Morris Knolls-Hills 2021-22 preview: Heavy turnover for back-to-back state champions

MORRIS KNOLLS-HILLS

Head coach: Tim Kepler, sixth year (68-37-11 career record)

Division: Mennen

Last year: Morris Knolls-Hills finished 6-6-1 with a 3-3-1 Mennen Division record. It topped Randolph, 4-1 in the Mennen Cup semifinals, before falling to Morristown-Beard 3-1 in the final.

Key losses: Gehrig Eckoff, F; J.D. Florio, D; Timmy Kepler, D; Jason Kwestel, F; Andrew Ryan, F.

Top returners: Luke Dickerson, F, So.; Evan Kelly, D, Sr.; Ryan Manz, F, Jr.; Aidan Marvin, G, Jr.; Bryan McCarter, D, Jr.; Christian Monaco, D, Sr.; Ryan Murcer, F, Sr.; Michael Simone, F, So.; Kyle Thornton, F, Sr.; Dante Tironi, D, Sr.; Ryan Walter, D, Jr.

Newcomers: Aiden Chominsky, G, Sr.; Graham Leonard, D, So.; Matt Kuglin, F, Sr.; John Martinez, F, So.; Jake McCloud, F, Fr.; Patrick McGavin, F, Sr.; Alan Williams, F, Jr.

Outlook: The back-to-back Public A state champions likely would have been the favorite to complete the three-peat last winter had a state tournament been held. Instead, due to COVID taking out last year’s tourney, Morris Knolls-Hills will find itself defending its state championship with a much different cast than the group it had returning last year.

It graduated the team’s top three scorers in Kwestel, Eckoff, and Ryan, along with other key forwards in Dylan Idland, Jake DiLoreto, Jeffrey Quinn. In total, of the 42 goals the team scored last season, it will have to replace 35 of them. It also has to replace a pair of strong leaders on the back end in Timmy Kepler and J.D. Florio.

There’s a lot of question about where the offense will come from this season, but sophomore Luke Dickerson showed some promise last season with four goals and three assists in 13 games. Senior Kyle Thornton is another player who contributed last season who will be counted on to find the back of the net. Defensively, Morris Knolls-Hills will look to junior Bryan McCarter, senior Christian Monaco, senior Dante Tironi, and junior Ryan Walter to lead the way.

In goal, Aidan Marvin returns after starting every game last season.

With the amount of roster turnover it will have to deal with this season, Morris Knolls-Hills is a bit of an unknown at this point. What we do know, however, is that this program always puts out a roster of players that will work hard and give an honest effort night-in and night-out. These players have seen first-hand what it takes to win championships from the players that came before them the last few years, and now they’ll get a chance to put that experience towards a title of their own.

E-mail Mike Gurnis at michaelgurnis@gmail.com

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