Preview, predictions for Thursday's Mennen Cup semifinals
2-Randolph (16-2-4) vs. 6-Madison (9-12-1)
Thursday at 6:15pm, Mennen Arena
Previous meetings: Randolph rolled to a pair of victories over Madison in the regular season, as it won 6-0 on Dec. 30 before earning a 4-1 win on Feb. 1.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
J.T. Zangara (19 g., 16 a.), Ben Yurchuk (10 g., 19 a.), Evan Xhumba (8 g., 14 a.), Kyle Barbera (8 g., 15 a.), Nick Gallo (7 g., 4 a.), Zach Gallo (11 g., 16 a.), Ray McNamara (2 g., 8 a.)
Goalie: Gavin Einfeldt (16-2-3 record, .937 sv%, 1.10 GAA)
Jacoby Erickson (10 g., 12 a.), Matt Gero (5 g., 10 a.), Johnny Hamwee (5 g., 10 a.), Cormac McNamara (12 g., 10 a.), Aidan Niceberg (12 g., 15 a.), Tyler Shannon (5 g., 3 a.)
Goalie: Keaton Tom (.897 sv%, 3.18 GAA)
Can Madison pull off another stunner?
Madison sent shockwaves throughout the county last Thursday, as Keaton Tom's 43-save shutout gave the Dodgers a 1-0 win over third seed Morris Knolls-Hills in the first round of the Mennen Cup. Madison went into that game winless in divisional play, and had lost its two prior matchups to Knolls-Hills by a combined 16-1. But with postseason play comes a new beginning and a fresh start, and Madison made the most of it last Thursday, as it had its complete lineup on the ice for the first time since December.
But there are few teams that are as reliable in postseason play as Randolph. The Rams are built for this time of year, as their strong defensive play always seems to pay dividends in the postseason. It is also playing perhaps its best hockey of the season at this point, which is a scary thought for any opponent- Randolph has won four in a row, with wins over state-ranked Rumson-Fair Haven and Seton Hall Prep in its last two games.
Madison will likely need another big-time performance from Tom in order to have a shot in this one. Randolph is as good as any public school team in the state, and always seems to find a way to come through in these games. Expect the Rams to pull out the win.
Randolph 2, Madison 0
1-Morristown-Beard (17-4-1) vs. 4-Chatham (10-8-2)
Thursday at 8:15pm, Mennen Arena
Previous meetings: Morristown-Beard won both meetings against Chatham this season, beginning with a 5-2 win on Jan. 8 followed by a 6-0 win on Jan. 31.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cam Fernandez (13 g., 24 a.), Hollis Humphries (15 g., 19 a.), Seth Kaplan (17 g., 21 a.), D.J. Layden (6 g., 16 a.), Andrew Low (14 g., 17 a.), Tommy Matthews (20 g., 31 a.), Billy Moloney (2 g., 21 a.), Nick Vantassel (12 g., 17 a.)
Goalies: Chili Connell (.882 sv%), Paul Detre (.875 sv%), Luke McManus (.893 sv%)
Ryan Sordillo (13 g., 15 a.), Declan Curry (7 g., 8 a.), Brandon Lupi (7 g., 4 a.), Danny Mahoney (5 g., 5 a.).
Goalie: Jennifer Olnowich (.908 sv%)
Can Chatham find a way to slow Morristown-Beard down?
It's a problem that just about every opponent has had when facing Morristown-Beard this year. To put it plainly, this is a deep team that is loaded with offensive firepower, as it has six players who have scored double-digit goals this season. No matter who is on the ice for the Crimson, there is always playmaking ability out there as evidenced by the team's average of over five goals per game.
It's hard to compete with the speed that Morristown-Beard puts on the ice at any given time, but Chatham is coming off a game against Morristown in which it showed off its defensive ability by locking down a lead late in the final minutes. It will have to do whatever it can to take time and space away in the neutral zone away from Morristown-Beard, and will need to cash in on any opportunity it gets. It also helps that the Cougars have one of the better goalies in the Mennen Division in Olnowich to try to steal a game, if necessary.
Chatham appears to be gaining some momentum, spearheaded by its first round win over Morristown, but this Morristown-Beard team is a very difficult one to stop.
Morristown-Beard 5, Chatham 2