Y’all. I clearly missed out on some ridiculously good games Friday. Let’s start in my neck of the woods – Morris County. For the first time since 1998, both semifinals went to overtime. That Thursday nine years ago was one of the most exciting nights of hockey I have ever seen (Randolph upsetting Delbarton in OT in the opener, Morristown upsetting Morristown-Beard in a shootout in the nightcap). It sounds like Friday rivaled it in every way. In the first game, Morris Knolls avenged last year’s semifinal loss to Chatham with a shootout victory after a 2-2 tie. The second game pitted Randolph against Morristown-Beard for the seventh time in nine years! It’s unbelievable how often these two have met in the semifinals. Beard had won six in a row, almost singlehandedly causing Randolph’s failure to win a third Mennen Cup title, but the Rams turned the tables with a 3-2 overtime win. I don’t often say I’m jealous of Dan Breeman, and I’m not willing to go that far, but I would have liked to see these two games.
Elsewhere, the first true NBIAL championship lived up to its billing, as Northern Highlands edged Fair Lawn in what I’m sure was a thriller, 3-2. Down south, Point Pleasant and Brick Memorial finished overtime tied 5-5. Unlike past NJIHL championship games, the teams decided the championship with a shootout. I’m not sure if there is any precedent for this in New Jersey history. I don’t even know if it’s in the NJIHL by-laws. At any rate, Brick Memorial won the shootout 2-0 to capture the Southern Blue Cup (can we get names for these things already?) In the other South Jersey finals, Middletown North won its third Dowd Cup in six years with a 5-2 win over Wall. St. Augustine Prep ended Monsignor Donovan’s 13-game unbeaten streak with an impressive 5-1 win, pulling away in the third period. Everybody is looking ahead to a possible St. Augustine Prep-Delbarton semifinal, forgetting that both teams have to get past tough first-round and quarterfinal opponents first.
In North Jersey, Sparta finally broke through Wayne Valley’s defense for a 3-1 win, while Glen Rock confirmed what everybody expected by holding off West Milford for a 3-2 win and a second consecutive cup title. From Blue Division to Red Division in two years for the Panthers! Finally, Notre Dame breezed to the Mercer County Tournament title, 7-1. Tough to get too excited about that.
I don’t know if Saturday can live up to Friday, but you know if I was in town, I’d be checking it out. Enjoy!
njhockey.org has published the state tournament bracket. We’ll analyze them later, after the Dynamo-Puntarenas match. Overseeding / underseeding report coming up …
Okay, I’m not ready to finalize my suggested seeding for the state tournament yet because we don’t know at-large qualifiers yet. But on maybe the best day of the season – ice cup playoff Monday – I want to explain how I arrived at some of the current seedings. There have only been two major changes from the initial rankings, so I’ll deal with the groups in which the teams bunched, for me. The top five were fairly easy.
Not as polarizing as a Top 20 but more useful, here is a list of state tournament qualifiers and at-large hopefuls. I will finalize my suggested seeding (suggested, not projected) after at-large bids are announced.
Meanwhile, here are my at-large selections: Private: let them both in. Mo-Beard and St. Joseph Metuchen play in tough divisions and narrowly missed out. Both have beaten several teams that are in the tournament. I have no problem letting both of them in on the dance. Public: A bit tougher. I still think it’s pretty clear cut. Verona actually had almost no big wins (does Summit count?) but played a ridiculously tough schedule and lost five games by only one goal. I’m in favor. Middletown South lost to Princeton but otherwise consistently showed itself to be a public capable of playing at the upper levels of White Division play, which is enough for me. 6-1-2 record vs. public schools. Mountain Lakes plays in a ridiculously tough division, especially for a public. I was all set to let the Lakers in when I stumbled upon their 2-2 tie with Morris Hills and their 5-4 loss to Vernon. Now, I’m no Northern Conference apologist, but when you have a head to head win like that and a win over Fair Lawn, I guess you have to let the Vikings in. That leaves out Indian Hills. EDIT: To clarify, I looked at Indian Hills again. .500 in league play, 0-4 against very, very tough non-league competition. Only one bad loss. Split with Fair Lawn. Not a bad resume. And I think the NBIAL was stronger than the Northern Red this year. I might have to call it a toss-up between IH and Vernon. Which could result in neither getting a bid. Tough call here.
Brick – if you can’t get a .500 record playing in the White Division, there’s no point.
And you know what that means for the other eligible teams.
So that’s my take. In: Morristown-Beard, St. Joseph Metuchen, Middletown South, Verona, Vernon. We’ll see what the committee says.
Last update: 18 February 2007, 11:25 pm CT
Continue reading NJSIAA Tournament qualifiers…
my first thought when I finally clicked through and got the video to work? “Dude, this is awesome.” You have to love the 21st century – I could sit in an office in Texas (where it’s 60-something degrees) and watch a high school hockey game at a small rink in New Jersey (where it’s roughly 20 degrees). Just awesome. Major props to SportsNetAmerica for getting it done. (EDIT: This whole thing was supposed to be live. I hit the wrong button, so I figure it’s better late than never.)
Okay, so we’re through the first two periods (it’s 2-2, by the way), and here’s what I’ve got:
Alright, alright, everybody loves a Top 20 ranking. I had to do a Top 10 this week for my Hockey Night in Boston write-up, so here’s a full Top 20. Not easy to come up with, necessarily, but fun to discuss. Here we go …
Continue reading February Top 20 poll…
One note of interest – Pingry and St. Augustine Prep will play one week from today at Bridgewater Sports Arena. Now that’s the kind of late-season scheduling we like to see!
Also, a few questions and answers on this Friday while awaiting results from the 30 (!) games on schedule tonight. Read on …