Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown 2021-22 preview: Cioce brothers lead strong group

MOUNT OLIVE-HOPATCONG-HACKETTSTOWN

Head coach: Ryan Tatarka, first year.

Division: Haas

Last year: Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown had a strong 2020-21 season, in which it reached the Haas Cup final where it dropped a heartbreaker in overtime to Mountain Lakes-Boonton, 3-2. It finished 7-4-1 overall with a 5-3-1 divisional record.

Key losses: Jason Bonante, D; Dante Duteau, G; Evan Parr, F.

Top returners: Nicholas Cioce, F, Jr.; Thomas Cioce, F, Sr.; Braden Ensinger, D, Jr.; Christian Hertzig, F, Jr.; Liam Murphy, F, Jr.; J.L. O’Toole, D, Jr.; A.J. Twist, F, Jr.; Ryan Twist, D, Jr.

Newcomers: Nick Gargiulo, G, Jr.; Liam Parr, F, Fr.

Outlook: Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown was that close to the program’s first Haas Cup since 2014, when it fell, 3-2 to Mountain Lakes-Boonton in overtime in last year’s final.

The good news is that the vast majority of that team is returning this winter, which should put this tri-op in good position to be at or near the top of the Haas Division this winter. It will do so with a new head coach behind the bench in Ryan Tatarka.

The team’s top two scorers in junior Nicholas Cioce (9 g., 5 a.) and senior Thomas Cioce (6 g., 11 a.) will be back this winter to anchor a talented group of forwards. Christian Hertzig (5 g., 2 a.), Liam Murphy (2 g., 1 a.) and A.J. Twist all are expected to play big roles again this winter, with freshman Liam Parr also looking to contribute.

Defensively, look for this team to have a solid amount of offense from the blue line from juniors J.L. O’Toole (4 g., 3 a.) and Frank Diloreto (2 g., 4 a.). Braden Ensinger and Ryan Twist also figure to see big minutes.

In goal, junior Nick Gargiulo is expected to take on the bulk of the work, while junior Zach Bahammou also returns.

Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown has a very talented group returning, and if the Cioce brothers can continue to produce the way they did last year with other contributing supplemental offense, this team should be one of the top contenders for the Haas Cup.

E-mail Mike Gurnis at michaelgurnis@gmail.com

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