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January has brought parity to New Jersey hockey, as each of the state’s top six teams either lost or tied a game in the last week. The top two remain slightly above the fray, as No. 1 Delbarton beat three-time defending Massachusetts Division 1A champion Malden Catholic 2-1 on Saturday before falling to prep school Dexter 4-1 on Sunday. The Malden Catholic win was a big one: The winner of that game has gone on to finish ranked No. 1 in the Northeast in each of the last three seasons (Malden Catholic 2011 and 2013, Delbarton 2012). Freshman goalie Troy Kobryn (32 saves) continued his strong play, while defensemen Sean Petrie (a transfer from Morristown) and Andrew Petrillo (who scored the game-winner) have been an excellent pairing since Petrie became eligible in January.
No. 2 Don Bosco Prep, meanwhile, had little trouble in reaching the championship game of the Bergen County Tournament and tied Connecticut power Fairfield Prep 2-2 on Monday night.
Elsewhere, it has been chaotic. Chatham beat Mennen Division rival Randolph 2-0 on Jan. 14, only to fall to another division rival, Morristown-Beard, by a 3-1 margin on Jan. 17. The Crimson, in turn, fell to Morris Knolls (unbeaten in its last five) by a 2-1 margin on Monday. Got all that? The upshot is that Chatham has the best chances of winning the division’s regular-season title, able to clinch with wins over sixth-place Morristown on Tuesday and fourth-place Morris Knolls next Tuesday. The other key remaining division game is the Jan. 29 showdown between Morristown-Beard and Randolph. Of course, last year Chatham finished sixth in the division in the regular season and went on to the Public B state title, so all six Mennen Division teams will be optimistic come March.
The top three Mennen Division teams remain ranked so highly in part because CBA, among the state’s top three all season, fell 2-1 to public school Howell in a big Shore A North upset on Friday night. The Colts had outscored their Shore Conference opponents 85-10 in nine previous wins this year, although their previous meeting against Howell was a 3-2 scare back on Dec. 16. The Rebels (10-3-1) have won four straight and should be a Public A darkhorse come March.
While the big boys fall all over each other, Ramsey has cruised along with seven straight wins since its lone loss, a 1-0 setback to Randolph on Dec. 30, including back-to-back 3-0 wins over St. Joseph Montvale and Glen Rock in the Bergen County Tournament. Those wins set up a championship-game showdown with rival Don Bosco Prep on Wednesday night; the schools are separated by only 1.2 miles but have not met since December 2009, a 4-2 Don Bosco Prep win. Their previous meeting saw Ramsey produce a 4-3 overtime win in December 2008.
Pope John makes its first appearance in the top 10 this season; the Lions have won nine straight and moved ahead of Gordon National rival St. Peter’s Prep after the Marauders went 0-1-1 in two division games last week. Bridgewater-Raritan, a preseason top-10 selection, returns for the first time in 2014. Despite their unbeaten record, the Panthers have not been very convincing in Skyland Conference play and will face big non-league tests against Kinnelon on Wednesday and Shore Conference upstart Point Pleasant Borough the following Wednesday.