Head coach: Ryan Tatarka, second year (17-5-3 career record)
Last year: Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown finished 17-5-3, with an unbeaten 8-0-2 record in the Haas Division which was good enough for the regular-season title. However, it suffered a heartbreaking loss in the Haas Cup final for the second-straight year, this time by a 2-1 score against West Morris. It rebounded to beat Newton-Lenape Valley in the Public C Play-in round, before losing 9-5 to Woodbridge Township in the first round.
Key losses: Thomas Cioce, F.
Top returners: Frank DiLoreto, F, Sr. (7 g., 25 a.); Christian Hertzig, F, Sr. (20 g., 20 a.); Liam Murphy, F, Sr. (5 g., 20 a.); J.L. O’Toole, F, Sr. (7 g., 4 a.); A.J. Twist, F, Sr. (20 g., 18 a.); Braden Ensinger, D, Sr.; Liam Parr, D, So.; Tyler Muscolino, D, So.; Ryan Twist, D, Sr.; Nick Gargiulo, G, Sr. (16-2-3, .920 sv%); Zach Bahammou (.920 sv%).
Potential incoming impact players: Jack Luciani, So.; Daniel McGarry, So.; Sebastian Slawinski, Jr.
Outlook: A year after finishing in first place in the Haas Division but falling in the Haas Cup final, Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown figures to be headed for another strong season.
There are few teams in the area that are returning as many players as Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown. It graduated just two seniors from last year’s team, so by and large, the tri-op has depth and experience in all three areas of the ice. It scored a total of 115 goals, which was the second-most in the area, and only seven of those goals graduated.
There is plenty of senior leadership, with DiLoreto, Hertzig, Murphy, O’Toole, the Twist brothers, Ensinger, as well as a strong goaltending tandem with Gargiulo and Bahammou. This is a group that shouldn’t struggle to score goals with the firepower it has coming back, and it shouldn’t be fazed by big moments with the amount of experience it has.
Burning question: How will this team handle the move up to the Halvorsen Division?
Mount Olive finds itself in the Halvorsen for the first time in 20 years, last playing in this division in the 2002-03 season. It faced only one team that will be in the Halvorsen this season, when it defeated Kinnelon-Jefferson-Sparta, 6-4 in January.
It’s hard to tell exactly how it will play in this division until they get on the ice and play, but this is a group that should be very well-equipped to at a minimum, have a strong season in this division. It’s almost certainly going to be a motivated group that will want to not only prove itself in a tougher division, but will want to capture a cup title which it has fallen tantalizingly short of in the past two seasons.
E-mail Mike Gurnis at firstname.lastname@example.org