Vernon 2021-22 preview: New coach to lead Vikings

VERNON VIKINGS

Head coach: Christian Conway, first season.

Division: Haas

Last year: Vernon finished 7-4-2, with a 5-3-2 mark in the Haas Division. It ultimately fell to Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown, 6-3 in the Haas Cup semifinals.

Key losses: Ayden Steinbach, F. (13 g., 11 a.)

Top returners: Dylan Shea, F., Sr.; Evan Steinbach, F., Sr.; Devin England, F., Jr.; Lucas Brennan, D., Sr.; Jonathan Chromcik, D., Jr.

Newcomers: Max Badu, G., Jr.

Outlook: Vernon has become one of the more consistent programs in the area over the last few years, and even recently had a three-year stint in the Halvorsen Division from 2017-18 through 2019-20, which included a Halvorsen regular-season title in 2018-19, before moving back down to Haas for last season.

Behind the bench will look a bit different this winter though, as long-time assistant Christian Conway was elevated to the head coaching position this offseason. He takes over for Ray Zimmerman, who had been the head coach since the program’s inception in 2004. Conway has been an assistant under Zimmerman for the last 16 years, which should make for a smooth transition as the players are already familiar with him.

Led by senior forwards Dylan Shea (24 g., 15 a.) and Evan Steinbach (15 g., 15 a.) along with junior Devin England (3 g., 3 a.), Vernon figures to have a very strong top line up front. On defense, Vernon will be led by senior Lucas Brennan (16 a.), and junior Jonathan Chromcik. After graduating goalie Ozzie De Luca, Vernon will turn to junior Max Badu to take over in net.

The Haas Division figures to be very competitive this winter, but Vernon should be in a good spot going into this season with the firepower it has up front with Shea and Steinbach. The key will be finding supplemental offense outside of the top line, and it will also need a solid season in goal from Badu. If those two things can happen, Vernon should find itself right in the mix as one of the top teams in the Haas.

E-mail Mike Gurnis at michaelgurnis@gmail.com

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