Verona/Glen Ridge high school ice hockey team savors banner season

GLEN RIDGE – The Verona/Glen Ridge high school varsity ice hockey team certainly enjoyed much success this season.

The Hillbillies/Ridgers finished with a winning record of 15-9-4, including qualifying for the state playoffs. And to top it all off, Verona/Glen Ridge won its first-ever McInnis Cup title. The McInnis Cup tournament is considered the conference playoffs.

“The team definitely exceeded all expectations,” said head coach Ken Lilien.

En route to a conference championship, Lilien’s squad avenged earlier-season losses in each of its three contests.

“We started off by beating Nutley in overtime and that was a nice win because Nutley beat us the first time we played them, but we beat them in the second and third meetings,” Lilien said. “After that, we then beat undefeated Montclair in another overtime game.”

Earlier in the year, Montclair had outscored Verona/Glen Ridge, 9-1, beating them by scores of 4-1 and 5-0.

In the championship, Verona/Glen Ridge continued the trend by defeating Montclair Kimberly Academy, 4-2, in the final after MKA had beaten Verona/Glen Ridge by scores of 9-3 and 6-0. “We just got better and better as the season went on,” the coach said. “It was our first McInnis Cup in school history and it’s an incredible achievement. All the credit goes to the boys for all of their hard work and the way they were able to come together to achieve what they did.”

Following the conference playoffs, the team competed in the state Public B tournament, which began with a 7-4 victory against Woodbridge. “Always nice to win a state playoff game,” said Lilien.

The squad’s magical run ended in its next game with a 9-0 defeat to Ramsey. “Ramsey is a great team,” Lilien said. “They eventually won the state championship too, but by the time we played them, we were emotionally spent.”

Indeed the team enjoyed much success, and overall, the Lilien credited the team’s four seniors in Owen Gleeson and Steven Wenzl of Glen Ridge and Liam Blaney and Kevin White of Verona. “Our four seniors were real assets to our program,” Lilien said. “They were each captains or assistant captains, who were all leaders on the ice and in the locker room. They’re irreplaceable.”

Looking ahead to next year, Lilien said sophomore Anton Martino and junior Steven Topping, both of Glen Ridge, would be expected to lead the way.