Offseason 2012: Realignment affects most leagues

August 19, 2012 on 3:11 pm | In analysis, breaking news | No Comments

If it’s August, the school year is close upon us, and that means hockey can’t be far behind. I’ve started seeing preliminary schedules for a few schools, especially those in the MCSSIHL and Big North leagues, so I thought I’d post an update on a few things I’m seeing:

In Morris County, as had been previously reported, Gill St. Bernard’s (back to varsity status) and Sparta (NJIHL West) have joined, bringing the league total to 22 teams. I’m not sure how Pingry (asked to leave the MCSSIHL ostensibly because it wasn’t a Morris County school) feels about that, but it creates three very competitive divisions, in my opinion. It will be the first season for Gill St. Bernard’s in the MCSSIHL since 1979-80 or 1980-81, back in the days of Chatham Township, Chatham Borough, Hanover Park, and Whippany Park each competing separately.

The Mennen Division will play 11 league games (five division opponents twice each, plus one crossover game), which will leave a lot of room for creative non-league scheduling.

The Halvorsen Division and Haas/Charette Division will play 14 league games (seven division opponents twice each), with six Halvorsen schools playing crossover games against the Mennen Division that won’t count in the league standings.

Six teams will qualify for each of the three postseason cup tournaments. Here’s a look at the alignment:

Mennen Halvorsen Haas/Charette
Chatham Jefferson Gill St. Bernard’s
Kinnelon Montville Madison
Morris Knolls Mountain Lakes Morris Catholic
Morristown Pequannock Morris Hills
Morristown-Beard Roxbury Mount Olive
Randolph Sparta Park Regional
West Morris Central Parsippany
West Morris Mendham Parsippany Hills

With such a large non-league schedule available to Morris County teams, I’ve been wondering if some of the top publics will need to look out of state for games. New Jersey private schools have long played their Pennsylvania counterparts (LaSalle, Malvern Prep, Holy Ghost Prep); why not the public schools? Who wouldn’t want to see Randolph face Pennsylvania Class AA state champion Council Rock South or Kinnelon take on Flyers Cup Class A champion West Chester Rustin? These would be competitive, interesting matchups.

Pennsylvania public schools, however, run their hockey teams under the auspices of USA Hockey, a club organization. Would the NJSIAA allow varsity teams to play club teams? I have to believe it’s happened before, and it already happens when private schools play their Pennsylvania counterparts, so I hope the answer is yes.

If the NJSIAA were to approve non-league games against USA Hockey high school teams from Pennsylvania, it seems to follow that it would allow games against USA Hockey high school teams from New Jersey as well, which would allow teams from the SJHSIHL, such as AA Flyers Cup runner-up Cherokee, to play NJSIAA teams in non-league games. The SJHSIHL’s seven Tier I teams are all single-school clubs, so it would be a fair fight. I bet Paul VI, St. Joseph Hammonton, and even some CVC and Shore Conference schools would be a big fan of that option! Just speculation on my part, but interesting.

Moving on, the Big North Conference also saw major realignment. I haven’t been able to confirm this yet, but it seems to have had more to do with rink location than anything else. As reported by NorthJersey.com in July, the Dumont and Demarest hockey programs were at risk of being shut down, so even though Dumont was already running a co-op with New Milford, they sought to add Demarest to the puzzle. A team known as “Dumont-Demarest” is listed in the Big North, so I don’t know if New Milford was cut out of the co-op or if another solution was found. (EDIT: Based on an August 19 NJSIAA meeting, the hold-up is Dumont’s co-op arrangement with New Milford in swimming; the NJSIAA is considering a waiver to allow multiple co-op agreements and should rule in September.)

It’s a little odd, since 24 teams are broken up 9-9-7 instead of 9-8-8, but again, it seems to mostly go by rink — the entire Green Division plays at the Ice Vault, the Gold Division is split between Floyd Hall and the Ice House (plus Bayonne), while the Silver is split between the Ice House and Sport-O-Rama (plus Mackay).

Gold Silver Green
Bayonne Glen Rock DePaul Catholic
Clifton Northern Highlands Indian Hills
Dumont-Demarest Old Tappan Lakeland
Fair Lawn Paramus Mahwah
Hackensack Pascack Valley Ramapo
Paramus Catholic St. Joseph Montvale Ramsey
Passaic Valley Tenafly Wayne Hills
Ridgewood Wayne Valley
River Dell West Milford

The most infamous realignment, of course comes in the Shore Conference, where I’ve heard a number of complaints from hockey coaches and parents over the last six months about some of the matchups we’re going to see. I have to agree that the divisions don’t make sense for hockey, and some of the games involving CBA and Red Bank Catholic really do seem like they could be dangerous to players.

These divisions are based on the normal Shore Conference alignment, with each team playing each division opponent twice (12 games for all divisions except Shore B North, which will have 10):

Shore A North Shore A South
CBA Brick Memorial
Freehold Township Brick Township
Howell Jackson Memorial
Manalapan Southern Regional
Marlboro Toms River East
Middletown North Toms River North
Middletown South Toms River South
Shore B North Shore B South
Ocean Township Colts Neck
Red Bank Catholic Freehold Boro
Red Bank Regional Jackson Liberty
Rumson-Fair Haven Manasquan
St. John Vianney Monsignor Donovan
St. Rose Point Pleasant Borough
Wall

I expect the various regional leagues – Union County, the Greater Middlesex Conference, and the Skyland Conference – to remain the same, while the NJIHL West appears set to carry on with five teams and the NJIHL Northern with its set group. No word yet on the status of East Side for 2012-13. Finally, Don Bosco Prep and Bergen Catholic switched spots in the Gordon Conference, making the American Division a pretty good group of CBA-Delbarton-Don Bosco-Gloucester Catholic-St. Augustine. CBA will once again sign up for 25 league games (13 Gordon, 12 Shore A North), two over the listed maximum, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a few of those games never got (re)scheduled.

I’ve got my schedules started, so feel free to send them my way at jty [at] njhockey.org, and I’ll post them publicly at some point this fall.

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