Knolls wins the Cron (again)

December 14, 2006 on 12:38 am | In analysis | No Comments

I usually find a way to go to a Cron Tournament game. There have been 11 such tournaments since I began covering hockey in this state, and I have probably been to at least one game in maybe eight of those. From Mendham’s first-ever game back in 1996 to Morris Knolls’ first tournament title in 2002, I’ve managed to see at least one game on a regular basis – I even went directly from the airport once. I made friends with the coaches at Morris Knolls and Mendham at a young age, so I was always about seeing Morris County teams in action. And freezing my butt off.

So it was with a touch of sadness I received a phone call tonight informing me of Morris Knolls’ 3-1 win over Mendham for the Golden Eagles’ fifth consecutive tournament title. (Five in a row ties the record held by St. Joseph Metuchen from 1993-’97.) I remember when St. Joe ruled the Cron roost, beating Rob Loderstedt, Adam Dilly, and a second-year Mendham team in that ’97 final. I remember the Knolls-Mendham rivalry fueled by former Knolls coaches John Kovacs and Rob Dachisen running the show at Mendham; Knolls head coach Bob Loderstedt’s son, Rob, playing for Mendham; Dachisen’s nephew, Mike, playing at Knolls; and the innumerable Kovacs-Keiper connections. Plus, both teams were good for a while.

Knolls finally broke through, of course, to become one of the state’s leading public programs at the moment. A quick skim through my own archives shows that Knolls beat Mendham in the the ’02 semi, and the ’04 final. Of the five tournament titles, Josh Ofner won the MVP award twice, Bobby Jones once, Dennis Zak once, and now Tommy Tomensky after a 12-point performance in three games. Maybe next year I’ll be there to see if Knolls can make it six.
Round up
While Knolls won the tournament, Mendham showed very well and appears to be part of a very strong Halvorsen Division. In case you missed it, Pingry appears to be legit this year. The Big Blue have quietly been improving in numbers and skill level over the past few years, and they’ve always had the experience on the bench in the inimitable John Magadini. Pingry drilled Princeton 8-1 on Wednesday and beat Mendham 6-4 last week. Those two appear to be the class of Morris County’s ‘B’ division, ahead of Kinnelon and West Morris. Pingry and Mendham could very well beat Mountain Lakes and give the other Mennen teams a run for their money.

Elsewhere Wednesday, in scores I have received, Wall earned an emotional 3-2 win over Rumson-Fair Haven with former Bulldog coach Dave Smith behind the Wall bench as an assistant to Mike Dianora. It is the first regular-season win for Wall against RFH. The Knights are getting it done with defense, with 3-1 and 3-2 games so far.
The favorites held in the CVC and Morris County and both MKA and Sparta pulled off non-league wins.
In the Central Conference, St. Joseph (Metuchen) rallied to knock off Bridgewater-Raritan 4-3 in a game that is sure to sting for Panther head coach Patrick Alvin for quite a while. Fellow Irish namesake Pat Verney appears to have stolen Alvin’s late-game luck, as Verney’s Hillsborough squad held off South Brunswick 3-2. I’m sure that’s not how the former Hudson Catholic star drew it up.
There’s plenty more I could write about, but here’s what to watch for on Thursday: a telling non-league contest between Notre Dame and TRN; Red Bank-Old Bridge in Southern White action; Bishop Eustace-MonDon in a critical early Southern Red game; and debutant Jackson Memorial tries to go 2-0 by taking Brick Memorial.
Keep sending scores!

freezing at the Cron Tournament

December 15, 2005 on 12:05 am | In game recap | No Comments

I bundled up in a turtleneck, two fleeces, and a jacket, and I still froze my butt off at the Cron Tournament Wednesday night. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I fought through an hour of traffic to get there for the last two periods of Mendham’s surprisingly lopsided 7-1 win over West Essex. Sean Hermann scored twice for Mendham to finish as the tournament’s leading scorer with six goals and four assists. During the break, I enjoyed some real hot-stove baseball (fireplace baseball, if you want to get technical) fireside while reading Five Seasons, by Roger Angell. I’m only partway through it, but so far I highly recommend the series of pieces on the 1972-76 baseball seasons. His elocution is amazing.

Morris Knolls 3, Old Bridge 1
This was an intriguing contest between two teams with a combined record last year of 44-6-5. Pregame focus centered on enigmatic Old Bridge forward Nick Geraci, who was on the roster but not the ice to start the game. With Geraci absent and Old Bridge dressing just 13 players, Morris Knolls (4-0) looked to be strolling along after a persistent rebound goal from Tommy Tomensky just 55 seconds into the game. But Old Bridge did not back down for the rest of the period, and the game exploded into life at the 10:32 mark. Golden Eagle forward Justin Lewandowski knocked an Old Bridge defenseman into goalie Travis O’Brien at the whistle, and O’Brien remained on the ice as tempers started to flare. Geraci picked this moment to arrive, and, 10 seconds later, he drew the first of three Morris Knolls penalties in the period.

Set to open the second period with 40 seconds of 5-on-3 action, Old Bridge (3-1-1) was slow to line up for the face-off, huddling for a team cheer, and was assessed a delay-of-game penalty. Still, the difference in the Knights was readily apparent, as Geraci’s presence made defenseman and captain Ryan Melis (who showed some class by shaking hands with all four Knolls coaches before the game) more willing to go forward and the whole team more assertive. This aggression led to penalties, however, and Morris Knolls had five virtually consecutive power plays in the early part of the period. The Golden Eagles finally cashed in at 6:44, with Dan Duda patiently waiting for a lane to clear before dropping a great backdoor pass down low to Steven Jones, who slotted it behind O’Brien.

The penalties continued immediately, as Knolls took a five-minute boarding penalty just 10 seconds later. For the period, Knolls skated 5-on-3 for almost 2:30, while Old Bridge had 3:49 of consecutive power play time thanks to the major penalty. Yet the Knights were unable to get a single shot on Morris Knolls goalie Josh Ofner during the lengthy power play, even against Knolls’ second-line penalty killers. Old Bridge got one more power-play chance in the period, and Ofner truly rose to the occasion as the difference in the game, although he did get some help when Geraci wrang a wrist shot off the post. By my unofficial tally, Ofner made at least nine saves in the game on Geraci alone.

Morris Knolls essentially put the game away just 34 seconds into the third period on a brilliant individual goal from Dan Duda, who stepped up perfectly to intercept a pass at center ice, sped around one defenseman, and beat O’Brien with a high wrist shot. Old Bridge had four more power plays late in the game, finally breaking Ofner’s shutout bid with an even-strength goal at 14:14. Melis made an excellent pass from the right point to Geraci in the lower left circle, and he one-timed a high shot past Ofner. But Knolls hung on, despite nine Old Bridge power plays, for the win.

Morris Knolls won its fourth consecutive Cron Tournament title, a feat surpassed only by the five consecutive championships St. Joseph Metuchen won from 1993-97. Ofner was named MVP for the second consecutive year, this time stopping 25 shots in the championship game and 47 of 49 for the tournament. Knolls extended its winning streak against public schools to 12 games. The loss broke an 18-game regular-season unbeaten streak for Old Bridge, which lost in the public round of 16 to Middletown North last year and was eliminated in the Southern Blue cup on a shootout.

Morris Knolls 3, Old Bridge 1


OB  0 0 1 1
MK  1 1 1 3


OB 7 14  5 26
MK 7 10  5 21

0:55 MK #41 Tommy Tomensky (#44 Steven Jones)
6:44 MK (pp) #44 Steven Jones (#14 Dan Duda, #11 Danny Coiro)
0:34 MK #14 Dan Duda (unassisted)
14:14 OB #12 Nick Geraci (#22 Ryan Melis)

#33 Travis O’Brien (OB) 21-18
#33 Josh Ofner (MK) 26-25

Power plays: MK 1-5, OB 0-9

JY20: Let the tournaments begin!

December 17, 2015 on 7:53 am | In history, JY20 | No Comments

Everybody’s favorite part of the high school hockey season is tournament time. By which, I mean the state tournaments that take place in late February and early March.

But tournament time happens in December, too, with holiday tournaments taking place throughout the state. Although they start this weekend with the 68th annual Lawrenceville Tournament, that’s for boarding schools. The regular kids start playing tournament games Sunday night, and they come in all shapes and sizes.

Continue reading JY20: Let the tournaments begin!…

Back in Jersey; has it always been this cold?

December 17, 2009 on 12:21 am | In game recap | No Comments

I have a long-running love affair with the Cron Tournament, always held in the first three weeks of December at Warinanco Rink in Roselle. (For more on our shared history, check out my post from 2006, the first year I missed an edition entirely). Anyway, after missing the last three tournaments, I saw my first Cron action in four years tonight.

The short version is that in the third-place game, Summit and Westfield played to a 0-0, overtime tie that was, to me, exactly what the score reflects: evenly matched teams with trouble scoring. In the final, Morris Knolls reclaimed its title (the Golden Eagles’ six-year winning streak was snapped last year) by pounding Johnson (the team that snapped it) by a 13-4 score. Dillon Garritty won the MVP award for Knolls. More after the jump …

Continue reading Back in Jersey; has it always been this cold?…

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 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)
Continue reading 2009-10 season preview…

Opening Day!

November 30, 2008 on 12:23 pm | In analysis | No Comments

This is my second try at writing this post, so forgive some brevity; the first draft got deleted.

Opening Day arrives tomorrow, so here are a few notes and my preseason Top 10.

1. Colonia, JFK Memorial, and Woodbridge seem intent on retaining their JV status for this season despite including several varsity opponents (notably the new Shore C teams) on their schedule. I will be doing my best to keep track of their results, but to the best of my knowledge, games against these teams will NOT count toward teams’ records or state tournament eligibility.

2. Opening Day games to watch: Gloucester Catholic-Paul VI (first game; southern private battle); Howell-Brick Memorial (Howell’s first game); Colonia-Woodbridge (school-district rivalry); Malvern Prep-Bishop Eustace (big-time private game); Mendham-Westfield (Cron Tournament); Ramsey-Fair Lawn (NBIAL Cup rematch); and West Orange-Livingston (teams celebrating 50th anniversary of NJ hockey).

3. There will be an update to schedules and whatnot later Sunday afternoon. Any changes/corrections can be emailed to me.
4. HNIB Preseason Top 10 (I had a lot of information but by no means all):

1. Delbarton (27-1-1)
2. Bishop Eustace (15-8-4)
3. Bergen Catholic (12-10-5)
4. CBA (19-4-2)
5. Don Bosco Prep (9-11-5)
6. Ridge (23-4-3)
7. St. Augustine Prep (17-7-3)
8. Seton Hall Prep (7-10-5)
9. Morris Knolls (15-11-1)
10. Red Bank Catholic (21-3-2)

5. So you’re aware, I will be out of the country on vacation from December 7-17 and will not be updating the site during that time. I will do my best to catch up when I return, so please continue sending scores to jty [at] I will be in New Jersey Dec. 19-26, so I will get to see a few games during that time.

6. Enjoy Opening Day, and here’s wishing all the players, coaches, parents, and fans a safe and happy high school hockey season!

7. Some rules updates, courtesy of the occasionally helpful NJSIAA:

2008-2009 Ice Hockey Rules Modification

Rule 1-4 Goal Crease The NFHS goal crease shall not be required in a rink for a contest to be played. Contests shall be permitted to be played in rinks which have truncated “NHL style” goals creases. Contests played with “NHL Style” goal creases shall utilize the truncated crease for that contest.

Rule 1-9-2 Player’s Bench The number of team personnel permitted to occupy the team bench area shall be unlimited.

Rule 2-4-2 Starting Lineups Teams shall be allowed a one minute warm up skate between periods. During this warm up period, no pucks shall be allowed on the ice.

Rule 3-4-4 Protective Equipment A player who loses his/her dental guard during play shall be permitted to complete his/her playing shift without it. During the next stoppage of play, it shall be the responsibility of the player, and not the referee, to immediately retrieve their dental guard.

Rule 6-35 Start of Game and Periods/Pregame Warm-Up Ice resurfacing shall not be allowed between the pregame warm up and the first period. “Dirty ice” may be utilized for warm up however, the first period shall commence immediately after the conclusion of warm up. For violation of this rule, the offending team(s) shall be assessed a minor penalty and the incident shall be reported to the NJSIAA office.

Rule 6-37-3 Time of Game Upon completion of the second period or, at any time during the third period, if there is a ten goal differential, the game shall end immediately and will be considered complete.

Rule 6-38 Tied Games 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.

Linking my way through the state tournament

March 6, 2007 on 10:40 am | In analysis | No Comments

Obviously, I was not at any of the nine state tournament games yesterday – the last day of the hockey season with that many games – but plenty of reporters around the state were, so I’m going to link you to their excellent coverage. Thank God wrestling season is over, so maybe in a week we can stop reading after-the-fact coverage of the wrestling finals and actually see some hockey. (Seriously, what the heck do they write about? Wrestling takes up more room than any sport except basketball, and that is completely out of proportion to how many people care about it, in my very biased opinion.)

Hopewell Valley-Middletown South: The Trentonian

Seton Hall Prep-Monsignor Donovan: Ocean County Observer

Middletown North-Princeton: Asbury Park Press

Ramapo-Wall: Bergen Record | Asbury Park Press

In other games, Mitch Wien (goals, points) and Alex Toth (wins) continued to set Steinert records by the dozen in an impressive 10-3 win over Kinnelon. Wien scored four goals, Gil Schaffer had six points, and Toth made 31 saves. Steinert next faces Randolph, which recently beat Kinnelon 10-1 in the Mennen Cup quarterfinals.

Paramus Catholic edged MKA 2-1, avenging the Paladins’ first loss of the season Dec. 30. PC moves on to play Delbarton tonight.

Montgomery beat Mahwah 5-2, setting up one of the best public school second-round games against Chatham Wednesday night.

Mendham beat Pequannock 5-2, advancing to play Morris Knolls for the fourth time this year. The Golden Eagles eliminated the Minutemen from the Cron Tournament and the Mennen Cup and beat them in the regular season. Fourth time’s a charm? Seems unlikely.

Finally, St. Augustine Prep had no trouble with Morristown-Beard, winning 6-1. Nice to get an at-large bid to the tournament; not nice to face a top-five seed in the first game.

For some analysis of the remaining rounds, read on …. Continue reading Linking my way through the state tournament…

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