NJ HS Hockey – Big North Conference Team Previews: Lakeland, Mahwah Should Be Strong In Liberty Stars Division

Gary Demopouloshttp://www.hnibnews.com
Gary Demopoulos has been covering prep school hockey for the HNIB News for over 30 years, and has been the editor of the HNIB News since 2005. A former sportswriter and news editor at the Woburn (MA) Daily Times Chronicle, he has been the HNIB News' key reporter for Mens Prep School hockey since 1988, as well as womens hockey, both at the prep school and high school levels. for almost 20 years. Gary also helps organize and oversee HNIB's many summer tournaments and festivals for scholastic players.

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The Big North Conference will again feature four divisions, comprised of 18 different programs. Here is a look at some of the programs in the league.

LIBERTY STARS DIVISION

LAKELAND

With no state tournament this year, the Lancers will instead set their sights on competing for the Big North Cup. Coach Nick Crouch feels his has one of the top public school squads in the state.

Veteran leadership up front will come from a quartet of experienced seniors in Joey Cole (30 pts), Hunter Quinn (24 pts), Joey Wogisch (32 pts) and Scott Martin (13 pts).

Two more seniors – Shane Straubinger (28 pts) and Brenden Davison (21 pts) – are a pair of offensive-minded blue liners. Senior goalie Ben Kopacki had great stats last winter: 1.30 gaa and 11 shutouts.

MAHWAH

Having only a handful of practices prior to the start of the season will be a challenge, but coach Brad Segall says it is a welcomed challenge in these times.

Offensive catalysts for the Thunderbirds will be junior Mark Johnston (31 pts) and sophomore Anthony Miller (21 pts). Senior Kevin McAvoy is another key returner.

Senior defensman Jack Kastens (25 pts) gets involved offensively. Seniors Eric Russenberger and Aidan Roberts, and junior Kyle McGuire also return, as does junior goaltender Harris Haber.

WEST MILFORD/PEQUANNOCK

This team will come to play each time out and looks to make some noise.

Returners Joseph Postiglione, Darrin LaCorte and Charlie Biegel will be offensive leaders. Matthew Curratalo is back on the blue line for coach Ryan LaCorte.

Freshmen hoping to have an impact include Aiden Lindgren, Jake Pedicone, Aurick Neishella, Carsen McGuire, Matthew Watt and Nicholas Lombardo.

LIBERTY STRIPES

RAMSEY

Perennially a strong public school program, Ramsey will be a serious challenger for the Big North Cup.

Three seniors will power coach Jeff Mills’ offense in Justin Bello (26 pts), Brendan Schwarz (17 pts) and Ryan Schwarz (10 pts).

Senior goaltender Dane Beltramini is back, as are veteran senior blue liners Jake Barone (12 pts) and Alex Diamond (7 pts).

RIDGEWOOD

The Maroons will battle Ramsey for Liberty Stripes Division supremacy and also hope to be in the mix for the Big North Cup.

Amongst the forwards, senior Tyler Kopff, a Brown University commit, will lead the attack with junior John Dunphey (a Princeton lacrosse commit) and junior Chris Canone.

Senior Mason Schick, senior Luke Wong and junior Luke Botti are all key returners on the blue line for coach Michael Lucchesi.

In goal, returning senior Johnny English and new freshman Tyler Bhalla look to handle the duties.

FREEDOM DIVISION

PARAMUS/LYNDHURST/HACKENSACK

In normal times getting players from three schools in this co-op all on the same page is a tough task, made even more difficult this season. It will be challenging, but the coaching staff is up to the task.

Senior Anton Safonov (Paramus, 50 pts), sophomore Michael Piccinich (Paramus, 20 pts) and sophomore Jack Renzi (Lyndhurst, 15 pts) will lead this offensively for coach Dennis Jelcic. The forward group also returns seniors Jake McCann and Kyle Henning, juniors Brandt Rohdieck and Joey Moran, and sophomore Kai Barbera. New sophomore Parker Lillo and junior Daniel Gozdek look to contribute.

Two seniors – Tyler McDowell (Lyndhurst, 10 pts) and Justin Kuzak (Hackensack, 12 pts) are defensive leaders. Bolstering the blue line group will be junior Lukas Diabl and sophomores Drew Kaider and Alex Sendecki.

The team returns a pair of sophomore goaltenders in Jack Costanzo and Matthey Novotny.

NORTHERN HIGHLANDS

The 2018 Public B State Champs expect to have a solid outfit this winter as they chase the top spot in the Freedom Division.

Up front, juniors Will Fuller (20 pts) and Aiden McGivney (16 pts) are the top two returning scorers for veteran coach Jason Beswick. Senior Joey Daloisio, junior Nick Lardieri and sophomore Will Brown are returning varsity forwards as well.  Freshman Vincenzo Capano will press for quality minutes.

On defense, the Highlanders will rely on senior Mason Prugh (11 pts) and junior Alex Zeng.

Two freshmen – Daniel Moor and Erez Yacobi – join returning senior Jonathan Vitti at the goaltending position.

TENAFLY

Adapting quickly to the situations at hand will be a key factor this winter for the Tigers.

Scoring will come from senior Garrett Escala (23 pts), an All-League Honorable Mention selection last year, and senior Gabe Reis. Senior Bryan Messinger is back after an injury-plagued campaign. Seniors Sam Goldman and Andrew Brown and sophomore Michael Crosby figure to be key factors as well. Hoping to have an impact is freshman Aidan Marom.

On the blue line, junior Tinos Raftis is back after missing the 19-20 campaign due to injury. Junior Max Jimenez is back as well for coach Andy Escala, now in his 23rd year of coaching.

Tenafly will be fine in goal with the return of senior Charlie Goldman, a second team all-league selection from a year ago.

PATRIOT  DIVISION

FAIR LAWN/DUMONT/BERGENFELD

This co-op program hopes to challenge in the Patriot Division.

Coach Joe Bonafede will look for offensive production from the likes of returners Nick Shteynberg, Paul Reissner, Jake Dargento and Anthony Lindis.

Defensemen Tyler Kulbanski and Sam Shripko are back for another season, as are goalies Max Rocco and Michael Natenzon.

PARAMUS CATHOLIC

The Paladins will be a young team that will work hard each day.

Sophomore Mike Gugliotta is coming off a 15-goal season. Also back up front are sophomores Nathan Klak and Zach Taylor, and junior Max Salazar. Freshmen Ryan Targove, Eva Glab and Chris Kobayashi add to the mix.

In the back end, sophomores Tyson Herishen and Nick Marino are back. Three more freshmen looking to contribute on defense are Lucas Heimburg, Allen Magie and Reilly Hamilton.

CLIFTON

Second-year head coach Michael Santosuosso looks to have his club be highly competitive in the Patriot Division.

Key returners for the Mustangs are junior forwrad Vlastimil Ciberji (14 pts) and junior goaltender Juril Dubas, who saw considerable action between the pipes last winter. Freshman forward Nate Ceneri will have a key role.

RIVER DELL

Repeating as regular season champions is definitely in reach for the Hawks, who plan on focusing on one game at a time.

A pair of seniors – Tommy Gruja (10 pts) and Alexander Tokmanian (9 pts) will be vital cogs in coach Kyle Scanercella’s offensive attack. A freshman to watch up front will be Ryan Jarski.

Junior Josh Kaplan and junior Tim Wanvig project as defensive cornerstones. A freshman on the blue line is Matteo Marinic. Michael Bussanich is a returning goaltender.

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