Mendham 2021 preview: Can juniors claim the three-peat?

MENDHAM MINUTEMEN

Head coach: John Kovacs, 25th year (34th overall). 255-246-43 career record at Mendham, 369-318-52 overall record between Mendham and Morris Knolls.

Division: Halvorsen

Last year: Mendham claimed the Halvorsen Cup, becoming the first team to win the Haas Cup and Halvorsen Cup in consecutive years. It finished with a 13-7-5 overall record and reached the NJSIAA Public C tournament, where it lost to Rumson-Fair Haven in the first round.

Key losses: Ryan Bruin, Sean Mason, Stefan Michura, Connor McDonough (transfer).

This year’s squad: Mendham’s impressive junior class has seen nothing but success since stepping onto the ice as freshman two seasons ago. Players such as Liam Lloyd (8 g., 8 a.), Tristan Aitkenhead (14 g., 15 a.), Griffin Jozefek (3 g., 16 a.), Gavin Marushetz, and Sean Caddo have been instrumental in Mendham’s resurgence over the past two seasons.

Aitkenhead, Jozefek, and Lloyd make up what should be as dynamic of a top forward line that you’ll find in the division. Sophomores E.J. Gleie (7 g., 2 a.), Michael Gionco (4 g., 2 a.), Ian Tambowalla, should also play a big role this year.

Defensively, Mendham will be anchored by junior Sean Caddo and sophomore Mac Goggin (4 g., 3 a.). Senior Cameron Weil will provide leadership as well.

The biggest question mark for Mendham will be in goal. Connor McDonough was rock-solid for this team for the past two seasons, but transferred to a prep school for his junior year and will not be suiting up for the Minutemen this winter. In his place, senior Tim Tamboowalla will get the bulk of the work in goal after seeing very limited action a year ago.

Outlook: Mendham’s rise over the past two seasons has been extremely impressive, given it won just one game during the 2017-18 season. The junior class, which were freshmen that came in in 2018-19, immediately breathed new life into this program and success came quickly. This program now finds itself in the position where it will be chasing a three-peat in terms of cup titles. The road to defending that title will be very difficult, however, with the Halvorsen Division looking as strong as it has been in recent memory, with Madison joining the division and the new Kinnelon-Sparta-Jefferson tri-op, along with perennially strong programs in Roxbury and Montville. But with how young this team still is, its best could still very well be in front of it. This is a very talented team that should continue to get better, and if Tamboowalla can hold his own in goal, expect this team to be at or near the top of this division.

2021 SCHEDULE

Jan. 15 — Kinnelon-Sparta-Jefferson (Skylands Ice World), 4:40 p.m.

Jan. 20 — Montville (Mennen Arena), 4 p.m.

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

Jan. 26 — Kinnelon-Sparta-Jefferson (Mennen Arena), 8 p.m.

Jan. 29 — Roxbury (Mennen Arena), 5;45 p.m.

Feb. 1 — Montville (Mennen Arena), 8:30 p.m.

Feb. 12 — Monroe (Jersey Shore Arena, Wall), 3:50 p.m.

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

Feb. 23 — Roxbury (Mennen Arena), 8 p.m.

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