MADISON, NJ - At the beginning of the 2013-2014 season there were a lot of questions surrounding the Madison High School ice hockey team.

The Dodgers had graduated their top scorer in school history, their all-time winningest goalie, and a number of other top-performing four-year starters. There were questions such as who on this year's team could pick up the goal-scoring slack and who would mind the twine. In additions to these questions, two days before the first game of the season, the Dodgers were dealt a huge blow when senior defenseman and team captain Patrick Zimmerman tore his ACL and MCL in the Thanksgiving football game against Millburn.

Zimmerman had been a cornerstone of the defense since his freshman year. Known for his bone-crushing style of play and his willingness to block shots, Zimmerman was expected to be among one of the best defensemen in the Haas division this season. Going into the first game of the season, there were many of the New Jersey hockey community that wondered if the ice hockey Dodgers would be able to return to the form that led them to a 16-7-2 record a year ago.

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The Dodgers didn’t waste any time quieting the critics as they netted 10 goals to beat Gill St. Bernards in their first contest of the season. Leading the scoring were senior captain Ryan Hoover (two goals, one assist), sophomore winger Michael Gleason (two goals, one assist), senior winger Matt Sweeney (two goals, one assist), junior defenseman Kyle Midlige (one goal, two assists) and sophomore center Chris Rosica ( two goals). Senior Peter Cleaves also added a power-play goal. Captain and senior goalie Peter Andersson picked up his first shutout of the season between the pipes.

The Dodgers followed up with an impressive 6-1 victory over Jefferson. Sophomore wingers Sean Hurley and Max Geraghty scored their first varsity goals of their careers. Ryan Hoover netted two goals, while Matt Sweeney added a goal and an assist. Junior center Harrison Meyer scored his first of the season. Senior defenseman Danny Nisivoccia and Kyle Midlige each chipped in with two assists. Andersson stopped 18 of 19 shots for the win.

 In the third game of the season the Dodgers upset Bernards High School beating them 2-1 on their home ice. Hoover and Midlige scored while Gleason and sophomore defenseman Jared Finnerty added the helpers. Peter Andersson turned in an impressive performance stopping 20 of 21 shots.

Continuing the upset trend the Dodgers took down Sparta, residents of the higher Halverson division. The Dodgers won 3-0. Goalie Peter Andersson stopped all 22 shots for his second shutout in the first four games of the season. Freshman winger Charlie Cleaves scored his first varsity goal off an assist from his brother Peter. Adam Graham crashed the net for his first of the season and Matt Sweeney added one more for good mesure. Kyle Midlige had two assists in the game.

The teams most impressive win of the young season came against the defending Haas Cup Champions and rival Park Regional. The Dodgers beat Park 4-1 on the back of  Andersson who stopped 29 shots for his fifth win in five games. Harrison Meyer led the kick started the offense with two goals, Matt Sweeney added a goal and two assists. Michael Gleason also scored for the Dodgers on a penalty shot, that proved to be the turning point in the game.

Peter Andersson and the Dodgers continued their roll against Parsippany Regional defeating them 6-0 in the Haas division tilt. Andersson stopped all 20 of the shots he faced for his third shutout of the season. Matt Sweeney led the way with 2 goals. Meyer, Graham, and Hoover all had a goal and sophomore winger Gus Haralampoudis scored his first varsity goal of his hockey career.

The Dodgers entered their 7th game of the season with a spotless 6-0-0 record and were credited as one of the biggest surprises of the early season. The Dodgers started the game a bit slow but pulled out their 7th win of the season winning 6-3 over Newton/Lenape Valley. Sweeney and Midlige sparked the scoring with 3 points a piece. Junior Jake Nittolo added his first of the year, Meyer and Hoover also sniped for the Dodgers.

Game 8 had the Dodgers facing their toughest opponent of the season. Madison took on next door neighbor and the defending state champions the Chatham Cougars. Both teams entered the game undefeated, but given that Chatham plays in the Mennen division, two divisions above Madison who plays in the Haas division, Chatham was heavily favored going into the game. Madison led again by Peter Andersson, impressed with their defense holding the skilled Chatham offense to only 2 goals on 36 shots. The Dodgers worked hard to prove that they could skate with the State Champs and were able to strike late in the game to cut the lead to 1 as Michael Gleason went top shelf on Chatham’s goalie. Unfortunately the Dodgers hit a bit of bad luck as the referee miss read the play and called a no goal allowing play to expire without giving the Dodgers a chance to tie. The blown call can be seen on YouTube: . Despite being handed their first loss of the season the team and the coaches were very proud of the effort.

Less then 24 hours later the Dodgers were back on the ice taking on the undefeated Montville Mustangs for first place in the Haas division. Both teams entered the day with unblemished 5-0-0 records in division play. In one of the most physical games of the season the Dodgers led 1-0 after Kyle Midlige scored his fourth goal of the season with 7 seconds left in the first period. The Dodgers held the lead in the second as Andersson played some of his best hockey of the year. In the third period the Mustangs battled back to tie and eventually take a 2-1 lead. With a minute left to play Madison coach Dave Hansen pulled Andersson for the extra skater. This move proved to be worth the risk as Ryan Hoover hammered home a rebound with less than 40 seconds left to play tying the game at 2. As a result the Dodgers and Mustangs currently share the first place slot atop the Haas division standings. Andersson was stellar yet again, stopping 37 of 39 shots against him.

Madison goalie Peter Andersson spent the previous three years skating out at both forward and defense for the Dodgers. A goalie by trade Andersson switched positions upon entering high school since the team was set in the net with eventual four year starter Grant Perry. Andersson was one of the leagues top defenseman the last two years earning Morris County Second team honors in each of his last two seasons. However when Perry graduated, Peter decided to move back between the pipes to help lead his team to victory. This move paired with his leadership skills prompted his teammates to vote him captain for the season. So far Andersson has been lights out leading the Dodgers to a 7-1-1 record. Andersson posted three shutouts and has only given up 10 goals in 9 games. Peter has stopped 209 of the 219 shots he has faced this season. If the Dodgers are going to continue their early success Andersson will have to continue his dominance between the pipes.

The Dodgers have had much more success this year than expected led by senior Matt Sweeney (9 goals 5 assists). In his first three years on the team Sweeney had only scored 3 goals. But thanks to a skilled touch and a knack for finding open ice he is currently leading the Dodgers in goals. Also leading the way, senior captain Ryan Hoover (8g4a) has been a consistent scoring threat as the pivot of the Dodgers top line between wingers Sweeney and sophomore Michael Gleason (4g4a) who is looking to build on a very successful freshman campaign. Defenseman Kyle Midlige (4g10a) is tied with Sweeny for the team lead in points and is currently leading the team in assists. Harrison Meyer (5g1a), and senior defenseman Danny Nisivoccia (6 assists) are also among the team leaders in scoring this season. The Dodgers have also gained a scoring punch from Adam Graham (2g2a), Jake Nittolo (1g1a), Max Geraghty (1g1a), Peter Cleaves (1g1a), Charlie Cleaves (1g1a), Chris Rosica (2g1a), Sean Hurley (1g1a), Gus Haralampoudis (1g), Jimmy Piechnik (4a), Jared Finnerty (2a), Will Scavone (1a), Jack Donald (1a), and Aaron Willsea. Chris Rogers, the Dodgers back up goalie provides security for the team with his experience and net minding ability. Rogers posted a shut out and 3 wins last season.

This year's version of Dodger Hockey could be one of the deepest and most well-balanced teams the program has had. The depth has allowed the coaches to roll four lines at times, something that has never happened before. Every player who has stepped on the ice has contributed. The ice hockey Dodgers hope to continue their early success as they head to Skylands Arena this weekend for the Jefferson Holiday Tournament.  


Next Game: Madison at Pequannock 3:40 p.m. at Skylands Arena