By Mike Gurnis
Morristown-Beard, which has been one of the top programs in Morris County as well as the state over the years, is undergoing a bit of a transition this season.
After former NHL defenseman Randy Velischek did not return to the program after a successful nine-year run, Scott Greene was called upon to take over as head coach prior to this season.
Now, Greene has his first win in leading the Crimson. While it admittedly wasn’t the prettiest game, Morristown-Beard earned a 4-1 win over Montville on Saturday evening at Mennen Arena, behind sophomore Seth Kaplan’s four-point performance.
“Tonight, it was obviously nice to get the first win. It wasn’t probably our best effort overall,” Greene said. “We’re looking to play a more disciplined game while implementing our new systems. We have a lot of young guys so we’re still learning a lot. We have some good guys and we’re proud of some of the work ethic from the guys. We’re hoping for some more success as we continue to get to know each other and build together as a team.”
Both Morristown-Beard (1-0-1) and Montville (0-2) went into Saturday’s game looking to get their first wins. Morristown-Beard skated to a 4-4 tie in its Mennen Division opener with Madison last Saturday, while Montville suffered a 3-0 loss to Sparta-Jefferson in its Halvorsen opener.
The game was filled with penalties by both sides, and the amount of power play time each squad had was reflected in the final shot tally- which was an unusually high 56-41 advantage for Morristown-Beard.
While Montville goalie Adrian Prelich did a great job of keeping his team in the game, Morristown-Beard was able to find the back of the net on four of those shots- including two on the power play- and Kaplan was involved in all four.
Kaplan, who had a strong freshman season last year with 12 goals, scored a power play goal with 4:12 left in the first period to put his team on the board. He then set up Matt Dertouzos and Andrew Low for a pair of goals just 30 seconds apart early in the second period, before adding another assist on Nick Vantassell’s power play goal early in the third to build a four-goal advantage.
“Seth’s a really important part of the team,” Greene said. “He’s been a great player especially for being a sophomore. He’s extremely talented and brings a good work ethic to the rink. Guys look up to him and he does really well as far as putting points up. He’s someone we’re going to look to this year and rely on.”
However, Montville had some solid opportunities to score late, and finally got on the board with a shorthanded goal with 5:07 to go in the game. Daniel Scheine scored on a breakaway with three seconds left on a Morristown-Beard power play, which cut the deficit to three.
Morristown-Beard was then called for a double-minor following that goal, which gave Montville a golden opportunity to crawl back in the game. But it was able to close out the game, despite taking nine penalties, which is something this group knows it will have to clean up going forward.
“Honestly, I thought we played pretty well but we did have some weak areas through,” Kaplan said. “The penalties took a toll on us. We had nine over 45 minutes, so that’s like 20 minutes of the game. But we still got our first win and it feels good.”
The outlook certainly looks positive for Morristown-Beard, which graduated a ton of talent from last season’s Mennen Cup finalist. It does have some talented young players though, and while its always a challenge to adapt to a new coach with new systems, it feels that its best days are ahead of it.
“It’s always hard to implement a new system with limited time and starting the season on November 5th,” Greene said. “Guys have responded well. We’re trying to play a fun system of hockey, but also disciplined and aggressive. It’s nice for us to be able to practice most days. Guys are buying in quickly. Every day we’re learning something different, but I’m proud of the way guys have responded. The work ethic has been good, and the discipline for the systems overall has been positive.”
The team is still finding its identity in the early going, but hopes that with more experience, it will evolve into the team it wants to be. It will certainly be tested throughout with a tough schedule in the Mennen Division, and has games against Princeton Day and Chatham on the horizon in the coming week.
“It’s good. We like coach a lot. He’s a good man,” Kaplan said. “I think we’re still figuring out what type of team we are. I think it’ll take us another game or two and then we’ll find our spot and start rolling through the season.”
MB — Seth Kaplan (Nick Vantassell) 4:12 PPG
MB — Matt Dertouzos (Seth Kaplan) 13:42
MB — Andrew Low (Seth Kaplan) 13:12
MB — Nick Vantassell (Seth Kaplan) 11:46 PPG
MONT — Daniel Scheine (Chase Unice) 5:07 SHG
Saves: Adrian Prelich (MONT) 52, Paul Detre (MB) 40.
Shots: Morristown-Beard 56, Montville 41.
Team records: Morristown-Beard 1-0-1, Montville 0-2.
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