Madison 2021 preview: New coach, high hopes in Halvorsen Division

MADISON DODGERS

Head coach: Joe Cecala takes over as Madison’s head man after an extremely successful 16-year tenure by Dave Hansen, which included over 200 wins and Haas, Halvorsen, and Mennen Cup titles. Cecala has been an assistant under Hansen since 2011.

Division: Halvorsen

Last year: Madison took a step back one year after winning its first Mennen Cup title, and finished 11-14-1 and last place in the Mennen Division. However, it pulled off one of the more surprising upsets of the year when it shut out eventual Public A champion Morris Knolls-Hills, 1-0, in the first round of the Mennen Cup, before bowing out to Randolph in the semifinals. It lost to eventual Public C champion Summit in the first round of the state tournament.

Key losses: Matt Leone, Liam Fry, Alvin Rhee, Sean Hoover.

This year’s squad: Madison expects to lean on a talented trio of senior forwards in Aidan Niceberg (17 g., 18 a.), Jacoby Erickson (12 g., 16 a.), and Jonny Hamwee (5 g., 11 a.). Sophomore Tyler Shannon, juniors Andrew Haralampoudis, Luke Wirth, and Andrew Cimino, as well as sophomore Chris Piacenti are all expected to see significant time up front. Look for freshman forward Kyle Piechnik to have an impact as well.

Defensively, the Dodgers have a very strong core returning. Senior Matty Gero (7 g., 13 a.) will lead the way, with support from junior Liam O’Hearen, senior Mikey Scheler, and junior Ethan Veres, as well as freshman John Rusen.

But its biggest strength is in goal, where experienced netminder Keaton Tom (.898 sv%) is ready to start once again. The senior kept his team in games last season and registered five shutouts, including the 43-save performance in the team’s upset over Morris Knolls-Hills in the Mennen Cup first round. He was certainly battle-tested while playing in the tough Mennen Division, and figures to fit right in with the top goalies in the Halvorsen Division, which include Kinnelon-Sparta-Jefferson’s Brett Lewis and Mendham’s Connor McDonough.

Outlook: Madison makes the move to the Halvorsen Division after a last-place finish in the Mennen. This year’s group seems poised to take a step forward and should be in the mix for the Halvorsen title. However, it will be a tough challenge, as the Halvorsen Division- on paper- looks to be as strong as ever, with last year’s cup champ in Mendham returning a very strong roster, while Roxbury (last year’s regular season champion) and Montville (finished second in division) should be strong as they usually are. It will be interesting to see how things shake out in this abbreviated season for Madison- especially with a new head coach leading the way with limited practice time- but a strong goalie in Keaton Tom should give this team a chance every night.

2021 SCHEDULE

Jan. 15 — at Mountain Lakes-Boonton (Mennen Arena), 3:45 p.m.

Jan. 17 — vs. Morristown (Mennen Arena), 6:15 p.m.

Jan. 23 — vs. Mendham (Mennen Arena), 6:15 p.m.

Jan. 24 — vs. Morris Knolls-Hills (Mennen Arena), 6:15 p.m.

Jan. 29 — at Kinnelon-Sparta-Jefferson (Skylands Ice World), 4:40 p.m.

Feb. 3 — vs. Roxbury (Mennen Arena), 4 p.m.

Feb. 5 — vs. Kinnelon-Sparta-Jefferson (Mennen Arena), 5:45 p.m.

Feb. 8 — at Montville (Mennen Arena), 8:30 p.m.

Feb. 16 — vs. Mendham (Mennen Arena), 8 p.m.

Feb. 22 — vs. Montville (Mennen Arena) 4:30 p.m.

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