2009-10 season preview

November 28, 2009 on 9:16 pm | In analysis, breaking news | 1 Comment

Welcome in to another season of NJ high school hockey. As always, I’ll be keeping information up-to-date as much as possible at www.njhockey.org and providing my own thoughts and information on this blog as time permits.

To start the season, here’s my preseason top 10 as published in Hockey Night in Boston. Be sure to look for the newspaper at your local rinks.

PRESEASON STATE TOP 10 (last year’s record in parentheses)
1. Delbarton (27-2-1)
2. Bergen Catholic (14-8-1)
3. CBA (22-5-2)
4. Seton Hall Prep (10-10-3)
5. Bishop Eustace (22-6)
6. Don Bosco Prep (10-11-3)
7. Morristown-Beard (22-4-1)
8. St. Augustine Prep (3-19-2)
9. Gloucester Catholic (21-2-1)
10. Ramsey (25-1-2)

SCOUTING REPORT (after the jump)

The state’s top five teams all play in the American Division of the Gordon Conference, and two-time defending Gordon Cup and state private champion Delbarton (27-2-1) starts the season as No. 1 yet again. With three private state titles in the last four years and back-to-back seasons with a state-record 27 wins, the Green Wave has established itself as the state’s top program of the last five years. Delbarton lost only three players from last year – including four-year letterman and Providence College’s Alex Velischek to graduation and forward Charles Orzetti to junior hockey – and returns three of its leading scorers in Kenny Agostino (32-42-74), Mike Ambrosia (39-27-66), and Mike Pirovano (15-33-48) and senior goalie Bobby Kaminski (.925 save percentage). Last year, Delbarton thumped Catholic Memorial (Mass.) and Bishop Hendricken (R.I.), beat Hotchkiss (Conn.) and Lawrenceville, and tied Hill (Pa.) This year, head coach Bruce Shatel has assembled one of the most difficult schedules in state history, with pre-season prep challenges, regular-season contests that include Hotchkiss, Pomfret (Conn.), Catholic Memorial, Bishop Hendricken, Hill (Pa.), Fairfield Prep (Conn.), and Lawrenceville, and seven consecutive February road games to close the year.
No. 2 Bergen Catholic (14-8-1) blew a three-goal third-period lead to Delbarton in last year’s semifinals but expects to take the title this year with new coach Kevin Mulligan at the helm. The Crusaders boast perhaps the top defensive group in the state, rolling six deep and led by senior co-captains Nick Maniaci and Mike Janson, with an infusion of youth from sophomore Ian Spencer (verbal commit to Vermont) and freshman Connor Wynne. Up front, sophomore Justin Selman leads a talented group of underclassmen that include sophomore Jarrid Privitera and juniors Adam Apidopolous, Kyle Garlasco, and Scott Mogerley. James Wrightson returns to start in goal for Bergen Catholic, which will play a home-and-home against Portledge (N.Y.) and host Iona Prep (N.Y.) among its non-league contests.
At No. 3, CBA (22-5-2) had a 14-game unbeaten streak and reached the private final last year despite finishing third in the Gordon Conference. Head coach Ryan Bogan’s Colts will be led by junior defenseman Joakim Ryan and senior goalie Zach Dietrich as they once again play both a Gordon Conference and a Shore A North schedule.
No. 4 Seton Hall Prep (10-10-3) still seems to be reeling from the 2005-06 season, when the Pirates went unbeaten until the private state final. Seton Hall has not had more than 11 wins in a season since and has not advanced past the private quarterfinals. But head coach Peter Herms returns junior Jimmy Harrison in goal, senior Jon Fleurant and junior Chris Fersini up front, and senior Steve Aloia on defense.
After a pair of February losses cost No. 5 Bishop Eustace (22-6) the Gordon Conference regular season title last year, the Crusaders wound up losing in the Gordon Cup final and bowing out in the private semifinals for the second straight year. The Crusaders also lost 13 seniors to graduation and four underclassmen to junior hockey. Head coach Mike Green can still expect a solid squad, led by senior forward Mark Constantine and senior defenseman Mike Durelli, to face a tough schedule that includes four games against Pennsylvania squads and a test against Ontario’s Upper Canada College.
In the National Division of the Gordon Conference, No. 6 Don Bosco Prep (10-11-3) starts the year as the favorite behind a deep cast of returning forwards that include its top four leading scorers from last year. The Ironmen will be led by senior captain Connor Leen (19 points in 10 games due to injury), juniors Michael Conte (8-8-16) and R.J. Burns (11-11-22), and senior Tyler Stephanik (14 goals). Head coach Greg Toskos graduated five defensemen, so seniors Mike Gallucci and Sean Mech will be asked to step up in front of senior goalie Dan Wosbrock.
The first non-Gordon team to crack the top 10 is No. 7 Morristown-Beard (22-4-1), which has won consecutive Mennen Division division titles and last year’s Mennen Cup. The Crimson will be coached by former NHL defenseman Randy Velischek, who has scheduled three Gordon Conference opponents on his non-league schedule. Offensively, Morristown-Beard will rely on senior forwards Andrew Koslov (21-16-37) and Dan DePoalo (12-9-21) and junior forward Robby Kirk (8-20-28). Senior Andrew Pascal (13-11-24) leads a very talented defense group that also includes Tyler Gilsenan, Kevin Brennan, and Greg Kirk in front of junior goalie Alex Durso (.926).
No. 8 St. Augustine Prep (3-19-2) has fallen off dramatically since reaching the private final in consecutive seasons in 2007 and 2008, but Tim Fingerhut’s Hermits have an improved crop of players ready to compete in the National Division. Junior goalie Joe Pantalone dealt well with a lot of shots last year and should backstop St. Augustine Prep again. Up front, seniors Steve Ang and Donny DiCicco and junior Roman Amirrato are among the leaders.
The Gordon Conference newcomer is No. 9 Gloucester Catholic (21-2-1), which had a breakout year after a 14-0-1 record in the Central Red Division but suffered one-goal losses in the McInnis Cup semifinals (in overtime) and the private quarterfinals. The Rams will be led by short but spectacular forward John Gaudreau, a junior, and will need sophomore Dan Spencer to step up in goal to replace Mason Riley, who left for junior hockey.
Rounding out the top 10 is No. 10 Ramsey (25-1-2), the state’s top public school. Head coach Bob Toy’s squad stands a great chance of defending its Public B championship thanks to the return of the senior trio of goalie Matt Braun, defenseman Michael Gwon, and forward Tyler Bishop.
Rounding out the National Division of the Gordon Conference are Pope John (4-18-2), with a deep cast of returning skaters but question marks in goal, and St. Peter’s Prep (7-14-1), which still has Kyle Robinson at forward.

There’s more on the rest of the state in the print edition. Please remember my preseason write-ups are subject to the information I get, and I don’t like to hang my hat on anything preseason related.

Other news and notes …

  • The Gordon Cup playoffs will see all 10 teams qualify, and apparently subjective seeding will be used for the tournament, which I’m not wild about.
  • How will the 19-game league schedule play out for the 14 Tri-County teams? I’m worried they won’t get much respect come state tournament time due to a lack of non-league play.
  • There are some great holiday tournaments scheduled, including the six-team Montclair Invitational and the eight-team Jefferson Tournament in the public ranks. Even though it’s early in the season, those matchups could go a long way toward earning or losing respect in the public rankings. And we still haven’t seen a schedule for the ambitious Ice Vault tournament, which has a good number of teams lined up.
  • I’ll be interested to see how first-year varsity programs Colonia, Jackson Liberty, Morris Catholic, Ocean Township, and Woodbridge compete, mostly from the independent ranks, with the Shore C teams that mostly debuted so impressively last year.
  • The Skyland should be very competitive this year – I expect Montgomery to be very strong and Ridge to be good despite rebuilding, while Bridgewater-Raritan, Hunterdon Central, Hillsborough, Pingry, and Watchung Hills always seem to be competitive. The Mennen and Halvorsen Divisions should also be very closely contested.

I’ll be in New Jersey Dec. 15-25, so here are a couple of games I hope to make it out to:

  • Wednesday, December 16 – Cron Tournament 3rd place/final: This is an annual tradition for me any time I’m in town, so I’m looking forward to a cold night at Warinanco and some matchups between Morris Knolls, Johnson, Mendham, and Westfield, although there is definitely the potential for some early-round upsets.
  • Thursday, December 17 – Kinnelon vs. Mendham
  • Friday, December 18 – Bergen Catholic-Don Bosco Prep, Northern Highlands-Ramsey
  • Saturday, December 19 – Chatham-Kinnelon, Randolph-Jefferson and/or CBA-Seton Hall Prep, Delbarton-Bishop Eustace
  • Sunday, December 20 – There are some good early games at the Ice House, but I have a feeling this will be a shopping day.
  • Monday, December 21 – Don Bosco Prep-Morristown-Beard, Morris Knolls-Mountain Lakes (I am from Morris County, after all)
  • Tuesday, December 22 – Delbarton vs. Rhode Island’s Bishop Hendricken, Chatham-Mendham OR Montclair-MKA OR a trip to Wall including CBA-St. John Vianney.
  • Wednesday, December 23 – Morris Knolls-Morristown-Beard is most likely, although Clifton-Fair Lawn and Pope John-Randolph are tempting.

1 Comment

  1. I read somewhere that Carlo DiPiazza has returned to Bergen Catholic for his senior year. If so, this will really improve their questionable scoring ability.

    Gary – I have also heard that rumor, but I haven’t heard it first-hand from a coach, so I’m waiting to see DiPiazza’s name on the scoresheet. He was one player I definitely remembered from past seasons, so it’ll be interesting to see. — JY

    Comment by gary fuchs — 30 November 2009 #

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