I returned on Sunday from a weekend broadcasting soccer in North Carolina, and, once I had time on Monday, I logged in to my @NJ_Hockey twitter account to see what I had missed. After all, practices had been going for a week, scrimmages would be starting soon, and surely there would be some chatter, some news.
There turned out to be a lot more than I anticipated! Continue reading JY20: One weekend away, and I miss big news…
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.
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 Shore has another hockey rink to host high school games this winter, as Middletown Ice World has opened at the Middletown Swim Club and will play host to both Middletown North and Middletown South. While its primary tenant, junior hockey’s Titans, get the coveted center-ice logo placement, the Eagles and Lions do get their logos on the fresh sheet as well.
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:
1,120 Scotch Plains-Fanwood
1,114 Wayne Valley
Teams I expect to drop to Public B in 2013-14:
1,088 Toms River South
1,088 Middletown North
1,049 Mount Olive
According to the Bergen Record, the rink at Mackay Park in Englewood – home to Tenafly and Old Tappan – will not open in 2012-13 after Hurricane Sandy caused damage to the recently renovated facility’s roof. The whole article, written by Rebecca Baker, is available here.
Although there had been a delay in issuing schedules for both schools, due to the offseason renovations, most games had recently been announced, with Old Tappan scheduling seven home games and Tenafly five, with another two still to come.
As far as other New Jersey rinks go, I have not heard of damages to any specific facilities. The Red Bank Armory website says it is closed until further notice but does list scheduled events as soon as Tuesday, November 6; the Ice House website says it will be closed Nov. 2-4 at a minimum.
Of course, thoughts are with everybody trying to recover from the disaster, and we hope the hockey community continues to help wherever there is a need.
A long-suggested, long-rumored co-op agreement uniting Parsippany and Parsippany Hills for ice hockey has been approved by the NJSIAA, according to the minutes of the September 13 meeting of league and conference officers. The two schools have played independently since beginning hockey programs as independents in 1998-99 (they began MCSSIHL league play in 1999-2000).
I first noticed that scheduled games against Parsippany had been dropped on several teams’ Haas/Charette Division schedules, replaced with open dates or non-league contests. The NJSIAA minutes confirmed the rumor, although I have not yet heard what names the co-op team will go by or who will coach it.
The meeting also included approval of a waiver to allow schools to co-op with different schools in different sports, likely paving the way for Dumont and Demarest to join forces in ice hockey. Technically, I believe that co-op agreement has yet to be approved.
Parsippany and Parsippany Hills (I hope they go with a ‘Regional’ title rather than picking one of the schools – easier for both sets of fans to get behind) have always struggled to field winning programs, reaching the state tournament three times each in 14 seasons. The annual Iceman Trophy game was always heated and entertaining, but the co-op move will give them a better chance to be successful on a consistent basis. Parsippany tied for the Charette Division title last year while going 8-9-1 overall; Parsippany Hills was 5-16.
The schools’ combined NJSIAA enrollment number is 1,623 (854 ParHills, 769 Parsippany), which places the co-op team in Public A and shifts Mount Olive onto the bubble between Public A and Public B. The Parsippany schools will form the fourth-largest co-op, in terms of enrollment, trailing Freehold Boro/Raritan (1.832), Dumont/Demarest (1,647), and Lawrence/Ewing (1,631). All four co-ops are among the 15 highest hockey enrollments among public schools. Of the 14 total co-op teams, 11 will compete in Public A in 2012-13.
Parsippany and Parsippany Hills join Dumont and Demarest (assuming their arrangement is approved) as new co-ops formed by contracting two teams into one, with Lawrence and Ewing (first season 2010-11) the only other such move I can recall since Hanover Park and Whippany Park merged in 1989-90 or 1990-91.