MONTCLAIR- Montclair coach Mark Janifer has been around long enough to know never to look too far ahead or take anything for granted over the course of a highly-competitive season in the McInnis Division.
As his Mounties (8-3-1, 6-1-1 in the McInnis) stay close with division-leading Summit (9-3-2, 7-0-1), while others such as Westfield (8-4-2, 5-3-2) remain quite dangerous, the realization is that nothing will come easy, either in the final couple of weeks of the regular season or in the upcoming McInnis Cup playoffs in mid-February.
“We’re playing well but we have some big games coming up against tough opponents,” said Janifer, who is in his second season in his second go-round as Montclair’s head coach, but has been coaching high school hockey in North Jersey since the early 1980s. “Summit (who Montclair hosts on Feb. 3) is really good and the team to beat right now.
“We defeated Westfield, 4-3 at our place (Clary Anderson Arena), which was a real nice win, but we know that they are a very good team as well in this division and we have to play them at their home next time (Jan. 31 at Warinanco Rink) where we’re expecting another very tough game for sure.
“You have to be ready to play each and every night in this division and we fully realize that fact as we get ready for the stretch run.”
Montclair rode a strong overall offensive showing in Wednesday’s 10-0 victory over crosstown neighbor Montclair Kimberley Academy (0-11), which is going through the rigors of a rebuilding season with a young team. The Mounties had also defeated MKA, 5-2, earlier this season in the annual Montclair Cup Game.
The coach’s son, junior left wing Brett Janifer, had a 3-goal hat trick in the latest meeting with the Cougars, while his line mates, George Osterberg (goal and assist) and Eamonn Thall (three assists), also chipped in with the scoring on a balanced offensive night for the Mounties, who led 8-0 after two periods.
“That line was together all last season and have done a good job together this season as well,” said Janifer. “Everyone has been skating well for us and they’re embracing their roles and doing different jobs well which has given us some nice depth.”
Montclair boasts one of the state’s top net minders in senior Lucas Podvey, who has been superb all season long.
“Lucas has to be the best goalie in our league if not the entire state,” said Janifer. “We know that we can always rely on him to make a big save and he continues to be there for us night after night.”
Other top skaters for Montclair include defensemen Kellum Foster-Palmer and Benji Peiffer and forward Jared Topf.
While Summit and Montclair should be battling it out down the stretch for first place in the McInnis Division, while Westfield remains dangerous along with very capable West Essex and Livingston on any given night, MKA has struggled while maintaining a positive mindset throughout.