• Mike Gurnis

Observations, news and notes for Dec. 9

By Mike Gurnis

With the season now two weeks old, there is a good amount to discuss as teams have now played 4-5 games by this point.


Here are some of the top topics, news, and notes from the first two weeks of the season in the Morris/Sussex area.


RANDOLPH TAKING AIM AT MENNEN DIVISION EARLY

In the early part of the season, Randolph is quickly emerging as the team to beat in the stacked Mennen Division.


The Rams, which won their first Mennen Cup title in 10 years last winter, were hit very hard by graduation from last year's team which also reached the Public B final. It lost some key forwards in Will Zimmer, Nick Civetta, and Adam Redgate, and also graduated one of the top goalies in the state in Scott Kimiecik.


But Rich McLaughlin's team always reloads year-after-year, and this year certainly appears to be no exception. Through four games, the Rams have picked up four wins in the Mennen Division over Morristown, Chatham, Morris Knolls and Madison.


These wins haven't exactly been squeakers, either. Randolph has not only out-scored its opponents 21-4 in those four wins, but it has dominated possession and has out-shot teams at a stunning rate. It holds an unbelievable 149-47 shots on goal advantage through four games, as it out-shot rival Morris Knolls 48-9, before holding a 33-5 shots advantage against Madison.


Now, it's no secret that Randolph historically has prided itself on puck possession and shutting teams down in the neutral zone, but even for them, those numbers are eye-popping. Especially when you consider the competition it is facing on a nightly basis in this division. It will be very interesting to see if it can continue this dominance through the rest of the year.


WHO WANTS TO WIN THE HALVORSEN?

The Halvorsen Division appears to be as wide-open as ever, with Kinnelon, Montville and Vernon tied for first place with four points apiece through three divisional games.


This coming week may be able to provide some clarity in this early-season divisional race, though. On Monday night, Vernon battles Montville at 8:30 p.m. at Mennen Arena, before taking on a Roxbury team on Thursday that it previously lost 5-1 to earlier this year. Montville will take on West Morris on Saturday, while Kinnelon faces the Wolfpack on Monday.


Don't count out the teams that aren't tied for first place, either. Sparta-Jefferson earned a 3-0 win over first place Montville in the season-opener. Roxbury, as previously mentioned, owns a 5-1 win over first place Vernon. West Morris has a win over Roxbury, and has had some hard-fought losses to Vernon as well as Madison from the Mennen Division.


MENDHAM RESURGENCE

The 2017-18 season was a year to forget for Mendham, which finished the year with a 1-17-1 record.


It finished in last place in the Halvorsen Division, which led to it moving to the Haas Division for this season. But this season has been a different story, as the Minutemen currently stand at a perfect 4-0 in the Haas Division with wins over Mount Olive, Park Regional, High Point-Wallkill Valley, and Parsippany Regional.


Jake Marszalek and Ryan Bruin have led the way offensively for Mendham, as Marszalek leads the team in goals with seven. Bruin, on the other hand, holds the points lead with nine (4 g., 5 a.). It's a very young roster, too- Marszalek is the only senior on the team- which makes their success that much more impressive. It has emerged as the clear-cut favorite in the Haas Division in the early part of the year, and the future certainly appears bright for this program after a tough year last season.


MORE NEWS AND NOTES

-- Mount Olive coach Mike Behre earned the 100th win of his 10-year career in the team's 10-2 win over Newton-Lenape Valley back on Nov. 29. His career record stands at 101-99-16.


-- Behre wasn't the only coach to hit a milestone so far, though, as Mendham's John Kovacs earned his 35oth win in the team's first win of the year against Mount Olive on Nov. 24. His record is now 353-314-52 in 32 years, which includes nine years at Morris Knolls and 23 at Mendham.


-- One of the more eye-opening results from the first few weeks came this past week when Vernon traveled down the Shore to face St. John Vianney, which was ranked No. 10 in the state by NJ.com at the time. Vernon managed to earn a 3-3 tie with the Lancers, as Cole Brennan, T.J. Santaita and Jack Bokun each scored.


-- In girls hockey, Morristown-Beard is off to another strong start. After losing its season opener to Hill (Pa.), it bounced back with wins over Westfield and Portledge (N.Y.). Chatham-Madison is off to a perfect 3-0 start after defeating Pingry, Kent Place and Summit. Randolph, on the other hand, suffered a pair of losses to Summit to open the year, before rallying in the third period to earn a 2-2 tie with Westfield on Saturday.


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