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***Cranford, which is now busy preparing for Chatham in N2G3 playoff final, has been one of the state's top programs since 2011!

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***A former Rutgers captain and current head coach at Mount St. Dominic will be directing special youth soccer clinic at 360 Fitness. Learn more in "Feature Articles"

***Caldwell University will host the Hoop Group Tip-Off Classic in December and also bring back the West Essex Area Holiday Hoops Fest. Check out details on one big hoops month ahead in "The Buzz"

Talented defenseman Brock Bowers (right) is one of the top veterans for an experienced Montclair ice hockey team as the Mounties get set for the 2015-2016 winter campaign. (photo courtesy of MHS hockey)

Montclair Has Prescription For Success
As 2015-2016 Hockey Season Faces Off
By Paul Bruno

The allure of scoring goals often looms large for many teams.

But Montclair ice hockey coach Pat Verney always prefers to look at his own end of the ice first. The necessary scoring can come later, after the Mounties' zone is secured.

"The teams that win are usually the teams that play defense first," said Verney, a New Jersey High School Ice Hockey Hall of Fame inductee in 2014 after a stellar scholastic career at Hudson Catholic. "If you look at the (NJSIAA) Public Schools tournament for the most part over the past decade the teams that win championships play the best defense. Our identity is as a team with a strong commitment to playing defense.

"We don't give up many goals; and we believe that's the recipe to winning."

This winter Verney appears to have the proper ingredients to mix that successful prescription.

After posting a 16-6-2 record in the 2014-15 hockey season Montclair returns a talented corps of skaters highlighted by seniors Brock Bowers, Remy Parker, Michael Gerne (currently injured), Coby Antinoro, Mike Vascimini, Shane Duffy and junior goalie Ondrej Smalec.

For the always defensive-minded Mounties having Smalec anchor that end of the ice should prove vital. The junior backstopped the Mounties' campaign last winter, helping lead the squad to a furious 13-1 start that included six shutouts.

"Ondrej had tremendous numbers last season and he will need to be our backbone again," observed Verney, who carries a 124-75-25 record into his ninth season behind the Mounties' bench. "It's huge to have him back in goal. The best aspect about Ondrej is that he challenges himself. He holds himself accountable and he sets the bar high for his own play. We'll need a big year from Ondrej and we expect to get it."

Smalec will have help along the blue line again in Bowers along with sophomore Shane Duffy and Will Wrede, a senior who played forward last season, and sophomore Patrick Starkey.

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