Preview of the 23rd Haas Cup final: Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown vs. West Morris

23RD HAAS CUP FINAL
1-Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown (16-3-3) vs. 2-West Morris (13-5-1)
Monday, 5 p.m. at Mennen Arena

Previous meetings: MO-HO-HA swept the two regular season meetings, winning by a score of 4-0 on Dec. 20 before edging the Wolfpack 4-3 on Jan. 12.

CUP HISTORY
Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown
– Mount Olive won its only Haas Cup title in 2013-14, when it defeated Madison, 3-2 in overtime
– This is MO-HO-HA’s second-consecutive final appearance after losing to Mountain Lakes-Boonton in overtime last winter. It is the program’s fifth Haas title-game appearance, and seventh overall after losing in the Mennen Cup final in 1985 and 1986.

West Morris
– West Morris has won two Haas Cup titles in 2010 and 2011 (co-champions).
– This is the eighth title-game appearance for the program overall, and last played in a final in 2018 when it lost the Halvorsen Cup, 5-0 to Madison.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown
Nicholas Cioce (21 g., 11 a.), Thomas Cioce (5 g., 12 a.), Frank Diloreto (7 g., 21 a.), Christian Hertzig (17 g., 21 a.), Liam Murphy (5 g., 19 a.), Ethan Tillery (9 g., 3 a.), Adam Twist (18 g., 15 a.)

Goalie: Nick Gargiulo (15-1-3, .931 sv%)

West Morris
Benjamin Barnhill (15 g., 10 a.), Zach Knoph (6 g., 7 a.), Max Michalski (13 g., 16 a.), Tommy Togno (9 g., 16 a.), Benjamin Willmott (22 g., 18 a.)

Goalie: Phil Togno (13-5-1, .900 sv%)

THE MATCH-UP
This is going to be a battle of two young, up-and-coming teams.

Both teams each have just two seniors on their rosters, and have an incredibly strong core of players who will all likely be back next season. The future is bright for both teams, but if this regular season was any indication, the future is now for both squads.

MO-HO-HA went through the regular season undefeated in the Haas Division (8-0-2) to earn the top seed in this tournament. It has seemingly found a way to win different types of games- it has won offensive shootouts, it has won games 1-0, it has found ways to get a clutch goal late to get a tie or a win. It’s a group that has last year’s heartbreaking loss in overtime to Mountain Lakes-Boonton in the final fresh in its mind, and is determined to get redemption with a win in this game.

West Morris, on the other hand, has been one of the best stories of the season. This program went 0-14-1 last season and has turned around dramatically, going 13-5-1 this season. It had a solid core of players returning this year, but the additions of freshmen Ben Barnhill and Ben Willmott, who are two of the team’s top four leading scorers (along with senior Max Michalski and sophomore Tommy Togno), have given the team the much-needed ability to finish its scoring opportunities.

I’m giving the edge to MO-HO-HA in this one, solely based off the experience it has from playing in a championship game last year. It’s a group that has found ways to win all season, and while it’s tough to beat a good team three times, MO-HO-HA has the team to pull it off.

Prediction: Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown 2, West Morris 1

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