CHATHAM, NJ - The Brendon Herr era begins for the Chatham High ice hockey team at 2 p.m. Saturday when the first-year coach guides the Cougars in their season opener against Kinnelon at Skylands Arena in Stockholm.

"The first couple of weeks you're trying to figure out the personalities of the players, who works well together, what line combinations work, who clicks with who and matching up defensive partners," Herr said.

That could still be a work in progress since Herr will have to play the season opener without the top returning scorer from a year ago, Ryan Barnett. The senior linebacker/tight end has one more football game to play for Chatham, the Section 2, Group 3 state final vs. Cranford on Dec. 4 before he can lace up his skates.

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Chatham will miss Barnett on the ice since he finished with 32 points last season, collecting 18 goals and 14 assists. In the meantime, the Cougar offense will revolve around senior captain Austin Pierce and sophomore forward Brendan Darby.

"We're small, so we're thinking that the faster we move the puck, the faster the defense gets the puck up to our forwards, the better off we'll be," Herr said. "I need to form my own relationship with the players and have them buy into the system we're trying to teach. Obviously, every coach is different. Speed with fast, attacking puck movement will be our style."

Herr, a youth coach with the New Jersey Rockets before taking over at Chatham, is counting on his defensive pairings to be one of the team's strengths. Seniors Mark McNally and Ben Seitz-Sitek will be one tandem and junior Greg Slamm and freshman Kieran Kraus with be the other.

Junior goalie Jamie Boles will be backed up by freshman Jake Brown.

"We've put in a zone defensive scheme," Herr said. "We have excellent young defenseman with speed and good vision. I have confidence in both goalies."