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New Jersey Top 10: Don Bosco rates slight edge

New Jersey Top 10 Poll

1Don Bosco31432
3Christian Brothers41740
4St. Augustine Prep2891
5Middletown North51111
7Glen Rock81323

The top spot in New Jersey at the end of January is a fascinating topic to debate, but when you factor in head-to-head results, Don Bosco Prep (14-3-2) takes No. 1 after a 4-1 win over No. 2 Delbarton on Jan. 24. The teams will meet again on Tuesday, likely to determine first place in the American Division and the top seed in both the Gordon Cup and NJSIAA private state tournaments.

Why any question about who’s No. 1? Both schools only have one loss against New Jersey competition, but Delbarton has better results against the division’s Nos. 3 and 4 teams (4-0 vs. 3-1) and outshot Don Bosco Prep 35-20 in their head-to-head meeting.

But not only do the Ironmen have that head-to-head win, but they also have what looks like a long-term edge in goaltending thanks to the play of standout junior goalie Alexei Masanko. Offensively, banged-up junior Ryan McLinskey scored the two decisive goals against Delbarton, while senior Chris Mazzella (17-8-25), freshman Tyler Sedlak (10-10-20) and sophomore Mickey Burns (6-17-23) continue to contribute. Don Bosco Prep also won a fifth straight Bergen County Tournament title in January, with Mazzella named the MVP, and followed up the win over Delbarton with a 3-2 decision over St. Augustine Prep on Jan. 26.

Make no mistake, however: Delbarton (15-2-2) remains the state’s most ruthless skating team, and if they can solve Masanko and the Don Bosco Prep penalty kill (0-for-4 on the power play), they could regain the state title that has eluded both schools the last two years. The Green Wave average 4.84 goals per game against a very difficult schedule, slowed by 4-1 losses to Don Bosco Prep and New York prep power Albany Academy. The offense is a little more concentrated than in past years, with Anthony Farinacci (16-13-29), Tyler Kobryn (12-16-28), and Danny Farr (7-17-24) making up the top unit. Seniors Andrew Longo (10-10-20) and Jack Chatwin (3-13-16) have also chipped in, while Vermont commit Andrew Petrillo (2-15-17) and talented sophomore Jalen Kaplan (7-4-11) lead the defense in front of junior Troy Kobryn, a third-year starter still looking to lead a successful state-tournament run. Freshmen John Farinacci (5-6-11) and Jack Malone (4-9-13) and sophomore defenseman Hunter Macy (2-7-9) provide proof that Delbarton’s dynasty is hardly slipping away.

The team that has won or shared the last two private-school titles, CBA (17-4), has not been able to measure up to the North Jersey powers this year, with all four Colt losses coming against that duo. Nevertheless, CBA posted resounding wins against division rival St. Augustine Prep, 7-2 on Jan. 20 and 5-1 on Jan. 29, to virtually secure third place. Only a Shore A North showdown with public-school challenger Middletown North on Tuesday (CBA pulled out a one-goal win at home on Jan. 4) remains before the Colts hit the postseason, where they are 9-2-1 in the last two years. While CBA’s overall offensive numbers are inflated by some of their mandatory Shore A North contests, senior defenseman Ryan Bogan (8-25-33) has put up 12 assists in just 10 Gordon Conference games, while offensive production has come consistently from the junior trio of Derek Contessa (10-10-20), Corey Clifton (10-12-22), and John D’Aniello (6-11-17), with seniors Cristian Winters (13-19-32), Anthony Cucich (17-12-29), and James Stanger (8-14-22) and sophomore Liam Noonan (11-13-24) chipping in. Senior Michael Cernero in goal has extensive big-game experience.

Giovanni Albano St. Augustine Prep

Giovanni Albano
St. Augustine Prep

While No. 4 St. Augustine Prep (8-9-1) has turned in a solid season, the high point was a 3-0 shutout of Don Bosco Prep on Jan. 3; since then, the Hermits are a struggling 2-7. The losses have come against good competition, however: either a top-three opponent (0-4) or private schools ineligible for the state tournament. Thus battle-tested, the 2007 state champions remain a threat in the postseason. Carson Brière (11-9-20) and Matt Cassidy (11-8-19) lead the Hermit attack, supported by Kyle Knight (7-8-15). Max Gravenstine and Caelan Brière lead the defense, with Giovanni Albano the main man in net.

At No. 5, Middletown North (11-1-1) is one of the hot topics of the season. The Lions boast two Division I commits at forward, almost unheard of for a public school, and are heavy favorites to defend their Public B (small-school) state championship, the school’s first. Northeastern recruit Bobby Hampton (5-13-18 in 6 games) is the wildcard; after missing action for USHL and other travel commitments, he needs to play in three of the Lions’ four remaining games (only one of which falls on a weekend) to reach 50 percent of the team’s games and thus, under a new rule instituted this season, be eligible for the state tournament. Even without Hampton, however, scouts say Middletown North’s top two lines can skate with anybody. Quinnipiac-bound Khristian Acosta (24-22-46) has brought the firepower, with Kevin Felice (20-13-33) and Vince Tomasetti (12-16-28) adding to it. Seniors Kevin Tolland and Ryan Davidson, sophomore Kyle Goworak, and freshman John Hallard lead the defense in front of the experienced Anthony Manfredi in net.

Mid-Atlantic-Festival-Ad-300x250After the top five is where things start to get muddy again, but the public-school battle is shaping up to be a good one. No. 6 Ramsey (16-2-1) has lost the last two Public B state championship games, each by a single goal, lost star forward Alex Whelan to graduation, and changed coaches. Yet the Rams have continued winning. Since an early-season loss to Lakeland in which the Rams were missing three starters, Ramsey is 11-1-1, losing only to No. 1 Don Bosco Prep, tying private school St. Joseph Metuchen, and dominating Morristown 5-1 in a revenge game of sorts from the 2014 state title game. This is the last hurrah for an outstanding senior class that counts indispensible goalie Tyler Harmon (.939), leading scorer Kyle DeBel (17-26-43), twins Anthony (12-10-22) and Frank (10-12-22) Steffe, standout defenseman Brandon O’Callahan (5-16-21), and forward Garrett Mast (8-14-22) among its members. Thursday’s rematch against Lakeland could give Ramsey a share of the division title, but those seniors will have their eyes on the school’s first Public B state title since 2009, one that has eluded them so heartbreakingly two years in a row.

Yet Ramsey might not even be the best public school in its own county; No. 7 Glen Rock (13-2-3) took top-ranked Don Bosco Prep to overtime before losing in the Bergen County Tournament semifinals on Jan. 17, while the Ironmen beat Ramsey by three clear goals in the final. Glen Rock has also beaten Public A powers Ridge and Howell, but Ramsey has the edge by beating both Morristown (which Glen Rock tied) and St. Joseph Montvale (to whom Glen Rock lost). The Panthers could still face St. Joseph Montvale twice more before hitting the loaded Public B postseason tournament. Like Ramsey, Glen Rock relies on its seniors, especially the brother tandem of goalie Matt Rosario (.935) and forward Justin (11-14-25), with classmates Tom LaMacchia (5-14-19) and Eric Spada (5-7-12) leading the blue line. The Panthers also have an outstanding junior class, with Jake Kinney (11-26-37) already fifth in school history in points with 118, hoping to catch older brother Jimmy’s school record of 141. Sophomore Eddie Corvelli (22-13-35) and junior Peter Cassidy (15-12-27) are also having excellent seasons.

Justin Leifer Morristown

Justin Leifer

Bergen County schools at Nos. 6 and 7 have the edge over the state’s usual powerhouse, Morris County, but it has contenders lurking. No. 8 Morristown (16-2-1) wrapped up its first Mennen Division title since 1987 on Saturday and is 16-1 in its last 17 games, falling only to Ramsey on Dec. 30. Another school with an influential senior class, the Colonials’ 10 seniors include six who played on their 2014 state championship team. The Colonials have roared through the usually parity-filled Mennen Division, highlighted when they avenged a season-opening loss to rival Morristown-Beard on Jan. 11. Seniors Jakob DeFares (20-18-38), Kyle Beyer (9-16-25), Teddy Dolan (14-7-21), Bradley Greik (12-5-17 despite missing December), and Christian Rodriguez (5-10-15) lead a deep offensive team, while senior Justin Leifer (4-14-18) marshals the defense in front of influential sophomore goalie Evan Szary (6 shutouts). Playing in Public A (large school) for the second straight season, the Colonials may find themselves with the No. 1 seed come March.

Their more immediate concern, however, is the Morris County league championship, the Mennen Cup. While Morristown has never won it, No. 9 Morristown-Beard (13-3-1) has won the last two titles and five of the last seven. While the teams split the regular-season series, Morristown-Beard lost the division title by a half-game and will be out for revenge in the postseason. If their 11-1 win over Skyland Conference leader Ridge on Jan. 26 is any indication, the Crimson are just now heating up. Senior Alex Borowiec (15-14-29) and sophomore Brayden Patricia (16-14-30) lead the offense, while A.J. (6-7-13) and Christian (2-13-15) DiCesare and Gavin Puskar (5-11-16) lead the defense in front of Dan Porth. Morristown-Beard is 2-1 against Gordon Conference opponents, falling to Delbarton, and will face Don Bosco Prep on Feb. 9 as a final postseason tune-up.

Bryan Early Randolph

Bryan Early

The final spot in the top 10 could have gone to several teams: Howell (10-5), last year’s Public A runner-up; Ridge (14-2-4), unbeaten against public schools; Montclair (14-0-2), unbeaten against anybody and a team that tied No. 5 Middletown North; or Pope John (13-5-2) or St. Joseph Montvale (13-1), next best in the private-school ranks.

But the nod for now goes to a familiar name, Randolph (14-3-2), winner of a public state title in 8 of the last 13 years, including last year’s Public A crown. The Rams have lost only to the teams directly ahead of them, division rivals Morristown and Morristown-Beard, while being characteristically consistent against an above-average non-league schedule. Randolph does not have a marquee win and was held to a tie by Montclair Kimberley, a team Montclair beat twice, but the Rams have the tie against Morristown-Beard and several wins that compare favorably with other challengers, as well as a track record of postseason success. Seniors Dan Janson (21-11-32) and Chris Holowko (11-10-21) lead the way offensively, while senior Bryan Early (2-21-23), junior Jack Zimmer (4-11-15), and junior goalie Luc Swedlund lead the defense.

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