Morris/Sussex area notebook for Jan. 9: Knolls-Hills, Morristown-Beard to meet Monday

Morris Knolls-Hills and Morristown-Beard will battle on Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Mennen, and it may very well be the biggest game of the regular season to date between area teams.

In terms of the Mennen Division standings, there is a lot riding on this game. These two teams are the top two teams in the Mennen standings as of right now, with Morris Knolls-Hills alone in first place with a 4-0-1 record, and Morristown-Beard in second with a 3-1 divisional record.

A win for Morris Knolls-Hills would all but lock up the regular season division title and the 1-seed in the Mennen Cup, as it would be 5-0-1 (11 points) with just two league games remaining against Madison and Chatham- it would need just two points in those games to clinch it. Morristown-Beard needs two points just to keep pace with Knolls-Hills, and a win would not only do that but it would put the Crimson in control of its own destiny when it comes to the regular season title.

Aside from the obvious standings implications, both teams also come into this game with something to prove. Morris Knolls-Hills had a rough showing at the Ice Vault Holiday Classic, where it was outscored 19-1 in three games against state-ranked opponents in Middletown South, Livingston, and Seton Hall Prep. It did get back on track with a win over Roxbury last week, and will look to build off that.

Morristown-Beard, on the other hand, has had a very up-and-down season while playing a very difficult schedule. It currently stands at 6-5 overall, and is coming off a week where it lost to two very strong public school squads in Northern Highlands and Livingston. It also lost to Morris Knolls-Hills, 7-1 back on Dec. 3, and this group will certainly be motivated to prove something in the rematch.

— Monday’s Morris Knolls-Hills/Morristown-Beard battle isn’t the only big game with standings implications at Mennen Arena that night. At 8:30, Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown and Park Regional will battle in a big Haas Division game.

Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown sits alone in first place with a 5-0 record, while Park Regional is in second at 4-1. It’s the first of two meetings between these teams this year, with the next one scheduled for Jan. 27. There’s still a decent amount of hockey to still be played in the Haas Division, but a win for either side will be huge in terms of getting closer to wrapping up the No. 1 seed for the Haas Cup.

— Delbarton has a huge opportunity on Wednesday when it takes on the state’s No. 1-ranked team by NJ.com in Christian Brothers. The teams last met on Dec. 7, which ended in a 2-2 tie after Delbarton rallied from a two-goal deficit.

The top three teams in the state, which are Christian Brothers, Don Bosco, and Delbarton all appear to be very evenly matched this year. A win for Delbarton would give it a nice leg up when it comes to the top seed for the Gordon Cup along with the Non-Public state tournament. It will first have to make sure it doesn’t look past a very tough Bergen Catholic squad on Tuesday.

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