the Shore B) was eliminated in the first round of the state tournament last year but skates into 2016-2017 with a veteran club bent on reversing that outcome. The Eagles boast dependable leadership and skill in senior captains Dan Berkowitz, Ryan Demilia, Gavin Gulash and Ryan Lambert. Gulash is the leading scorer among returnees, finishing with 41 points on 25 goals and 16 assists. DeMilia scored 14 goals, Lambert added 12 and Berkowitz had five goals and eight assists for 13 points. Senior Matt Torre, juniors Devon Ralph (12-20-32) and Craig Bahrs are also skilled players who will add depth while sophomore Clay Simonsen (351 saves) will tend goal and recorded an .838 save % last season. The defense is strong with Mike Racioppi (3-12-15), Bobby Matthews, Chris Falzone, Joe Guercio and Greg Johnson. “We have a lot of returning seniors who want to win,” said coach Anthony Nemati. “They are very motivated and were not happy with the way the season ended last year.”

Pope John (16-8-2) The Lions skated to first place in the Gordon Conference National Division and claimed the championship of the Protec Ponds Tournament last season. Expect another strong season from the Sussex County contingent, who will get production up front from juniors John Spetz (20-13-33) and Eriv Vanderhoff (12-15-27). Senior Daren Buzoverya (7-17-24) and junior forwards Ryan Stevens (5-3-8) and Chris Waldko (3-8-11) will get increased ice time and should put up bigger numbers this winter. Senior Nikita Volubuyev (0-11-11) and sophomore Steven Spetz are top defenseman and newcomer James Silva, a junior defenseman, has looked impressive. Sophomore Matt Schoer went 12-6 with a .924 save percentage and four shutouts returns after impressive freshman debut last winter. Junior George Bennett (4-2-2, .908 save %) could also get some starts in goal.

Ridge (23-3-4) The Red Devils still feel the sting of last season’s 3-2 loss to eventual champion Morristown in the NJSIAA Public A semifinal round, but are ready to take another run at their first state title since 2008. The club will surely miss the skating and scoring of defenseman Marc Del Gaizo (26 goals last year), who is now playing with the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks. Ridge, which looked impressive in a 4-1 preseason victory over Randolph on Nov. 18, posted impressive victories last season over St. Joseph of Metuchen, Summit and Hillsborough and tied with Public B finalist Glen Rock. Expect an even better season from senior center John Vilade, who came through with 10 goals and 27 assists for 37 points in 2015-2016. Seniors Jack Mandala (5-13-18), Ted Kapp (2-11-13), junior Dan Knightly (4-5-9) and sophomore Alex Konovalov (19-13-32) give the Red Devils a nice blend of depth among the forwards. The defensive group is still versatile with senior Brett Carey (4-15-19) and juniors Wes Hobson (2-5-7) and Spencer Charleson (8 assists). Junior Chris Ambrozy returns to carry the goaltending load. Veteran coach Tim Mullin is in his 22nd season and boasts a 332-126-65 record at Ridge.

St. Joseph (Metuchen) (15-4-3) The Falcons dominated the Greater Middlesex Conference last season in winning their fifth consecutive GMC Cup. St. Joseph boasted victories over Red Bank Catholic (Egan Cup), Notre Dame, Bergen Catholic (twice), a tie with Glen Rock and a 2-1 loss to Don Bosco Prep in 2016. This season coach Ryan Carter (128-57-23 in 10 seasons) returns a good blend of scoring in forwards Kyle Jeffers (7-10-17), Brian Coelho (15-24-39), Alek Minishak (5-17-22), Connor Leahy (6-6-12) and Dillon Snee (1-3-4). Carter feels this season’s version is a grittier group, especially on defense with returnees Rey Rodriguez (1-5-6), James Ulrich (5-10-5), Nick Freda (2-3-5) and Mike Sasso (4 assists). Nolan Banfitch will be in goal again and looks to improve on last season’s solid .927 save %. The Falcons boast depth, too, in newcomers Mark Borek, Ty Carter, Ryan Ozmanic, Mike Rocco, Steven Hollabaugh, Tim Garb, Tom Perlitz, Jake Senkewicz and Dylan Yates. “I think we are different this season,” said coach Carter. “We had more goal scorers in the past but this year we are a lot grittier than in years past.” St. Joseph played well before dropping a hard-fought 4-2 decision against CBA in a preseason tune-up on Nov. 18.

Paul Bruno

Paul Bruno

Paul Bruno covered college and high school ice hockey for The Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger from 1988-2012. A 1984 graduate of Seton Hall University, he played collegiate hockey for The Hall in the Metropolitan Collegiate Hockey Conference. He also served as an intern in the New Jersey Devils public relations department during the 1983-84 season. Bruno later coached the Seton Hall University ice hockey team (1985-1987) and has covered the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils training camps as well as the ECAC ice hockey championships in Lake Placid, NY, for the Ledger. Bruno, who has been a contributing hockey writer to New Jersey Monthly Magazine, has covered hockey for Sideline Chatter for the past three seasons.
Paul Bruno
- 53 mins ago