In the group of Independent programs in the East, both Cushing (Paul Pearl) and Phillips Exeter (Tim Mitropoulos) have new head coaches this winter. Here is a look at the programs:
Coach: Paul Pearl
There is a changing of the guard in Ashburnham, as veteran college coach Pearl takes over behind the bench, with Steve Jacobs moving to a director of hockey operations position. Pearl feel that the Penguins will need to commit to team defense in order to be successful.
Returning senior and Boston College commit Billy Norcross will have a huge role in the Cushing offense. Other forwards to watch include Ethan Gardula, Joe Bennett and Mason Kesselring.
On the blue line, senior Owen Paskowski (6’4″) will be a rock on defense. Two intriguing newcomers will be Cam Ferraz, and junior Ryan Philbrick, who led his Concord NH team to back-to-back Division 1 state titles. In the nets, senior Jackson Irving is a veteran presence.
Coach: Dan Donato
This club has been amongst the elite teams in prep hockey for the last several years and this year should not be an exception. “We are looking forward to playing our traditional rivals again,” Donato said. “The more meaningful games for the kids, the better the development.”
The forward group has loads of talent, and if they can get the right chemistry mix, watch out. Senior Will Hughes and Bobby Landry have both committed to Harvard. Junior Grayson Badger is a Northeastern commit. Seniors Culin Wilson and Nick Larkin, and junior Connor Sutherland also return. Newcomers to watch are senior Fitz Frechette, a transfer from St. Paul’s, and junior Cullen Emery (Reading HS).
On the blue line, anchors will be senior Matt Fusco, also committed to Harvard, and senior Sean Keohane. Transfer Mick Frechette, a junior, will have a key role defensively.
The Shields return a pair of tested netminders in senior Alex Mickanin and junior Max Gatti.
Coach: Paul Tortorella
With a good mix of size, speed and skill, the Big Blue will be an interesting team to watch.
A solid nucleus of forwards back for coach Tortorella includes the senior trio of Conner Fitzpatrick, Patrick Last and Nick Royster, and juniors Nolan Roche, Joey Zheng and Will Winemaster. Post-grad Jonathan Surrette (Woburn HS) comes in highly-regarded. New sophomore Sam Myles will help.
Juniors Bobby Corkery and Daniel Rekoske are returning defensive leaders. Post-grads Shane Spinale (Xaverian) and Mike Bagnoli (St. Paul, MN) will be welcome additions, as will junior Ryan Booth.
A pair of seniors – Shane Shelest and Lucas Brown – are back in the nets.
Coach: Tim Mitropoulos
Long-time head coach Dana Barbin moves to an assistant’s role this season, with Mitropoulos, a Big Red assistant for the past seven seasons, moving up to the top job. “We will need to make sure we do the little things all over the ice and find a few ways to put the puck in the net,” he said.
Up front, senior Kurt Gurkan, a Yale commit, will be an offensive catalyst. Seniors Jake Shapiro and Charlie McGurrin (Georgetown lacrosse commit) are two more key returners. Joining the forward group are post-grads Michael Dinges (Central Catholic HS), Kodi Dotterer and Ryan Sordillo, and sophomore Christian Maro.
Defensively, leadership will come from returning seniors Manan Mendiratta and Evan McCuaig. Post-grad Sam Byrd-Leitner should step into a key role on the blue line.
Junior Michael Salvatore is a more-than-solid netminder for the Big Red.
Coach: Brian Troy
The Wapiti have a good mix of youth and experience on the back end, and are anxious to get going on the 21-22 season.
“Words can’t express how excited our group is to return to the ice this year in full capacity,” Troy said. “From start to finish, this season will have that little kid energy on Christmas morning. It should be an amazing experience for these kids.”
Senior Benito Calvanese and sophomores Brock Bergeron and Willem Dumais are returning forwards ready to show what they can do. Three forwards to watch that our new to the program are senior Turner Richards (Shattuck St. Mary’s), junior Matt Mahoney (Mt St. Charles) and junior Cole Roenick (Berwick).
Veteran seniors Nolan Duffy and Sam Logan should see a lot of minutes on the blue line. Sophomore Jake Freelove is also back on defense with experience. New junior Ben Andersen (Burrillville HS).
Senior Matt Pierce looks to be a big presence between the pipes.