VERONA/GLEN RIDGE, NJ – Ken Lilien, the head hockey coach at Verona/Glen Ridge, readily admits that he had a “pretty good holiday period.”
For starters, Lilien’s team posted a 3-0 record in the Essex County Holiday Tournament at Codey Arena in West Orange. In the tough B Division of the event, Verona/Glen Ridge shared first place with Millburn (Scotch Plains won the A Division). And on New Year’s Day, Lilien and his family attended the NHL Winter Classic at Citi Field. In an exciting contest, the Rangers topped Buffalo in overtime.
“I’m quite pleased with the way the 2017-18 season has gone so far,” said Lilien. “We took a 7-2-4 record in January, and both of our losses were very close. I think that this group can make a run at a league championship and a possible state championship.”
The key for Verona/Glen Ridge has been a strong showing on defense. In the holiday tourney, Lilien’s squad allowed only four goals. Verona/Glen Ridge beat Old Tappan, 5-2, Mendham, 4-2, and Mountain Lakes, 2-0.
“Our goalie, Colin Gilmore, has really played well,” said assistant coach Steve Ruggiero, who also serves as the manager at Codey Arena. “All the guys have contributed on defense.”
Verona/Glen Ridge, which has two big games upcoming this month against Millburn, has been sparked on defense by senior Anton Martino, who like Gilmore, attends Glen Ridge High.
“The kid has the ability to shut down any opposing player,” said Lilien. “Not too many guys can do that on a consistent basis on the ice. And he contributes on offense (he has 12 points).”
Another standout on defense so far has been junior Harrison Keating, who attends Verona High School.
Up front, several players have sparkled for Verona/Glen Ridge. That group includes Sean DeCandia, Jarrod Keating, and Jake Kuhn. The trio has collected 23 goals.
“A big surprise for us has been sophomore right wing Chandler Otterbein, a kid from Glen Ridge,” said Lilien. “He’s a speedster on the ice, so he’s very tough to contain.”
Verona/Glen Ridge, which has bounced back from a losing campaign in 2016-17, is primed to go after the Kelly Cup next month.
“I think the two games against Millburn in January will tell the story about our chances,” said Lilien. “Brandon Doria, who was a star at Seton Hall Prep in the 1990s, does a great job at coaching that team.”
The rest of the season might depend on the play of Gilmore, who is one of several standouts on the roster from Glen Ridge.
“Colin is a tremendous competitor,” lauded Lilien. “He wants to win every game that he plays, and he gives all the other guys a lot of confidence out there on the ice.”
ICE CHIP – The top teams in Essex County so far this winter are Seton Hall Prep, Montclair, Millburn and Verona/Glen Ridge…
In mid-February, the N.J. Interscholastic League will showcase the 60th Gordon Cup and the 25th McInnis Cup, as well as the Kelly Cup and McMullen Cup…
Don Bosco Prep appears to be the best team in the state, but Delbarton is always in the hunt…
Heading into January, DeCandia led the team with 15 points. Gilmore had a .921 save percentage… The team beat Johnson, 5-2, Sunday, Jan. 7, to open 2018. It was the team’s fifth straight win.