• Mike Gurnis

2018-19 Morris Knolls team preview

LAST SEASON: Morris Knolls finished with a 12-10-2 overall record, in which it reached the semifinals of the Mennen Cup, and saw its season end in the quarterfinals of the Public B state tournament at the hands of eventual champion Northern Highlands.


HEAD COACH: Tim Kepler, third season. (30-16-4 career record).


CONFERENCE AND CLASSIFICATION: MCSSIHL-Mennen Division; NJSIAA Public A (moved from Public B last season)


KEY PLAYERS GRADUATED: The good news for Morris Knolls going into 2018-19 is that it will have an experienced group returning after graduating just four seniors from last year's team. The biggest hit it took was on the blue line, though, as Ryan Martinez (7 g., 5 a.) and Dougie Fischer (7 g., 4 a.) both were lost to graduation.


FORWARDS: Morris Knolls has a talented and experienced group of forwards returning, led by seniors Kyle Conklin (5 g., 8 a.) and Jacob Walsh (11 g., 7 a.). Conklin scored one of the team's biggest goals of the season last year, as he netted the game-winning overtime goal in the team's Mennen Cup first round win over Morristown. The rest of the forward group provided a balanced attack last year, as seniors Jason Miesegaes, Sean Murray (4 g., 7 a.) and Kieran Regan (5 g., 7 a.) are all back. Also look for contributions from junior Jason Moskowitz as well as sophomores Jake Diloretto, Dylan Idland, Jason Kwestel, and Andrew Ryan.


DEFENSE: Morris Knolls had a strong defensive unit in 2017-18, which surrendered just 2.16 goals per game while playing in the tough Mennen Division. While Martinez and Fischer are both gone, seniors Tik Ryerson and Robbie Singley will be counted on to lead the way, along with junior Derek Coleman and sophomore Timmy Kepler. Senior Joe Rabeno, who joins the team by way of its new co-op agreement with Morris Hills (more on that below), should also factor in after putting up 14 goals and 11 assists last season for the Scarlet Knights. Junior Gavin Walsh should also be a factor this season as well.


GOALTENDING: Senior Ty Franchi returns as the team's primary starter after impressive sophomore and junior seasons in net. He posted a .926 sv% last season while surrendering just 2.44 goals per game. It can also count on senior Andrew Rush as well, as he posted a 1.86 GAA and a .911 sv% in seven starts last year.


OUTLOOK: As previously mentioned, it will be a bit of a different look for Morris Knolls this season as it is now in a co-op agreement with Morris Hills, which was slated to just have eight returning players on its roster going into this year. How the players adapt to playing with each other in this new co-op will certainly be a storyline to watch throughout the year.

As for the on-ice expectations, Morris Knolls should be a factor in the Mennen Division once again after a bit of a down year in 2017-18. The squad's scoring should improve thanks in large part to the fact that its group of forwards all gained valuable experience while playing in arguably the toughest division in the state. It has as good of a goaltending duo as you'll find between Franchi and Rush, which will serve it well come tournament time. The co-op with Morris Hills also means it is now classified in Public A for the state tournament. Morris Knolls last won a state championship in 2015, but this team should enter the year as one of the top contenders in Public A, which was won by Hunterdon Central in 2017-18.

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