Preview, predictions for Halvorsen Cup semifinals
1-Roxbury (11-8-2) vs. 4-Vernon (12-11)
Wednesday at 7:30pm, Mennen Arena
Previous meetings: Roxbury won both meetings between these teams, as it got a 6-4 win on Dec. 7, before earning a 6-3 win more recently on Jan. 23.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nick Hefferle (21 g., 10 a.), Ethan Barooah (4 g., 15 a.), Kevin Keane (10 g., 15 a.), Nick Thomas (12 g., 13 a.), Brian Westergaard (7 g., 7 a.)
Goalie: Ryan Callahan (9-6-1 record, .874 sv%, 3.25 GAA)
T.J. Santaita (29 g., 22 a.), Dylan Shea (18 g., 24 a.), Ayden Steinbach (19 g., 28 a.), Evan Steinbach (18 g., 17 a.), Lucas Brennan (1 g., 12 a.), Devan England (7 g., 13 a.)
Goalie: Ozzie Deluca (12-11, .872 sv%, 3.61 GAA)
This is a battle of two teams that have gone through their share of ups-and-downs throughout the year.
Roxbury, while it finished at 7-2-1 in the division to take the regular season Halvorsen title, has traded wins and losses throughout the year. It has an offense that, when it is rolling, is very difficult to stop, as Vernon learned in both meetings where Roxbury found the back of the net six times each.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for Vernon after starting the season 1-6. It has closed out the season with wins in six of its last seven games, and clinched a state tournament berth on the season's last day with a win. Since that 1-6 start, it has gone 11-5, and has emerged as the highest-scoring offense in the Halvorsen with 109 goals, which is 33 more than Roxbury, the next-highest scoring team. It's a young Vernon roster with just three seniors, but one that is full of talent.
While Vernon has been rolling as of late, it's hard to go against the team that won the regular season title in Roxbury. Look for Roxbury to pull out the win in a high-scoring game.
Roxbury 5, Vernon 4
2-Montville (13-7-3) vs. 3- Mendham (10-6-5)
Thursday at 4:15pm, Mennen Arena
Previous meetings: These squads skated to a 2-2 tie on Jan. 9, as Mendham scored twice in the third period to rally from a two-goal deficit. When they met again on Jan. 20, Montville rolled to a 6-1 victory behind a four-goal night from Brendan Perretta.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Danny Scheine (21 g., 19 a.), Brendan Perretta (18 g., 13 a.), Joe Nuzzi (12 g., 26 a.), Connor Perez (8 g., 8 a.), Matt Szwagulinski (6 g., 10 a.)
Goalie: Adrian Prelich (.886 sv%)
Tristan Aikenhead (12 g., 13 a.), Ryan Bruin (13 g., 16 a.), Griffin Jozefek (3 g., 14 a.), Liam Lloyd (6 g., 6 a.), Sean Mason (2 g., 9 a.), E.J. Gleie (6 g., 2 a.)
Goalie: Connor McDonough (.930sv%)
Montville fell short of the regular season title with an upset loss to Kinnelon in the regular season finale last Saturday. But the good thing for Montville is that the Halvorsen Cup is still there for the taking, and can erase the memories of that finale with two wins in this tournament.
The Mustangs have a very strong offense led by Scheine, Perretta, and Nuzzi, to go along with a solid defense which can jump in on the play offensively with Szwagulinski leading the way. It has stumbled a little bit down the stretch, going 2-4-1 in its last seven, but three of those losses came by one goal, and two were to Mennen Division teams in Madison and Morris Knolls-Hills. It also lost by three to a Westfield team that is considered one of the top teams in Public B.
Mendham has made the leap up from the Haas to the Halvorsen after winning the Haas Cup in dominant fashion a year ago, and has adapted nicely. It has shown it can compete with the best in the division as evidenced by its tie with Montville earlier this year, as well as a win and a tie against the top seed in Roxbury. It's a very young roster that rolled through the Haas Division with the core of the team being freshmen last year, and players like Aikenhead, Jozefek, Lloyd, and McDonough have continued to develop as sophomores.
This is an interesting match-up, as both teams are very capable both offensively and defensively. While it certainly would not be a surprise to see Mendham win this game, expect a motivated Montville team that is looking to make up for falling just short of the regular season title to come away with the win.
Montville 3, Mendham 2
Contact Mike Gurnis via e-mail at email@example.com