So if I’m going to do this – reflect on 20 years of covering high school ice hockey in New Jersey, while looking at the 2015-16 season as landmark year No. 20 – I should probably start at the beginning. How did I, someone who has never played a game of ice hockey in my life, someone who had never even been on skates, wind up so consumed by this little corner of the sport?
Well, the credit (or blame, depending on your perspective) has to start with my parents, probably with my mother. You see, when I was 6 or 7, I got the bright idea that I wanted to go to a New Jersey Devils game. Continue reading JY20: How I got hooked on high school hockey…
I returned on Sunday from a weekend broadcasting soccer in North Carolina, and, once I had time on Monday, I logged in to my @NJ_Hockey twitter account to see what I had missed. After all, practices had been going for a week, scrimmages would be starting soon, and surely there would be some chatter, some news.
There turned out to be a lot more than I anticipated! Continue reading JY20: One weekend away, and I miss big news…
Monday marked the first day of practice for high school ice hockey teams in my home state of New Jersey, which means, in 2015-16, that it marks the beginning of my 20th year covering those teams. The milestone is bittersweet, because it will probably be my last year covering New Jersey high school hockey for Hockey Night in Boston and maybe even the last year of my website, NJHockey.org, which I have run since I was a freshman in college in 2001-02.
Increasing professional and family responsibilities mean less free time for the ‘hobby’ role that hockey takes, and while I am thrilled about everything going on in my life, it will definitely be strange for me if and when I am absent from the New Jersey hockey scene.
Over the years, I have been asked countless times – by coaches, parents, friends, roommates – WHY I keep track of every game played by boys’ varsity ice hockey teams in New Jersey. Why I stay up almost every night for four months inputting scores into three separate spreadsheets. Why this continued when I lived in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana and I saw very few games in person. Why I’ve continued to track and monitor a fairly average group of players and teams (no offense, guys!) in a sport that does not rank among New Jersey’s or the country’s most significant.
“I can’t imagine not doing it,” has probably been my most frequent response, and it’s true. If I stopped running my website, then decided in January that I wanted to know who was in first place in the Mennen Division, or how East Side was faring this season, how would I find that information? Would it be accurate? How often would it be updated? Would it reflect game results the way I would list them?
But there’s much more to it than that. For the last 20 years, despite never having played or coached the sport, I have been welcomed and accepted into a unique community of New Jersey hockey people. They rely on me and talk the game with me, and we all enjoy that. But they also root for me and support me and ask how they can help, and there are many I consider friends. Walking into a New Jersey hockey rink — most of them, anyway — feels like coming home. It is a community I cherish and love and will never forget.
Why do I love it so much? Maybe this 20th year of coverage, in which I intend to increase my published writing at blog.njhockey.org and continue to provide Twitter updates via @NJ_Hockey, will be my way of trying to explain and document why and how New Jersey high school ice hockey has been an integral part of my life every winter since before I even reached high school.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the season!
With practices underway and the 2014-15 New Jersey hockey season set to start on November 29, here’s a look at what’s new on the hockey scene this fall.
In: Oratory Prep
Out: DePaul Catholic, Hudson Catholic, Dumont, Hackensack, Hightstown
New Name: Donovan Catholic (formerly Monsignor Donovan)
New Division Names: Big North Patriot, Freedom, Liberty replacing Gold, Silver, Green.
- Old Tappan / Demarest / Hasbrouck Heights (I will be referring to them as Northern Valley / Hasbrouck Heights)
- Paramus / Lyndhurst / Hackensack
- West Windsor-Plainsboro North / Ewing
- Lawrence / Hightstown
- Red Bank Regional / Henry Hudson Regional
- Marlboro / Holmdel
- Mount Olive / Hopatcong
All this shuffling means there should be 99 public-school programs in 2014-15, with Scotch Plains-Fanwood (enrollment figure 1,152) now the bubble team and Morristown (enrollment figure 1,139) EDIT: now definitely in Public B, by my calculations.
the bubble team that could be assigned to either Public A or Public B. The defending Public B champion Colonials have appeared in three consecutive public finals (Public A in 2012, Public B in 2013-14).
There are surely more coaching changes, but these are the ones I’ve heard about so far:
- Dave McKenna (Bayonne)
- Kyle Weise (Jackson Liberty)
- Bryan Klimchak (Johnson)
- Jim Dowd (Manasquan / Point Pleasant Beach)
- Tony Nemati (Middletown South)
- Andy Gojdycz (Montgomery)
- Bill Bredin (Rumson-Fair Haven)
- Mick Messemer (St. John Vianney)
- Matt Hayes (Southern Regional)
- Anthony Zipfel (Toms River East)
- Justin Liscio (Wayne Valley)
- Joe Bertucci (Westfield)
With the addition of an eighth team, Union County will split into two divisions for a 10-game league schedule (3 division opponents x2, 4 crossovers x1). One division will include Cranford, Johnson, Summit, and Westfield, while the other will consist of Dayton / Brearley, Governor Livingston, Oratory Prep, and Scotch Plains-Fanwood.
The Shore Conference’s biannual realignment resulted in three Shore A divisions (North, Central, South) and one Shore B division. Yes, CBA still plays a full Shore schedule.
Around the state, teams switching divisions include:
- Pope John switch with Gloucester Catholic (Gordon American/National)
- Montville switch with Sparta (MCSSIHL Halvorsen/Haas)
- High Point / Wallkill Valley switch with Par Hills / Parsippany (MCSSIHL Haas/Charette)
- Freehold Boro / Raritan switch with Middletown South (Shore A North/Shore B)
- Manasquan / Point Pleasant Beach switch with Red Bank / Henry Hudson (Shore A Central/Shore B)
- Donovan Catholic switch with Ocean Township / Shore Regional (Shore A Central/B)
- Four of the top non-Gordon private schools will play an in-season tournament called the Egan Cup, named in honor of former Mercer Chiefs player Nick Egan. Notre Dame started the tournament and is joined by Montclair Kimberley, Red Bank Catholic, and St. Joseph Metuchen. The teams will play an in-season round-robin before pairing off into 1st vs. 2nd and 3rd vs. 4th matchups on Jan. 9.
- Bergen Catholic will play in a late-December tournament in Bridgeport, Connecticut, opening against Notre Dame (Fairfield). I haven’t figured out the Day 2 matchups.
- Delbarton will play an end-of-regular-season tournament in West Springfield, Massachusetts, opening against Rhode Island’s Bishop Hendricken. Springfield Cathedral is the host, but I haven’t figured out the fourth team yet.
OK, so not all of these are new. But they are always handy links to have:
- 2014-15 Ice Hockey Classification (as of Oct. 16; needs revision)
- NFHS rule changes
- NJSIAA overtime clarification
- NJSIAA Tournament regulations
What’d I miss? Plenty, I’m sure. Let me know what else is new in 2014-15 in the comments section or on Twitter.
Happy hockey season!
Every year, I try to figure out how teams should be seeded in the NJSIAA state tournaments. I do everything I can to base the seedings on conclusions drawn logically from team results. The real seeding committee is meeting Tuesday afternoon, and we will probably get real-time updates as the day goes on. Remember that only results through Wednesday, February 12, may be considered in the seeding process.
A reminder: These are how I think the teams should be seeded, not how I think they will actually be placed. I am including several potential at-large teams, although I do not have any information about which teams will be selected. When possible, I tried to avoid likely intra-league matchups, but it has to happen occasionally. Read on for the full lists.
Most readers are aware that I attended Delbarton, so it’s no secret that I know that program better than any other. With that in mind, I may have more knowledge of this than I would for any other school, but I’m going to bring it up anyway.
With the reported verbal commitment of Delbarton forward Chad Otterman to Cornell (to enroll in the fall of 2015):
6-3/190 lb. Delbarton Sr. F Chad Otterman (22-12-34 in 22 gp), has committed to Cornell (fall ’15). Turned down six top lacrosse programs.
— USHR (@USHRhockey) February 15, 2014
the program has now seen 20 consecutive seasons in which the Green Wave rostered at least one player who has gone on to play Division I hockey.
Here’s the full list:
1994-95 George Parros (Princeton)
1995-96 George Parros (Princeton)
1996-97 George Parros (Princeton)
1997-98 George Parros (Princeton), Ren Fauci (Lake Superior State)
1998-99 Ren Fauci (Lake Superior State)
1999-00 Ren Fauci (Lake Superior State)
2000-01 Dale Reinhardt (Holy Cross)
2001-02 Dale Reinhardt (Holy Cross)
2002-03 Dale Reinhardt (Holy Cross), Mike DelMauro (Harvard)
2003-04 Dale Reinhardt (Holy Cross), Mike DelMauro (Harvard)
2004-05 Mike DelMauro (Harvard)
2005-06 Alex Velischek (Providence)
2006-07 Alex Velischek (Providence), Kenny Agostino (Yale), Charles Orzetti (Yale)
2007-08 Alex Velischek (Providence), Kenny Agostino (Yale), Charles Orzetti (Yale), Mike Ambrosia (Princeton), Matt Killian (Yale)
2008-09 Alex Velischek (Providence), Kenny Agostino (Yale), Charles Orzetti (Yale), Mike Ambrosia (Princeton), Matt Killian (Yale), Tommy Davis (Princeton), Tommy Muratore (Holy Cross), Colton Phinney (Princeton)
2009-10 Kenny Agostino (Yale), Mike Ambrosia (Princeton), Matt Killian (Yale), Tommy Davis (Princeton), Tommy Muratore (Holy Cross), Colton Phinney (Princeton), John Baiocco (Yale), Josh Melnick (Princeton)
2010-11 Matt Killian (Yale), Tommy Davis (Princeton), Tommy Muratore (Holy Cross), Colton Phinney (Princeton), John Baiocco (Yale), Josh Melnick (Princeton), Chad Otterman (Cornell), Drew Melanson (RPI)
2011-12 Tommy Davis (Princeton), Tommy Muratore (Holy Cross), Colton Phinney (Princeton), John Baiocco (Yale), Josh Melnick (Princeton), Chad Otterman (Cornell), Drew Melanson (RPI)
2012-13 John Baiocco (Yale), Josh Melnick (Princeton)
2013-14 Chad Otterman (Cornell), ??
I may have missed a few here and there, and there may be more to come in the future, but that’s a pretty impressive list. There are a lot of other standouts who played at the Division III level (from my class, Ross Cherry won a national championship at Middlebury) or pursued other sports (Pat Lonergan in soccer, both Joe and Ned Crotty in lacrosse, for example)
The winter weather has wreaked havoc on New Jersey hockey all season long, and the state’s governing body for high school athletics adjusted accordingly on Monday, extending the deadline for ice hockey teams to reach the .500 mark to qualify for the state tournament by two days. Games played up to and on Wednesday, February 12, will now count toward qualification. A similar adjustment has been made in past years when schedules have become particularly back-logged. NJSIAA assistant director Jack DuBois confirmed the adjustment to NJHockey.org on Monday morning.
I did not discuss details with DuBois, but if memory serves, teams that finish Monday at the .500 mark and then drop below it on Tuesday or Wednesday should still qualify automatically for the state tournament. Montclair (7-7-4, vs. Nutley on Tuesday) and Montgomery (9-9-3, at Red Bank Catholic on Tuesday) are the two teams I think are most likely to be in that situation.
You can expect a frantic round of scheduling for Tuesday and Wednesday, as teams like Morris Knolls (9-10-4), Hillsborough (9-10-3), South Brunswick (5-7-2), Ramapo (8-10-1), Jackson Liberty (7-8-3), and first-year program Central Regional (7-8-2) try to sneak in at the new deadline.