With sudden and widespread success come great expectations.
That’s what awaits the Morristown hockey team this winter as the Colonials attempt an encore performance to their 2011-12 season that saw them capture the Halvorsen Cup in the Morris County Secondary Schools Interscholastic Hockey League before making a run to the NJSIAA Public A final where they were derailed by Randolph.
While such big names as Jordan Klotz, Zach Mourad (graduation) and Steven Windt (transfer to Cushing Academy) may have moved on, the Colonials return a solid nucleus that must find its way in the mighty Mennen Division with an eye toward a return trip to the Prudential Center in March.
“We definitely feel like we have unfinished business from last year,” said Morristown head coach Bobby Jones. “We know how tough it’s going to be night in and night out in the Mennen Division and we lost some top players but the kids have set high expectations for themselves. Our end goal is to win a state championship and every game we play is one little piece of that.”
This year’s edition of the Colonials, which will compete in Public B this winter, may not score as many goals as last year’s squad, but the defense and goaltending should lead the way. Sophomore goaltender Shane Brown is coming off a brilliant freshman campaign that saw him post a 25-3 record while allowing just over one goal per contest.
“Shane gained a huge amount of confidence last year and I think that radiates to the other players,” said Jones.
While the defense will be missing top blueliner Windt, who transferred to Cushing Academy, Jones says his defense corps runs seven deep this winter with key returnees Sean Petrie, Luke Freeland, Brian Keller, and JP Halis along with the addition of talented newcomers Justin Leifer, Kyle Beyer and Nick Swiontkowski.
Offensively, the Colonials must find a way to replace Mourad and Klotz’s 60 goals and 105 points, along with Windt’s 24 points and puck-moving prowess from the blueline.
“We don’t need to replace those guys with two 50-goal scorers, we need to have a group of players lift their game and contribute,” Jones said.
Leading the way up front for the Colonials will be its top line of senior Tommy Donofrio, who finished second to Mourad in scoring last season with 20 goals and 28 assists for 48 points, junior Brian Begley, who collected 35 points a year ago, along with freshman Bradley Greik. The Szary twins, Jack and Cam, will be two of the players expected to take the next step this season in contributing offensively.
The Colonials will get a taste of life in the Mennen Division immediately with games against heavyweights Morristown-Beard, Randolph, and Morris Knolls.
Something old, something new
Parsippany Hills and Parsippany have entered into a co-op agreement and will operate as a single team for the first time in 14 seasons. The team will be co-coached by Jared Wohl and Joe Swanson, head coaches of Parsippany Hills and Parsippany, respectively, last season. In 14 prior seasons, Parsippany Hills and Parsippany each qualified for the state tournament only three times. Dan Bellafiore, who scored 24 goals for Parsippany last season, and Cory DeCosta, who tallied 22 goals for Parsippany Hills a year ago, will lead what should immediately be a stronger contender in the Haas Division.
The MCSSIHL has also added two new teams this season in Sparta and Gill St. Bernard’s. Sparta, which formerly competed in the NJIHL West, will compete in the Halvorsen Division while Gill will skate in the Haas Division.
The beat goes on
Five-time defending non-public school champion Delbarton will once again be among the teams to beat in the state this winter. Head coach Bruce Shatel lost 14 lettermen from last year’s squad and may not have the depth of the past few years, but will boast arguably the top line in the state in John Baiocco (28-27-55), Josh Melnick (22-25-47) and Alex Hagerty (14-20-34).
The Morristown-Beard girls’ hockey team owns a 36-1 record over the past two seasons and has captured three straight Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) titles. And the Crimson shows no signs of slowing down this winter.
Led by the return of senior forwards Allie Aiello (24-22-46) and Brette Brier (21-12-33) and sophomore sniper Kendall Cornine (17-20-37), head coach Bruce Driver’s group should again challenge for the WIHLMA title.