Practices are underway in 2014-15, so what’s new in NJ hockey?

November 11, 2014 on 7:15 pm | In analysis | 1 Comment

A reminder that New Jersey hockey coverage is available via the Hockey Night in Boston website and the NJ_Hockey twitter feed.

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.

Teams
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.
New Co-Ops:

  • 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).

Coaches
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)

Divisions
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)

Tournaments

  • 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.

NJSIAA Resources
OK, so not all of these are new. But they are always handy links to have:

What else?
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!

Suggested seedings, 2014

February 18, 2014 on 2:43 am | In Uncategorized | No Comments

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.

Continue reading Suggested seedings, 2014…

Delbarton’s Division I legacy

February 15, 2014 on 12:17 pm | In analysis | 2 Comments

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):

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)

NJSIAA extends state tournament qualification deadline

February 10, 2014 on 12:40 pm | In breaking news | 1 Comment

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.

 

Shore Conference will try 16-team playoff format

January 31, 2014 on 10:59 am | In analysis, breaking news | No Comments

The Shore Conference first began awarding hockey titles in 2003-04, when the additions of Red Bank Regional and Point Pleasant Borough gave the league 16 hockey-playing schools. Ten years later, after seemingly constant changes and adjustments to its hockey format, the Shore Conference has broken with New Jersey hockey precedent by announcing its intention to run a 16-team Shore Conference Tournament and determine a single champion, as it does in most other sports.

Previously, Shore teams had been assigned as eligible to compete in either the Handchen Cup or the Dowd Cup. Both trophies had been awarded by the New Jersey Ice Hockey League, with the Handchen Cup dating back as far as 1985, and were adopted by the Shore Conference when its hockey divisions were formed in 2007-08.

Prior to the current school year, however, the conference’s executive committee voted to inaugurate a 16-team playoff format to determine one Shore Conference champion. The document detailing the format is available via this link.

“Last year, the Shore Conference voted to eliminate the Handchen and Dowd Cups and align with the other Shore Conference tournaments,” tournament director and Brick Township Director of Athletics Rick Handchen wrote in an email on Friday. The now-retired Handchen Cup is named for Rick Handchen’s father, and he expressed fondness for the tradition of both tournament trophies.

The move is likely to be unpopular with the hockey community, because some of the early-round games will be mismatches, and less competitive programs would prefer the chance to compete for a cup championship against schools with similar abilities in ice hockey.

Issues also arise, however, when comparing the terms of the Shore Conference Tournament with rules proscribed by the NJSIAA, the state’s governing body. Its tournament regulations, which have been publicly available since the fall, include the following passage:

A play-off series shall be of a single elimination type not to exceed eight (8) teams and limited to a maximum of three (3) games [per team].

The Shore Conference Tournament clearly does not meet these parameters. It will have 16 teams, and the two teams playing in the final will play four games each.

However, two other playoff tournaments and one in-season tournament already fail to meet these guidelines. The Gordon Cup tournament has included 10 teams since 2010, and the Mercer County Tournament has had as many as 15 teams in some editions, though the number is usually closer to 13.

Because the top seeds in those tournaments do not play in the preliminary rounds, teams almost never play four games in one tournament, as at least two teams will do in the Shore Conference Tournament. No team has never played four games in the Gordon Cup, and it happens only occasionally in Mercer County, most recently when Princeton reached the final as a No. 9 seed in 2010. The in-season Bergen County Tournament includes 12 teams but is not considered a “play-off series.”

The Shore Conference Tournament rules also call for ties in the first three rounds of the tournament to be broken by a five-minute overtime period, followed by a shootout. Yet the NJSIAA’s ice hockey rules modifications for this year, also publicly available, state:

There shall be no overtime periods except in league playoffs, regular season tournaments, the NJSIAA state tournament or when playing out of state. For games that require a team to advance, a 15 minute overtime and shootout procedure must be used. For final or championship games, a 15 minute overtime must be used. A shootout shall not be allowed.

When asked about the discrepancies with NJSIAA rules both in number of games in the tournament and in the length of the overtimes, tournament director Handchen cited limited ice time as the reason for five-minute overtime periods and said the Shore Conference executive committee has approved the tournament rules.

While the tournament’s regulations do technically violate NJSIAA protocol, it seems unlikely that any changes will be made this year. The tournament games are spaced such that no team will violate the three-games-per-week regulation, and no team is in danger of exceeding the 26-game maximum prior to the state tournament.

 

Continue reading for more on the Shore Conference’s hockey history. Continue reading Shore Conference will try 16-team playoff format…

New York City-style high school hockey

December 5, 2013 on 7:52 pm | In game recap | 1 Comment

 

Lasker

Xavier vs. Birch Wathen Lenox at Lasker Rink.

I haven’t been to a high school hockey game yet this season. Shame on me.

I’ve been following along avidly on Twitter, but the commute from the city to Jersey and back for a game has been too much for me to undertake, especially with my need to care for a very attached beagle.

But I keep an eye on hockey in New York as well, and today I noticed a game with a manageable commute. So I took my beagle and headed out for a very extended late-afternoon walk, winding our way to Lasker Rink on the north edge of Central Park. There I took in the second half of a game between Xavier High School, located on 16th Street, and the Birch Wathen Lenox School, located on 77th.

I’m very familiar with Xavier and its reputation, because the Knights play their home games in Bayonne and play the most extensive non-league schedule of any New York team. For league play, Xavier is in the B Division of the CHSHL (Catholic league), a division in which I think Hudson Catholic should be playing. Teams from the A Division include St. Anthony’s, Holy Cross, Iona Prep, and Monsignor Farrell, all of whom we  have seen take on New  Jersey teams. These teams rarely top 20 regular-season games, but last year Xavier played 25 varsity games, splitting with Hudson Catholic, and added two non-varsity contests against Oratory Prep. This year, Xavier will face Bayonne on Jan. 24. It seems like they’ll play just about anyone, anywhere.

Lasker2Birch Wathen Lenox, on the other hand, seems to be a program still in its infancy, and scores for its games against other smaller programs like Poly Prep and Fieldston can be hard to come by. I was not expecting much from them.

I found my way to Lasker Rink kind of by accident. It’s located just south of the main duck pond on the park’s north edge, and there are two adjacent rinks inside a large amphitheater that is used as a swimming pool in the summer. It’s a very unique setup, to say the least. Unfortunately, rink regulations prohibit pets, so my dog and I were relegated to watching from a balcony of sorts and peering through bars.

dog1It was a bit of a surreal sight. The teams had 12 players each and, by the time I arrived late in the second period, were pretty tired despite the rink’s lack of width. The scoreboard and clock were located across the other rink, where there was a practice going on, so players were occasionally confused by random whistles, and the referees would have to say, “keep playing, guys.”

There was not much of a turnout in the way of fans – a few parents and siblings limited by rule to one corner, and for every goal or penalty the referee would skate to that corner and call out the information to the scorekeeper, who sat back near the snack bar where the input for the scoreboard was. After the game, the players traipsed through the same matted area on their way to the locker rooms.

I was really curious to see how the zamboni got between the two rinks, and I wasn’t disappointed. After the game, the zamboni rolled around on one level of the amphitheater and backed its way onto a lift, which lowered to ice level and allowed the zamboni to back onto the ice. I knew there were zamboni elevators, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one quite like this.

On the ice, the action was about what you’d expect, which is to say earnest and dedicated but not particularly advanced. Xavier was up 5-0 when I arrived and breezed to an 8-1 win. But at least I’ve seen a game this year!

dog2The Knights are 4-1 overall (for a competitive reference they lost 3-2 to Monsignor Farrell, who in turn lost 10-0 to St. Peter’s Prep) and 2-0 in league play – they face Fieldston in a non-league game on Monday and Mt. St. Michael / St. Raymond Boys in CHSHL B play next Wednesday, both at Bayonne.

Birch Wathen Lenox, if its online schedule is accurate, will host Columbia Prep – another program of limited means – on Dec. 17, also at Lasker Rink.

Given the view she gets, my dog does not plan to attend.

The new season starts today!

November 29, 2013 on 8:39 am | In analysis | No Comments

Today is the first day of hockey season in New Jersey, and it’s one I’ve been looking forward to! I have moved back to the area and now live in New York City, so I’ll be getting to more games than in recent years (though likely still not a lot), and I should be able to provide better coverage.

The main NJHockey.org site is up and running for 2013-14, including the page that I always start with, the team-by-team schedules, now including a history field that lists each team’s most successful seasons. The all-important standings page got a minor facelift and will be easier to use to track the division races all year. The state-wide schedule page lets you (and, occasionally, me!) pick which game(s) to go to on any given day. We’ve also got holiday tournaments covered for when the time arrives.

If you’re on Twitter, please follow @NJ_Hockey and use it to send me scores or just talk hockey – it’s a great way to talk about the news of the moment.

A change to note this year — with the proliferation of co-op programs, I am using a new designation for full team names involving co-ops, with a slash signifying multiple schools. So you’ll see Newton / Lenape Valley and Verona / Glen Ridge as style examples for co-op schools. Abbreviations were harder to make clear (RDWW, OTHH, and PcVCG really seemed like just a little too much), so in most cases I am using the abbreviation of the school designated as primary by the NJSIAA.

While I run the website on my own, I do cover New Jersey hockey for Hockey Night in Boston. The season preview appears in the normal print issues that you can find at your local rink, but HNIB will be moving to online coverage this season, and you will be able to find New Jersey coverage at this link.

To give you a little taste, here’s my season-opening top 10:

  1. Delbarton (23-3-4) – After six straight titles, you get the benefit of the doubt, but Delbarton will be threatened this year after losing its top line to graduation and two other returning contributors to a move and an injury. Expect this team to make significant improvements throughout the course of the year.
    December game to watch – Dec. 5 vs. Bergen Catholic
  2. Don Bosco Prep (18-10) – Despite losing their leading scorer to junior hockey, the Ironmen return a player among the state’s best at his position in goal and on defense, and they should have above-average depth.
    December game to watch – Dec. 18 at CBA
  3. CBA (23-3-2) – The Colts have a very strong top two lines and a skilled but youthful defense corps. They should contend in the Gordon yet again, but who knows if they can vanquish the demons of the past two postseasons?
    December game to watch – Dec. 11 vs. Bergen Catholic
  4. St. Joseph Metuchen (18-3-3) – This is the type of year non-Gordon schools build toward, as the Falcons could make the private semifinals for the first time in the two-tournament era. Skill and depth at every position give St. Joe the ability to tackle a daunting schedule.
    December game to watch – Dec. 10 at Delbarton
  5. Bergen Catholic (7-13-3) – Having three coaches in less than a year is rarely a recipe for success, but the Crusaders are talented in goal and on defense and should develop as the season goes on.
    December game to watch – Dec. 20 at Don Bosco Prep
  6. Gloucester Catholic (12-6) – Always a tough pick, but the Rams have some proven talent returning in both the senior and junior classes and should push the top three in division play.
    December game to watch – Dec. 2 vs. Delbarton
  7. Ramsey (23-3-3) – The overwhelming favorite in the public ranks, Ramsey has standouts at each position and plenty of depth, but they’ll once again face a weak league schedule that may not be ideal preparation for the state tournament.
    December game to watch – Dec. 13 at Indian Hills
  8. Randolph (15-9-2) – Always deep, always fast, and always just enough skill to win the state tournament. After three straight public titles, Randolph returns plenty, and it will be interesting to see if they can break through for a first Mennen Cup title since 2008.
    December game to watch – Dec. 13 vs. Summit
  9. Summit (17-5-4) – These guys still have TEN players from the 2012 Public B championship team. Capable goaltending and an excellent top line make them a top challenger in Public B.
    December game to watch – Dec. 3 vs. Brick Township
  10. Bridgewater-Raritan (21-5-4) – The Panthers only lost two players from last year’s team that reached the state final, and they return their entire forward corps.
    December game to watch – Dec. 26 vs. Westfield
  11. Chatham (16-8-3) – Bonus squad here, as I got information on Chatham too late for the HNIB print deadline. The Cougars have just about everybody back from last year’s Public B title squad, so expect them to contend in the Mennen Division as well.
    December game to watch – Dec. 6 vs. Randolph

There are plenty of other exciting teams and games to keep an eye on, and we’ll have coverage at NJHockey.org and the Twitter handle @NJ_Hockey all season long!

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