There are only five head coaching jobs in the Mennen Division, one of the strongest divisions in the state on a yearly basis.
When it was announced in the off-season that long-time Morristown coach Bobby Jones would be stepping away from coaching at the high school level for the time being, it was an opportunity that Ian Anderson couldn’t pass up.
“It’s an opportunity that came up through knowing the Jones brothers,” Anderson said, speaking of Jones and his brother Stephen, a long-time assistant at Morristown. “It was something that was on my radar a little bit, it was something that I obviously was interested in, getting an opportunity up here. Definitely not something I’m taking for granted. Just as hard as the kids are working, that’s how hard I have to be working as well.”
Bobby Jones made the decision to take a break from coaching this winter to focus on his family, which includes three young children. He was the head coach at Morristown for 14 seasons, leading the program to a pair of state championships in 2014 and 2016. He also was behind the bench last winter, when Morristown won the Halvorsen Division and earned the opportunity to move back up to Mennen after a one-year stint.
The start to the season has been a bit of a mixed bag for Anderson and Morristown, which has started 2-2-1, but that is to be expected with a team that graduated a strong senior class and is adapting to a new coach. Overall, it has the look of a very competitive team in the Mennen, led by a very strong junior class highlighted by players such as Jackson Byrne, Liam Wilson, and Brody Toye.
“Coach has been great so far,” Toye said of Anderson. “He realized that we had a big senior class leave last year, and I think his strategy with line placement, and putting the freshmen with juniors and seniors to give them a little bit more confidence has just been great.”
The hope for Morristown will be to continue to grow throughout the season as it takes on a very difficult schedule in facing the Mennen Division.
“It’s about establishing our style of play so far,” Anderson said. “It’s about playing with pace, it’s possessing the puck, and we build from our back-end out. We try to build from our D-end first. We think if we take care of our D-end, everything else will take care of itself.”
He added, “It’s just looking to grow every day. We have our mindset as it’s a day-to-day process. Every game matters. When you play in this Mennen conference, every team is legit. You have to be ready to go every night. So we’re taking it day-by-day and looking to just keep growing.”
Switching the conversation from rookie coaches to veteran ones, long-time Park Regional head coach Tom Levis will get his first crack at the 300-career win milestone on Thursday when his squad takes on Bernards-Somerville-Middlesex at 4:15 p.m. at Mennen Arena.
Levis, in his 28th season leading Park, came into the season with 296 career victories. His team has gotten off to a 3-1-1 start, with his 299th win coming at Prudential Center on Tuesday night in an 8-3 win over West Orange.
Another looming milestone is for Mendham coach John Kovacs. In his 27th season, he entered the season with 397 career victories, and stands just two away from 400 for his career. The Minutemen are slated to take on Watchung Hills, West Essex-Caldwell, and Chatham before the end of the month.
THREE STARS OF THE WEEK
Ronan Curry, Chatham, F, Sr.: Curry has gotten off to a strong start to the 2022-23 season, tallying three goals and six assists for the Cougars which are unbeaten through four games.
Hollis Humphries, Morristown-Beard, F, Sr.: Despite a season-opening loss to Chatham, Humphries made history in that game. His hat trick brought him to 61 career goals, which broke the school’s all-time goal scoring record which was previously held by Brayden Patricia. He has five goals and four assists through four games.
Matthew Trifari, Montville, F, Jr.: Montville has experienced a dramatic turnaround in the early part of the season, and Trifari has been at the forefront of that. He recorded hat tricks in the Mustangs’ first two games of the year and has a total of eight goals and four assists in leading Montville to a 3-0-1 record after winning just two games last season.
MORRIS-SUSSEX HOCKEY REPORT TOP 10
1- Delbarton (3-0)
2- Randolph (3-0)
3- Chatham (3-0-1)
4- Morris Knolls-Hills (3-1)
5- Pope John (1-3)
6- Morristown-Beard (1-3)
7- Mount Olive-Hopatcong-Hackettstown (2-0-1)
8- Morristown (2-2-1)
9- Kinnelon-Jefferson-Sparta (3-1)
10- Mendham (1-2)