RANDOLPH, NJ - It’s no secret the Randolph high school hockey team has earned a reputation as a public powerhouse built around defense. With many of last year' defensemen returning, this year's team will look to some fresh new faces up front to provide the scoring needed to collect victories and defend their title.
According to head coach Rich McLaughlin, there could be some growing pains for his team early on. McLaughlin explained, “We will have many newcomers to the team. We graduated nine seniors last season, many who were forwards. We also have two new goalies so that combination is not good.”
Last year's team finished 19-5-3, and capped off the season with the Public A state title. This year's squad hopes to uphold the recent tradition of Randolph competing for that title, which the Rams have won eight of the last 13 years.
Many of those winning teams mixed not only the right amount of scoring, solid defense and goaltending, but had a fourth dimension of a gritty, workman-like attitude.
Team Captain Bryan Early, a senior defenseman, stated, “As always, coach is preaching defense to us. But this year he is also preaching to us that we need to work hard. He knows we have a lot of new faces on this team and he wants us to compete at the highest level. “
The Rams will have to work hard to replace the lost production up front, as six of the top nine forwards from last years’ team have graduated.
McLaughlin explained further, “It looks like we will have 5-6 new forwards, so we are not sure where our scoring will come from. Leaders up front will be Dan Janson, Chris Holowko, and Sean Jones, all seniors.”
Those three seniors played significant minutes last season, and Janson was the teams’ second leading scorer. Janson and Holowko will wear the “A” as alternate captains, and the two power forwards will both be counted on to provide the physical presence and set the tone on offense.
The team will look to the likes of Sean Jones and Matt Redgate to provide experience and help create chances in the offensive end of the ice. Newcomers such as Adam Redgate, Nick Civetta, William Zimmer and Dylan Quinn are all in the mix for ice time on the top three lines.
Those newcomers will all be counted on to generate scoring chances by cleaning up loose pucks created by Janson and Holowko’s thundering body checks.
To gain some additional varsity experience in the offensive end, McLaughlin moved senior Alex Kranis up from defense to offense this year. Krannis has been working with Holowko and Jones on what looks to be the line with the most experience.
“It's a big adjustment for me. I've been playing defense in this system since I was a freshman so it's certainly a new perspective,” Kranis said. “I'm excited that I have the opportunity to help out on offense. The system as a forward is a lot more demanding, but my line mates have helped me out tremendously with the transition.”
On defense, Early is joined on the blue line by junior Jack Zimmer, and senior Quinn Rogers, both who logged significant varsity minutes in past seasons. Early and Zimmer were among the team leaders in points last year, collecting 15 and 19 points respectively, mostly off assists.
Junior Matt Siegal, brother of former Rams captain Brendan Siegal, appears to be the leading candidate to take the fourth defensive spot vacated by Krannis' move to offense. In net, Junior Luc Swedlund should get the nod on opening day.
Early commented on his new net minder, stating, “Luc Swedlund will be stepping in for Garret this year. Even though it's his first year starting, we expect him to do great things. He is a big kid with good mechanics and I think he will give us a chance to win every game.”
Randolph traditionally relies on a system, and a team first concept to find success. All of the players who come through the program buy into McLaughlins team concept, to which Kranis commented, “It's less about personal success and more about how we click as a team.”
Early explained further, “People have us counted out because we just graduated 13 kids, ( 9 who saw regular ice time on varsity ) but Randolph is not a program that rebuilds, we only reload. We are up for the challenge and we hope to turn people's heads and show we can still play.”
It won’t come easy, as McLaughlin described the Division Randolph plays in, “Morris County is the best league in the state top to bottom. Morristown-Beard, Morris Knolls and Chatham will be very good and Morristown might be the best team, they are loaded this year.”
Kranis concluded with, “I think the biggest difference between this years' team and last years' team is obviously age, but that doesn't mean we lost our style of play. The younger kids that will be playing this year really know what they're doing. We may lack in age, but our heart, experience, and grit will drive us this year.”
The Rams open the season on Tuesday Dec. 1 against rival Morris Knolls. Game time is 8 PM at Mennen Arena.