Patience is beginning to pay big dividends for the Mount Olive hockey team.
Two years removed from fielding a strong but inexperienced freshmen class, Marauders’ head coach Mike Behre and his staff has watched this same group of players blossom this season. With three league games remaining, the Marauders currently lead the Haas Division of the MCSSIHL and control their own destiny in their quest to win a division title.
“The group we have now has reached a maturity level as juniors that have allowed them to be successful,” Behre said. “Our goal coming into the season was to win the division, win the Haas Cup, and qualify for states. But we really do take it one game, one period at a time.”
The Marauders currently own a 10-2-2 record overall (7-7-1 in divisional play) and hold a two-point over Madison in the Haas Division standings. If they win their final three league games against Morris Hills, Morris Catholic, and Parsippany, they will capture the Haas Division regular-season title and set themselves up as the favorite to win the school’s first-ever Haas Cup.
“To win the Haas Cup would be a great accomplishment,” Behre said. “We’ve never won it as a school and it would mean a great deal. There will be some very tough teams to get through like Madison and Park (Regional) but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
The Marauders have been led by its top line of juniors Ethan Hendrickson (4-11-25), Casey Delorenzo (10-12-22) and Michael Jeska (1-4-5). The second unit of Matt Sanchez (2-12-14), senior Mark Bellanca (6 goals), and Pat Garvey (5-2-7) have also been productive. A third line of Justin Murray, Adam Aukamp and Trevor Lee have also contributed.
Senior defenseman Chris Sanchez (7-6-13) leads the defense along with partner Brad Evans. The second pairing includes Jack Thrun (4-4-8) and Nick Prasisto (2-6-8). The goaltending duties have been handled by junior Jordan Bustard (10-2-2, 2.33 GAA), who has started every game between the pipes.
“It’s really a lunch-pail group,” Behre said. “They come to the rink ready to go to work and so far it’s paid off.”
Knolls Wins Mennen
Morris Knolls became the first team in the MCSSIHL to secure a division title over the weekend when the point it earned in a 2-2 tie with Morristown-Beard gave the Golden Eagles the Mennen Division regular-season crown.
The defending Mennen Cup champions, who defeated Randolph 2-1 in last year’s final, will be the top seed in this year’s Mennen Cup for the first time since 2006. Last year, the Golden Eagles finished second in the Mennen Division during the regular season, one point behind Randolph, before topping the Rams in a thrilling Cup final.
Been a Long Time
When Morristown defeated Randolph 4-1 on Friday, it marked the first time in 13 years that the Colonials had topped the Rams, dating back to the mid-1990s. The Rams topped the Colonials twice last year, once in the regular season and then again in the Public A final at the Prudential Center. Randolph won the teams’ first meeting this season before the Colonials finally snapped the streak on Friday. The teams could meet again in the Mennen Cup but will not face off again in the state tournament with Morristown’s move to Public B.
Player to Watch
Mendham freshman Grant Jozefek has been turning heads with his outstanding play for the Minutemen. Entering yesterday’s out-of-league game against St. Rose (Belmar), the first-year standout was second in the state in scoring with 29 goals and 25 assists for 54 points. In January, he has compiled 15 goals and 14 assists in just six games playing on a line with junior Paul Michura (transfer from Seton Hall Prep) and another freshman in Matt Lavallette. Jozefek, who also skates for the New Jersey Avalanche AAA Midget National, is a candidate for USA Hockey National Development Team program Under-17 team tryouts, which will be held the last week of March in Ann Arbor, Mich.