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With the second season upon us the SJHSIHL begins it’s double elimination tournament on Monday so we thought we would break down to see exactly who is peaking and who is struggling.

Let’s begin with the Eastern Vikings. Tough year for Mike Pontonio to come out of retirement having coached teams in the past to multiple championships, the Vikings did not win a game this season, but in speaking to Coach Pontonio it was not for lack of effort. Don’t see Eastern advancing.

Holy Cross had exactly the same record the first ten games of the year as the last ten, 1-7-2. Led by senior Steven Petitte, they play solid defense, only give up four goals a game, which was fourth in the league. Problem is scoring as they average less than three goals a game. They drew Cinnaminson, who beat them twice during the regular season. Could give teams trouble, but don’t see them in final four.

Cherry Hill East coming in winless in their last six games 0-3-3. Led by senior goalie Ben Tice who played a league high 851 minutes and faced a league high 658 shots, will need help out front if they are to make any noise. With Eric Simone, Jared Hand and Dan Desrochers handling the scoring and Tice in nets East could surprise with some help on defense. Not a title contender.

Lenape started the season 4-5-1, struggled the second half finishing 3-5-2 and will be without starting goalie Jackson Burns as he serves out his suspension. Led by senior Kyle Young, without Burns, see an early exit for Lenape.

Cinnaminson struggled in its last ten games going 4-5-1; they are led by Sean Joyce and Justin Nugent, both seniors. Staying out of the penalty box is key for them. They like to play the body, need discipline and solid goaltending out of Anthony Ianuzzi. They could surprise with a deep run, not enough to finish.

Clearview has been hot lately going 5-3-2 in their last ten games. The addition of Taylor Olson and Bobby Campbell has given them some scoring punch to go along with Ed Moor and Alex Stewart. The loss of Eric Mitchell will hurt them; will need Dan Flaherty to stand tall in the nets. Assuming they beat Eastern in the first round, tough match-up with Moorestown will follow. See them in Final four.

Williamstown is just 4-3-3 over their last ten games led by league’s top scorer in Jonathan Ruiz along with Jake DiStasio; they have the offensive talent to stay with anybody. Defense and goaltending have been inconsistent this year having given up the fourth most goals in the league. Because of this inconsistency I seem them winning a few rounds but not making the finals.

Shawnee started 5-2-3, finished 5-4-1, although won their last two against Cherokee and Moorestown. With 11 seniors on the roster, they are very well coached and play defense first, were second in the league in fewest goals allowed. Led by Vince Tascione, Steve Nagy and Robert Willwerth and Evan Smith in nets they are my sleeper pick to make the finals. Smith must be healthy in order for that to happen.

Moorestown, defending two time champ, have struggled lately, after starting 7-2-1 finished 4-2-4 and allowed 31 goals over the last four games. Balance is their strength as they have five guys with 10 or more goals, led by Alec Nicolai. Need better goaltending and defense if they want to three-peat. Don’t see it happening this year.

Cherokee started out 8-1-1 and finished 6-2-2. Coached by Mike Sullivan they preach defense and back-checking first as the stats bear out as they gave up the fewest goals during the season allowing less than three per game. Depth is also their strength as they had four guys with 10 or more goals led by Pat Mohnacs. Defensively John Quinlan clears the porch for top goalie Dan Navarra. Final four for sure, and could see them in championship game.

Washington Township started the season the same way it ended, 8-1-1. With a three goalie system implemented under first year Mike Glick, it will be interesting to see if sophomore Ryan McCusker gets the nod over junior Brandon Cusumano. Led by seniors Eddie Sarin, Garrett Quinn and Ben Basalma Washington Township goes in as the top seed, a position they are familiar with, but not successful at. Basalma was a great addition early in the season and creates many opportunities because of his size, but keeping him in the game and out of the penalty box will be key for Coach Glick.

In conclusion, I think this year you have a number of teams that could go on a run, unlike in past years, especially the last two where Moorestown was clearly the dominant team, its not as clear this season. Based on what I’ve seen I think Township, Cherokee, Shawnee and Clearview are playing the best right now. If I had to pick one team, I’d lean towards Township, but that’s an ever so slight lean. And for a team that might make the title game, Shawnee.

Written by Mike Costantino

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