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New Jersey Top 10: Delbarton takes over top spot

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New Jersey Top 10 Poll

2Christian Brothers900
4Don Bosco Prep521
5Bergen Catholic350
6Pope John430
8Morris Knolls530

Delbarton (5-2): While they have yet to face their top in-state opposition, the Green Wave – winners of six consecutive private state championships before falling in last year’s semifinals – are back on top of the New Jersey heap thanks to what appears to be the deepest lineup in the state. Thanks to the play of sophomore goalie Troy Kobryn (.949) and senior Sean Petrie (2-5-7) and junior Andrew Petrillo on the blue line, Delbarton has allowed just one goal in four games against in-state opponents. Up front, the balance is such that 10 different players have accumulated at least six points, but only one, sophomore forward Steven Agriogianis (4-5-9), reached nine in December. After one-goal losses to Brunswick (CT) and Malden Catholic (MA), the Green Wave got a much-needed win over Catholic Memorial (MA) on Dec. 21 behind goals from Anthony Delgaizo (2-6-8) and M.J. Melillo (1-4-5) and 28 saves from Kobryn. That should provide confidence ahead of the most crucial 24-day stretch of the regular season Jan. 11-Feb. 3, including Delbarton’s four most difficult Gordon Conference games and non-league tests against Fairfield Prep (CT) and Lawrenceville.

CBA (9-0): The chief challenger at the top remains the defending private co-champion, but CBA’s two wins over Bergen Catholic came by a combined margin of only 6-2 (2-1 and 4-1), as compared with Delbarton’s 7-0 win over Bergen Catholic, albeit in their season opener. CBA has crushed its Shore Conference opposition by a 60-5 margin, including running up a heartless 17-0 margin in just two periods for the second consecutive season, but will be tested more in the new year. Michael Cernero and Brett Farrell have continued to split time in goal, while juniors Ryan Bogan (3-17-20) and Michael Foggia (4-8-12) lead the defense corps. Up front, junior Cristian Winters (12-7-19) has emerged as a scoring threat, with four goals in three Gordon Conference games, along with seniors Greg Malafronte (4-6-10), Austen Tieri (4-2-6) and Conor Tierney (5-6-11) and talented sophomores Corey Clifton (2-7-9) and Derek Contessa (8-10-18).

Alex Whelan Ramsey

Alex Whelan

Ramsey (7-0): It has not been a difficult schedule, but Public B favorite Ramsey remains unbeaten ahead of holiday tournament games against Morristown and St. Joseph Metuchen. The Rams have allowed just three goals behind exceptional junior goalie Tyler Harmon (.961) and senior Chris Scott and junior Brandon O’Callahan on the blue line. They passed their biggest non-league test with flying colors on Dec. 23, downing perennial Public A favorite Randolph 3-0 despite missing two of their top six forwards. As usual, senior forward and Quinnipiac commit Alex Whelan (12-12-24), North Jersey’s dominant offensive player, led the way by scoring twice and setting up one goal alongside senior linemate Nick Botta (5-11-16). While it remains to be seen if the Rams can improve at a steady rate while dominating their league schedule, if players like Jack Jordan (5-6-11) and Chris Kopack (6-6-12) can provide regular shifts and occasional points in big games, Ramsey could become the first public school to take the Bergen County Tournament title in January.

Don Bosco Prep (5-2-1): The Bergen County title has gone to Don Bosco Prep in each of the last three

Hunter Garlasco Don Bosco

Hunter Garlasco
Don Bosco

years, but the Ironmen showed chinks in their armor in a pair of lackluster results: a 2-2 tie at Princeton Day on Dec. 16 and a 3-1 loss at home to Morristown-Beard on Dec. 22. In both games, Don Bosco peppered the opponent (76 combined shots) but struggled for quality around the net and failed to hold a 1-0 lead. Nevertheless, Don Bosco Prep has enjoyed strong outings in league play against Pope John (5-1), St. Peter’s Prep (7-2), and Bergen Catholic (6-2). Junior Chris Mazzella (9-4-13) is Don Bosco’s best goal-scorer (he got the late tying goal against Princeton Day), while skilled senior Hunter Garlasco (3-10-13) prefers the set-up role Senior Connor Healey (3-4-7) leads the defense in front of sophomore Alexei Masanko (.891).

Bergen Catholic (3-5): Realistically, Bergen Catholic had to expect six league losses this year when forced to play two games against each of the three powers. The Crusaders have gotten four of those out of the way (they also fell to Morris Knolls 2-1 on Friday) while earning important wins over Pope John, Bishop Eustace, and Chatham. After playing out of state in the Fairfield New Year’s Invitational Dec. 30-31, Bergen Catholic should enjoy a strong January and February. The Crusaders have yet to settle on a goaltender, with both junior Sal Farruggia and sophomore Francis Forte seeing minutes. The defense corps is led by seniors Tyler Antonucci and Lucas Milbank. Offensively, most of the Crusaders’ moves flow through senior playmaker Kyle Marano (2-6-8), with seniors Luca Vanore and Evan Wisocky, junior Sasha Miniouchine, and sophomore Diarmad DiMurro among the finishing options.

Tyler Lapshanski Pope John

Tyler Lapshanski
Pope John

Pope John (4-3): Like Bergen Catholic, Pope John knew division games would be an uphill battle, but the Lions – playing in the top-tier American Division for the first time since the Gordon Conference split into two divisions in 2009-10 – have won four straight after a tough start to the season. Having already beaten one Public A power, Morris Knolls, the Lions will face two more this week in tournament play, taking on Bridgewater-Raritan and Ridge before resuming league play in January. Senior forward Donny Flynn (8-5-13) is the standout offensive threat, with seniors Charlie Spetz (6-7-13) and Tyler Lapshanski (1-6-7) solid on the blue line. Junior Richie Halvey (0-3-3) and freshman Eric Vanderhoff (2-0-2) will be asked to step up their offensive games in the new year. Perhaps the most promising sign has been the play of freshman goalie George Bennett, who made 20 saves in his first career start in the win over Morris Knolls and also allowed just one goal in winning his second start last week against Hunterdon Central. Senior Zach Bernstein has drawn the more difficult league assignments, starting five contests.

Chatham (5-1-1): Don’t go handing the Public B title to Ramsey just yet. Chatham has won two of the last four state championships (2011, 2013), and while its senior class provided several of the difference-makers on that 2013 squad, that group remains hungry to atone for their upset loss in last year’s state semifinals. Unbeaten in the ultra-competitive Mennen Division at 3-0-1, Chatham is also seeking its first Mennen Cup title since Chatham Township in 1981 (Chatham Township and Chatham Borough merged prior to the 1988-89 season). League wins over Randolph and Morristown, and a tie with Morristown-Beard, have boosted those chances, while the Cougars earned a critical non-league win over St. Joseph Metuchen on Saturday. Senior goalie A.J. Albanese (.967) is perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle (he made 25 saves as Chatham overcame a 26-14 shot deficit against St. Joseph), and he remains unbeaten this year, having sat out the Cougars’ 4-1 tournament loss to Bergen Catholic. Senior William Barnett (4-5-9) and junior Ryan Barnett (6-4-10) lead the offense along with seniors Bryn Casey (1-6-7) and Jack O’Connor (4-1-5), while senior A.J. Albanese logs major minutes to lead the defensemen.

Morris Knolls (5-3): Defending Public A champion Morris Knolls lost its opener to rival Randolph and fell to Pope John in mid-December, but the Golden Eagles opened eyes by winning two of three very competitive games in a five-day stretch Dec. 23-27. First came a 3-0 win over Morristown-Beard on Dec. 23 (one day after the Crimson had knocked off Don Bosco Prep), thanks largely to 43 saves from Jonathon Cavallone. Next came a 2-1 upset of Bergen Catholic on a late goal from Nick Rupp after 25 saves from Jon Szynalski. Knolls then fell to an opposing hot goaltender, as Glen Rock’s Matt Rosario made 25 saves in a 2-1 upset on Saturday. Cavallone (.964) has gotten most of the minutes in goal, but Szynalski (.925) is also strong, with senior Daniel Abaunza (2-3-5) the leading defensive force. Sophomores Chris Conway (2-6-8) and Alex Welch (2-4-6) are among the offensive leaders, along with seniors Reed Pelliconi (4-3-7), Matt Dreisbach (3-2-5), and Tucker Simmons (2-3-5). Early-January contests against Chatham (Jan. 6) and Morristown-Beard (Jan. 8) should provide a better idea of where Morris Knolls stands.

Morristown-Beard (4-3-2): Defending private co-champions, the Crimson were on track to break the stranglehold of the top three private schools once again after knocking off Don Bosco Prep 3-1 on Dec. 22. But Morristown-Beard suffered consecutive losses to Mennen Division rivals Morris Knolls (3-0 on Dec. 23) and Randolph (4-3 on Dec. 27) to drop in the rankings. On paper, this is still the top team in Morris County, with junior Alex Borowiec (2-6-8) keying an offensive unit that includes Chris Brunner-Grande (4-4-8) and Teddy Hatfield (5-3-8), with senior Thomas Rago (3-1-4) and freshman Brayden Patricia (2-2-4) in support. Defensively, steady senior James Callahan (4-5-9) and juniors A.J. and Christian DeCesare will get a welcome addition when junior Marc Tietjen, a transfer from Paramus Catholic, becomes eligible in January. Junior goalie Danny Porth is capable of keeping Morristown-Beard in a game even if they get outskated.

Bryan Early

Bryan Early

Garrett Stenberg

Garrett Stenberg

Randolph (5-2-1): Armed with more scoring experience than it has had in recent years, Randolph – winner of four of the last six Public A titles – is threatening yet again for the Mennen Cup and Public A state titles. Always facing a touch schedule, the Rams still rarely blow teams out, but they remain suffocating in the offensive zone. With senior Michael Slavin (6-3-9) and junior Dan Janson (5-4-9) leading the way, they rallied from a 3-1 first-period deficit to down rival Morristown-Beard on Saturday. Senior Ken O’Brien (1-6-7) had three assists as Slavin scored in the second and third periods to tie the game before Janson won it with 2:49 remaining. Senior goalie Garrett Stenberg (.915) made 18 saves in that one. Juniors Bryan Early and Alex Kranis and sophomore Jack Zimmer key the Randolph blue line.

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