Head Coach: Matt Clemente, Seventh season (82-49-10)
Record last year: 14-8-4 (Public B State Semifinals Appearance)
Division/Classification: Class A North/Public B
Home Rink: Middletown Ice World
OPENING DRAW: You can’t count the Lions out. Even while facing the graduation of Shore Conference superstars like Khristian Acosta and Bobby Hampton, Middletown North made it their mission to prove the doubters wrong, and worked their way to the program’s third consecutive state semifinals appearance in 2016-17. Once again the club will deal with sizable losses to graduation in John Dinnocenzo, Evan Hall, Eric Kochanek and Brian Colucci, Ray Breen and Bryan McDermid, but they’ll head into opening night with arguably the best player in the Shore Conference, and one of the top skaters in the state on its blue line.
DIVISION RIVAL: St. John Vianney a state power in 2017-18
HALLARD BACK IN BLACK…AND ORANGE: John Hallard didn’t just emerge as a top two-way force in the Shore Conference a season ago, but commanded attention as one of the best blue liners in the Garden State. As a sophomore he led the Lions in scoring (19g, 21a) and notched a game-winning tally in the shootout against Point Boro, propelling High School North to that aforementioned state semifinal tilt with eventual Public B champion Glen Rock. With the puck on his stick he can go end-to-end on the rush or quarterback a powerplay. In the defensive end his elite skating ability, active stick and confidence to throw the body make him a shutdown pivot. At the travel level Hallard is already receiving looks from NCAA Division I and major junior hockey programs, after helping the North Jersey Avalanche to a 2016-17 Atlantic Youth Hockey League (AYHL) title in 2016-17 — while leading all league defensemen in scoring with 29 points — and has once again helped his club atop the Southern Division standings in the new year, with six consecutive victories to open…In short, his junior campaign in Lions Country will be something special to see.
DIVISION RIVAL: Wall Township has state championship aspirations in 2017-18
THE DEFENSIVE END: Skating alongside Hallard in the defensive zone will be three more key returners in seniors Kyle Goworak (6a) — who came up through the New Jersey Jr. Titans organization and played an AYHL schedule in 2016-17 — and Red Bank Generals 18UAA teammates Nick Dodd and Ryan Crane (1g, 4a).
THE OFFENSIVE ZONE: As a junior, Justin Skelly (Red Bank Generals 18UAA) sacrificed for his team come tournament time when the skilled winger and top line performer accepted a defensive role to fortify an banged up unit of blue liners. His efforts helped the Lions make another deep run in the playoffs, and puts into better perspective a 38-point campaign in which he notched 15 goals and a team-leading 23 assists.
As a senior Skelly will be joined by another pair of exciting classmates in Brad Heuer (15g, 16a) and Kurt Kroeper (9g, 8a) who have utilized high levels of junior hockey to take their games to the next level. After finishing the recent NJYHL 18UAA season as the leading scorers for the Red Bank Generals — combining for 26 points and 13 goals — Heuer signed a contract to join the New Jersey 87’s of the Eastern Hockey League Premier Division, while Kroeper inked a deal with the New Jersey Rockets of the USPHL Elite Division. With Kroeper in the mix the Rockets currently sit second in the Mid-Atlatic Division, while Heuer has helped the 87’s move into sole possession of second place in the Southern Conference.
Another couple of Red Bank Generals products in sophomore Chris Repmann (4g, 2a) and junior Anthony Tavares (2g, 3a) will be counted upon for further offensive production in the Lions lineup, after the duo combined for 52 points on 28 goals and 24 assists in 18 NJYHL 16UAA games this fall. Expected to join the duo on the Lions second line is Dan Quiles (2g, 2a), who spent the fall with a Cranford program that went 9-6-3 in NJYHL competition, and led the 16UAA outfit with 19 points and 10 goals. First-year varsity skater Brian Lupo — a junior — is also expected to see plenty of ice time after 17 games at the 16UA level with the Jersey Shore Wildcats.
IN THE CREASE: The loss of Anthony Manfredi between the pipes will certainly be felt, but the Lions are set to move forward with senior Jake Frontera — who made 27 saves last season in a win over Class A North foe Howell on Feb. 17) — and sophomore Matt Corella, who helped backstop a talented Red Bank Generals 16UAA team to a record of 13-3-2 and an NJYHL Playoff berth in the fall after registering a .908 save-percentage and 1.75 goals-against average.
CLASS A NORTH ALIGNMENT