Montclair High School ice hockey preview: Three seniors at the helm of a young team
The Montclair High School ice hockey team will still be going through growing pains this winter season.
After Connor Smith took over the reins as head coach last year, the Mounties finished with a 4-16-1 mark.
Montclair will have only three seniors on the roster, center Luc Callanan and wingers Miles Fletcher and Evan Baxter, as Smith continues to rebuild the program.
The 2022-23 Mounties are mainly packed with freshmen and sophomores. "Our team is so young," Smith said. "Over half of the team has never even practiced with a varsity team, let alone played a varsity game."
Montclair is also dealing with a drought in terms of the number of players in the program that Smith is working to rectify. Causes include lower numbers in the local feeder program, players opting for club hockey instead of the high school team, and COVID practices in the school system that push families to move or send their children to private schools.
"I’m confident that in a few years we’ll be back to a bigger program," Smith said.
The Mounties have slowly improved in the preseason since the first scrimmage a couple weeks ago. "The team looked exactly how I expected, anxious, a bit lost, but super-motivated," Smith said about the squad’s first scrimmage, against Passaic Tech on Dec. 2.
"Eighty percent are sophomore or younger; that said, we shook off the cobwebs and have been making great strides ever since that game."
The coach points to depth on offense. He said that it doesn't necessarily mean high scoring, but that the forwards can play well on both ends of the rink.
"It's not necessarily high goal-scoring depth, but two-way hockey sense depth," Smith explained. "We are a system-based team, and this group has the ability to apply what I’m teaching. It is no secret that Montclair preaches defense first, that’s me as a hockey player, as a coach, and Montclair hockey as a tradition."
The top starters are two of the seniors, Fletcher and Callanan, who are on the first line at right winger and center respectively.
Coming back this season, Fletcher was the top scorer with six goals. "Miles is a beast," Smith said. "I don’t mean that in a cliche way. The kid is in incredible shape, body builderesque even, and for someone not on the taller side his strength is unexpected.
“Miles has a lot of skill with the puck and a laser of a shot. With a year under me and playing with Luc (Callanan) and Anders (Jenkins), I anticipate a newfound chemistry on the ice with his teammates to be much more apparent."
Along with Fletcher, the coach believes that Callanan and Jenkins will be the top scorers this season. "They bring the most talent and experience," he said. Last season, Callanan had three goals and three assists.
A big plus is the return of the man between the pipes, junior Sam Korenbaum.
"Sam is a high-IQ goalie," Smith said. "How to play the puck, move the puck, where to put the rebounds. He’s more inquisitive than most, and it shows in his game.
“He has the size, and his leg strength is really starting to show with his lateral movement. Very technically sound, and best of all he’s so poised. Starting goalie last year as a sophomore was a lot of pressure on him.
“He’s matured a lot, and he’s grown just as much in between his ears as he has in between the pipes. Montclair is lucky to have a goalie of his caliber."
Last season Montclair had 25 girls on its junior varsity team. But it might be two new girls, freshmen Layla Anderson and Hannah Rosenheck, who might have a big impact this year. Anderson centered several lines, and Rosenheck had a pair of goals in one of the scrimmages. "It’s astounding," Smith said about the two girls’ play during the preseason. "They're arguably the two best positioned players on the team, and they're already being productive."
Alongside Anderson and Rosenheck is junior Gavin Parma, Rosenheck’s older cousin. "He brings size and a big physical presence to that line," Smith said, adding that Parma is versatile on the ice. "He has made leaps and bounds since his sophomore year."
On offense the Mounties flash more youth with sophomore winger Colin Felber and freshman center Danial Gallagher.
Felber will be on the right wing on either the second or third lines, while Gallagher has been a surprise on the third line.
"Gallagher has the potential to become an elite hockey player, and I’m ecstatic to have him and his passing ability on our team too for years to come," Smith said.
The coach said Felber “is also progressing leaps and bounds. He’s a big frame still growing into his body, but the strength is gaining quickly."
On the defensive side, sophomore Logan Brown leads the way. "He’s big, fast, great with the puck, and has the potential to be one of the better defenseman to ever come through Montclair," the coach said.
The rest of the top defensemen are all sophomores who mainly played junior varsity in 2021-22: Zane Levy, Tyler Bishak, Leland Gibons and Benjamin Rohrs.
This season the Mounties go from the McInnis to the Kelly division in the New Jersey Interscholastic Ice Hockey League, joining neighborhood rival Montclair Kimberley, which is considered the favorite to win the division title. The Mounties take on MKA on Jan. 11 (7:40 p.m.) and Feb. 6 (4:10 p.m.), both games at Clary Anderson Arena in Montclair.
Montclair ice hockey schedule
(Home games are at Clary Anderson Arena in Montclair)
Dec. 16 at Nutley/Bloomfield, 8:30 p.m.
Dec. 19 Kearny, 4 p.m.
Dec. 28 Newton/Lenape, 7:40 p.m.
Jan. 2 Johnson, 4 p.m.
Jan. 4 Cranford, 4:15 p.m.
Jan. 6 at Kearny, 5:15 p.m.
Jan. 7 at Oratory, 7:45 p.m.
Jan. 11 at Montclair Kimberley, 7:40 p.m., Clary Anderson
Jan. 18 at Tenafly, 4 p.m.
Jan. 23 at Cranford, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 25 Frisch, 7:40 p.m.
Jan. 27 Nutley, 5:45 p.m.
Feb. 1 Oratory, 4:15 p.m.
Feb. 2 Mountain Lakes, 4 p.m.
Feb. 6 Montclair Kimberley, 4:10 p.m.
Feb. 7 Madison, 4 p.m.