Vernon 2018-19 team preview
LAST SEASON: Vernon put together another solid season as it finished 14-10-1 overall. It lost in the semifinals of the Halvorsen Cup to West Morris, before it suffered a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to Wall in overtime of the NJSIAA Public C quarterfinals. It also won the Sussex Cup for the second-consecutive season.
HEAD COACH: Ray Zimmerman, 15th season. 169-157-21 career record.
CONFERENCE AND CLASSIFICATION: MCSSIHL-Halvorsen Division; NJSIAA Public C.
KEY PLAYERS GRADUATED: Vernon will have a lot to replace offensively after the graduation of its top scorer in Patrick Graham (34 g., 27 a.). Eric Loughren (17 g., 11 a.) and D.J. Decker (5 g., 7 a.) are also key forwards gone. Defensively, the Vikings will need to replace Ryan Eilinger and Steven Gay (8 g., 19 a.).
FORWARDS: While one of the top scorers in the area in Graham is gone, the Vikings will still be able to count on a couple of returning forwards who produced nicely last season. Senior Shane Brennan leads the forward group after posting 13 goals and 11 assists last year, while T.J. Santaita tallied nine goals and 15 assists. Look for promising freshmen Dylan Shea and Lucas Brennan to also contribute this year.
DEFENSE: Senior Jack Bokun has proven to be a two-way threat for Vernon during his high school career with 103 career points to his name, after posting 14 goals and 21 assists a year ago. In terms of offensive production, he's Vernon's top returning scorer. Junior Cole Brennan (5 g., 6 a.) has also shown the ability to chip in offensively as well as play strong defensively.
GOALTENDING: Vernon has a pair of sophomore goaltenders who saw time during their freshman seasons in 2017-18. Ozzie Deluca saw the bulk of the work last year and stopped 449 of the 509 shots he faced for an .882 save percentage. Jacob King made just four appearances last year, but got the start and earned a 17-save shutout in Vernon's 3-0 season-opening win over West Morris on opening night this past Saturday.
OUTLOOK: Going into this season, Vernon will have a lot of offensive talent to replace, most notably Graham, who led the state in goal scoring two years ago. However, there is enough talent returning in all areas of the ice that Vernon should once again be in the mix in the Halvorsen Division. This team has a solid defensive unit led by a dynamic two-way player in Bokun, along with some strong forwards led by Shane Brennan. If the goaltending duo of Deluca and King can take a step forward this year, then Vernon has a legitimate chance to capture its first-ever Halvorsen Cup as well as make a run in the state tournament.