By Mike Gurnis
Kinnelon will be forming a tri-op with Sparta and Jefferson in ice hockey for the 2020-21 season, Kinnelon athletic director Scott Rosenberg confirmed on Wednesday.
Rosenberg cited declining numbers as the primary reason for Kinnelon’s decision to enter into a tri-op program. As it is, Kinnelon is the smallest ice hockey-playing stand alone public school in New Jersey with an enrollment of 490.
Despite being just a year removed from its only Halvorsen Cup title, Kinnelon has struggled in recent seasons. It dropped down to the Halvorsen in 2017 after playing in one of the state’s top divisions in the Mennen Division for several years, and finished 2-15-2 overall in its first year in the Halvorsen in 2017-18. After winning the cup in 2018-19, it again finished with two wins this past season.
Sparta-Jefferson finished just ahead of Kinnelon in fifth place this season with a 4-12-3 overall record. Numbers have also been an issue for the program, as just 11 players suited up for the team’s Sussex Cup final loss to Vernon last season. The co-op first came together in 2016-17 for a second-place finish, prior to middle-of-the-pack finishes for the past three years.
The tri-op will join eight other Morris and Sussex joint programs, which include reigning Public A champion Morris Knolls-Hills to go along with Park Regional (Hanover Park/Whippany Park), Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown, High Point-Wallkill Valley, Mountain Lakes-Boonton, Parsippany Regional (Parsippany/Parsippany Hills), Newton-Lenape Valley, and Morris Catholic-DePaul. That means almost half of the 20 programs in the MCSSIHL are now co-op or tri-op programs.
The newly-formed tri-op will remain in the Halvorsen Division for the 2020-21 season.
In an ironic twist, Kinnelon’s only state championship- the Public B title in 2008- came against Jefferson, one of the schools that it will now be sharing the same bench with.