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

November 11, 2014 on 7:15 pm | In analysis | 3 Comments

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!

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)

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…

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!

Public group changes for 2013-14

August 1, 2013 on 12:15 pm | In analysis, breaking news | 1 Comment

The NJSIAA has thoughtfully released its classifications for the 2013-14 year via its web site, and they always make for fascinating reading.

The key when considering hockey implications is the distinction between Public A and Public B. I currently expect there to be 103 102 teams on the public school side next year, so there will be 51 in Public A and 51 in Public B.

However, there are some factors to consider other than pure enrollment. Last year, the NJSIAA made the decision to place all co-op programs in the Public A field. While I disagree with that decision, I do understand its logic. However, I believe most coaches were not informed until the season was well underway (if they were informed at all), and so I hope the Public A / B split will be a little more transparent from the beginning this year.

New co-op programs are all the rage, since the NJSIAA Executive Committee now allows schools of any size to co-op for hockey and has set a precedent of allowing schools to co-op with different partners than in other sports. The text of the NJSIAA bylaw change includes the text: “A Cooperative Sports Program in the sport of ice hockey may be formed between schools of any Group, as long as the program meets all other requirements of the Bylaws and the Guidelines for Cooperative Sports Programs and the program will not diminish the playing opportunities for student-athletes of the two schools or adversely affect competitive balance.”

With those changes come at least three new co-ops in 2013-14 (and several others are allowed to stay). Here’s the NorthJersey.com story on Lyndhurst and Paramus and its story on Old Tappan and Hasbrouck Heights. And the Trentonian article on Nottingham and Hamilton. Those three co-ops will drop several teams down into the Public B ranks for 2013-14. I got a Thursday afternoon update that J.P. Stevens and Edison, both Group IV schools with struggling programs, intend to co-op in 2013-14. All lists below are assuming that co-op agreement goes through.

As a reminder, NJSIAA enrollment figures are the number of students expected in grades 10-12 for the upcoming year, NOT the school’s total enrollment.

Here are the teams I expect to move up to Public A in 2013-14:
1,833 Nottingham / Hamilton (new co-op)
1,463 Paramus / Lyndhurst (new co-op)
1,413 Old Tappan / Hasbrouck Heights (new co-op)

Co-ops whose enrollment places them in Public B but might still be placed in Public A:
1,001 Manasquan / Point Pleasant Beach
884 Verona / Glen Ridge
778 Dayton / Brearley

Teams that could drop to Public B in 2013-14 IF all co-ops are placed in Public A:
1,132 Millburn
1,120 Scotch Plains-Fanwood
1,114 Wayne Valley

Teams I expect to drop to Public B in 2013-14:
1,096 Roxbury
1,088 Toms River South
1,088 Middletown North
1,049 Steinert
1,049 Mount Olive

Suggested seedings, 2013

February 19, 2013 on 3:27 am | In analysis | 2 Comments

Every year, I try to figure out how teams should be seeded in the NJSIAA state tournaments. I’ve been in good contact with the New Jersey hockey community this year, but since I still haven’t seen any games in person, I do my best to base the seedings on conclusions drawn logically from team results. The real seeding committee is meeting Tuesday afternoon, and we should hear about the brackets that night.

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, 2013…

Hockey season starts tomorrow!

November 29, 2012 on 11:24 pm | In analysis | No Comments

The New Jersey hockey season starts tomorrow with an official November face-off for the first time ever! Princeton and Hightstown play at 3 p.m. to get us started, one of 25 games on the state docket tomorrow.

I’m waist-deep in free-lance soccer and football at the moment, which is a good but exhausting feeling. So instead of original thoughts, I’m going to share the top 10 from my Hockey Night in Boston preview, which is due to hit rinks around the state on December 5! Be sure to check it out.

PRESEASON TOP 10
1. Delbarton (29-1)
2. CBA (19-5-5)
3. Don Bosco Prep (23-4-1)
4. St. Augustine Prep (7-10-4)
5. Morristown-Beard (15-8-4)
6. Gloucester Catholic (7-12-2)
7. MKA (19-5)
8. Morris Knolls (19-5-3)
9. Bergen Catholic (7-12)
10. Morristown (22-5)

St. Augustine vs. Morristown-Beard (Nos. 4 vs. 5) meet on opening day, and CBA is set to host Delbarton on December 5! I don’t think Delbarton – which is very inexperienced on defense and could see some of its record streaks threatened this year – is very happy about playing its top challenger that early in the season. We’ll see how this version of the Green Wave handles it.

Please note an addition to my standings and division by division pages – I will be attempting to track the standings of the Independence League this year, as both Hun and Pennington compete alongside six Pennsylvania prep schools.

Elsewhere, High Point has added Wallkill Valley as a co-op, which moves the Wildcats to Public A and drops Middletown North into Public B. In related news, the NJSIAA has thoughtfully (but ineptly) posted its Public A / Public B breakdown for the 2012-13 season (tournament regulations, page 10). The initial version was just ridiculous – it was based on last season’s enrollment figures and listed a mish-mash of schools that included Vineland High School. Whoops. There have been changes since then, but there are still a few mistakes:

1. The new co-op of High Point / Wallkill Valley is not listed; instead, Wallkill Valley is listed alone with its own enrollment. Likewise, Park Regional is listed under Hanover Park’s enrollment in Public B. Once those co-ops are factored in, both teams should be in Public A, and both Middletown North and Mount Olive should drop to Public B.

2. The list omits Manalapan (A), Jackson Liberty (B), Jackson Memorial (A), and Sparta (B) altogether. Having managed to miss two teams from each group, this does not affect the cutoff point.

3. Roxbury is erroneously listed with an enrollment figure of 1,172 rather than the proper 1,082, which makes Roxbury the smallest school to stay in Public A.

4. In the list of private teams, new program Gill St. Bernard’s is not included.

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