ROXBURY, NJ – The Roxbury High School ice hockey team on Friday started the season right with a dominating win over West Morris.

The 4-0 Gaels victory, at Mennen Arena in Morristown, saw senior Nick Thomas score two goals and make one assist while classmates forward Joe Eible and forward Jake Kooyenga provided the other two.

The goals by Eible and Kooyenga came in the first period. Thomas scored in a second period power play - with an assist by sophomore defenseman Tyler Petersen – and one more time in the final period.

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After falling to Mendham in the Halvorsen Cup Finals last season, Roxbury returned to the ice with nine seniors this year. Coach Jonathan Benbow said he wants to see the team “make another run” at the Halvorsen Cup.

“COVID-19 protocols have changed the season a bit,” he said. “Each team will play eight league games and a significantly shorter non-conference schedule, but there will still be cup playoffs at the end of the season despite the fact that there will be no NJSIAA state playoffs.”

Benbow contends the Gaels have “a solid core of experienced defenseman and an experienced goalie.”

He said the big challenge facing this season’s team will be scoring, noting that while Thomas “has a history of finding the back of the net,” the team lost to graduation last year three of its top four goal-scorers.

Benbow said he is counting on the team’s seniors, including Kooyenga, Eible, Brian Westergaard, Tristan Tantillo and Randy DePalma, but he is also enthused by the abilities of “promising younger players” including sophomore Jake Calanni, junior Steven Keane, sophomore Stephen Ellison and freshman Sean Hardy.

The coach said he foresees the Gaels being led on the blue line by senior defenseman Kyle Jenkins as well as experienced players like junior Joe DiDomenico, sophomore Gavin Woudenberg and junior Chase McGowan.

Petersen, and incoming freshmen Gavin Barooah and CJ Loizou, will “help protect” returning goaltender Ryan Callahan, a senior, said Benbow.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, spectators are not allowed, but Gaels games will be livestreamed (with play-by-play) through Morris Sussex Sports' YouTube channel.

The team next takes on Kinnelon on Jan. 22 at 4:40 p.m.

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