Previewing Morris County NJSIAA quarterfinals

Five teams from Morris County are still alive in the state tournament as we head into the quarterfinals, which are slated to be played on Sunday and Monday. These teams all find themselves just two wins away from reaching Prudential Center for the state finals. Here’s a quick look at all five games.

Public C: 4-Morris Knolls-Hills vs. 5-Verona-Glen Ridge, Sunday, 6:15 p.m. at Mennen Arena
This is the second-straight year these teams will meet in the state tournament. In last year’s semifinals, it was Morris Knolls-Hills which prevailed, 3-2 on Ryan Walter’s overtime goal.

VGR will almost certainly have payback on its mind on Sunday evening. It is a team that is very strong offensively, with Rowan Brennan (32 g., 16 a.), Will Benson (10 g., 23 a.), and Pyotr Sysak (8 g., 18 a.) all leading the way. It has also gotten solid goaltending all season from Eli Gottlieb (.897 sv%). Don’t let its 9-9-3 record fool you- this is a team that has been battle-tested all season in the very difficult NJIIHL-McInnis Division, which features two No. 1 seeds in the state tournament in Gov. Livingston-New Providence (Public C) and Westfield (Public A), with Livingston (A), West Essex-Caldwell (C) and Summit (B) all earning top-five seeds. It has earned wins of 3-0 and 9-0 respectively over High Point-Wallkill Valley-Kittatinny and Howell-Matawan, respectively to reach this point.

Knolls-Hills defensemen, led by Bryan McCarter and Ryan Walter, along with goalie Aidan Marvin, will have their hands full in keeping VGR’s top line contained. It has some talented offensive players of its own with Luke Dickerson, Jack Martinez, Jake McCloud, and Michael Simone all registering over 20 points this year.

Girls: 1-Morristown-Beard vs. 8-Trinity Hall, Monday, 4:45 p.m. at Twin Oaks Ice Rink
Morristown-Beard, which is in search of its third-straight state title, will take on a Trinity Hall team which it has defeated soundly twice this season by identical scores of 7-1.

However, despite an 0-8-2 record in the Librera Division this season, this is a Trinity Hall squad which seems to be playing better since the last meeting between these teams on Jan. 27. It defeated a strong Oak Knoll squad, 3-1 in the Librera Cup quarterfinals before falling, 3-2 in overtime to a Pingry squad in the semifinals which gave Morristown-Beard all it could handle in the final. Its led by its top scorer in Alyse Borras (26 g., 11 a.) and has gotten strong goaltending from freshman Katie Cisar (.921 sv%).

Morristown-Beard has not lost a game in the Librera Division all year, and has plenty of offensive depth led by Lilli Warnock (24 g., 16 a.) and Jessica Sperling (22 g., 14 a.). Goalie Gracie Meyers is coming off a big game in the Librera Cup final, and will need to continue that level of play to keep Morristown-Beard’s title hopes alive.

Non-Public: 1-Delbarton vs. 9-St. John Vianney, Monday, 5 p.m. at SportsCare Arena
Delbarton has been wire-to-wire the best team in New Jersey this year, going 19-2-1 with its only two losses coming to non-NJSIAA teams in Lawrenceville and Brunswick (Conn.).

The Green Wave, which won the Gordon Cup last week, started the state tournament with a bang, taking down Montclair Kimberley, 10-0 in two periods in the first round. It has maybe the most dynamic top line in the state with Trip Pendy (15 g., 26 a.), Nick Faccone (16 g., 21 a.), and Duncan Stewart (20 g., 27 a.), along with one of the top goalies in the state in Jason Cai (.934 sv%).

On paper, this game might seem like a mis-match, but St. John Vianney will come into this game with a ton of confidence. This team has won nine games in a row, including a 5-2 win over Pope John in the first round on Wednesday. Defenseman Pat Haines (17 g., 21 a.) is a legitimate two-way threat, and it also has a solid amount of depth up front.

Public B: 3-Randolph vs. 6-Ramapo, Monday, 7:15 p.m. at SportsCare Arena
Randolph always seems to raise its game in the state tournament, and it got off to a great start in a 9-0 win over Roxbury in the first round.

Ramapo being a six-seed, however, speaks to just how deep the Public B bracket is. Just a week ago, this team had the top public school in the state in Northern Highlands on the ropes in the Big North Gold Cup final, as it fell 4-3 after holding a lead early in the third. It battled through some adversity in its first round game, as it scored four unanswered in the third to erase a one-goal deficit against Mendham to win, 4-1.

There is no shortage of offensive weapons on this Ramapo team, too. Braeden Guiterman (16 g., 34 a.), Danny Mauriber (25 g., 23 a.), Jake Rosolanko (20 g., 27 a.), are just three of Ramapo’s seven players who have over 20 points this year. Keeping the puck out of the net is where it has struggled, but freshman goalie Luke L’Heureux had a big game against Mendham and has played well all year, and should be up for the challenge here.

Randolph is always a team that finds a way to shut down offenses in the postseason, though. Not to mention, it has plenty of offensive talent led by Jase Zangara, and it has Zach Gallo back after being absent during the Mennen Cup tournament.

Public B: 4-Chatham vs. 5-Summit, Monday, 8 p.m. at Mennen Arena
This is perhaps the best match-up of the entire quarterfinal round. These are two teams that are both playing at a very high level right now and are riding high after winning their respective cup titles.

Summit, which has had kind of an up-and-down season (12-6-7), has saved its best for tournament play, going a combined 6-0 to win the Union County Tournament and McInnis Cup. It has gone 5-0-1 in the month of February, and blew out Westfield (the top seed in Public A), 7-2 in the McInnis final. It held on for a 3-2 win over Cranford in the first round.

Seniors Jake Lowry (14 g., 15 a.), Dylan Goldfarb (8 g., 19 a.), are the leaders of the team, with sophomore goalie Steven Louiselle providing rock-solid goaltending all year with a .910 save percentage.

Chatham, on the other hand, has had a strong year despite not playing with its full lineup until the Mennen Cup final. It broke a 42-year drought in the Mennen Cup by winning that title, and this is a talented group which includes plenty of game-breakers in Nikita Konevych (24 g., 9 a.), Matt Nacinovich (13 g., 20 a.), Ronan Curry (14 g., 16 a.), and Doyle Curry (10 g., 12 a.).

This game is a true toss-up that has all the makings of a 2-1 type of game.

E-mail Mike Gurnis at

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