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State-champion GRHS hockey team opens season Sunday vs. West Milford

Panthers return to action after capturing first state hockey title last spring

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What can the Glen Rock High School hockey team do for an encore after winning its first state championship last spring? We’ll have to wait to find out, but the quest for a repeat state title begins Sunday when the Panthers open their 2017-18 season against West Milford at the Ice Vault in Wayne. Faceoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

The Panthers won’t be trying to defend the Public B title they won last season because they’ll be competing in the Public C division, which is new this season. And despite a threat by the Big North Conference to kick Glen Rock out of the league for hockey unless the school joined the big schools conference for all sports, the Panthers will be competing in the league again for at least this season.

On the ice, second-year coach Anthony Yelovich, who captured the title in his first season behind the bench for the Panthers, will be trying to win a second state title without the help of forwards Jake Kinney – the leading scorer in Glen Rock’s hockey history – and Peter Cassidy, as well as defensemen Leo Pawlika and Colin Morrow, who were lost to graduation.

However, the Panthers, who finished 22-3-3 last season, return goaltender Ryan McAuley, first-line forwards Eddie Corvelli and Derek Kelly, and second-line center Matt Maselli as well as second line wing/first pair defenseman Johnny LaMacchia in a strong senior class. The defense will be led by juniors Pat Smith and Ben Sakac, while senior forward Spencer Jefferies and junior Jared Brassil will be expected to step up into bigger roles. Newcomers Anthony Maurice, David Hymovitch and David Kloeber are expected to contribute as well.

Asked about his goals for the team this season, Yelovich wouldn’t say anything about winning any league, county or state titles or anything of the like, preferring to say the goal is simply to get better every game. However, big things are expected of the Panthers. They are No. 8 in the nj.com’s state Top 20 and northjersey.com have picked them as No. 2 among area schools, behind powerhouse Don Bosco Prep.

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