New England Elite Division champion Kimball Union comes into the 2018-19 season as defending champs of the Lakes Region as well. The Wildcats lost a bunch of talent, but be sure they have reloaded and will be amongst the favorites again this winter.
New Hampton, Proctor and Tilton project to be the key challengers. The league also welcomes the addition of St. Paul’s this winter. New coaches will guide Vermont Academy (Cody Staves) and Brewster Academy (Mike Doyle).
KIMBALL UNION (30-5-2)
Winners of the last two Elite Tournament championships, coach Tim Whitehead’s crew enters the 18-19 campaign having lost their top five scorers, including their top two blueliners, and a two-year starting goalie. But KUA is KUA. “We’ll be breaking in a lot of new players this season at all three positions, so it will be interesting to see how quickly we can pull together as a team,” Whitehead said.
Seniors Arlo Merritt (28 pts) and Kyle Penney (23 pts) are the top two returning scorers for the Wildcats and will drive the offense. Merritt is an Ohio State commit, while Penney has committed to Cornell. Senior Seth Stadheim, and juniors Zach Whitehead and Sullivan Mack return ready for bigger offensive roles. Post-grad Zach Taylor and new junior Brian Carrabbes (a Boston University commit) will be keys in the offensive attack.
Senior Christian Felton (23 pts), recent Bentley commit, will be a huge impact on the Wildcats blue line. New junior Teddy Griffin hopes to contribute right away. Senior Devan Newhook is another key returner.
New juniors Zach Paputsakis and Veeti Kohvakka will battle to take over the vacant starting position between the pipes.
NEW HAMPTON (21-14-3)
The Huskies were an overtime goal away from winning the New England Small School championship last winter. They enter the new season minus their top seven scorers from a year ago. So, finding a way to put the puck in the net will be key.
Junior Jake Dunlap (22 pts), a recent commit to UMass Amherst, will be an offensive leader for coach Casey Kesselring. Senior Alec Grace (16 pts) and junior Cory Morris are also back from the forward lines. Post-grad Greg Peterson and new juniors Marcus Joughin, Jack Ring and Isaac MacLeod will need to provide scoring for the Huskies.
On defense, New Hampton should be solid with senior James Hatzepetros (15 pts) and junior Steve Ardagna the blue line mainstays (although Hatzepetros will miss a bit of the early season with an injury). New juniors Will Hilfiker and Quinn McClelland will have key roles.
New Hampton does have back last year’s starting goaltender in senior Matt Sayles, who played a whopping 1,617 minutes last season.
Optimism is in the air at Tilton, where the Rams look to have a big season.
Offensively, seniors Cam Ryan, Brendan Sjostedt and Ryan Moran will be catalysts for fourth-year head coach Brooks McQuade. Juniors Jamie Cates and Tae Lee are also back. Providing solid depth will be guys like Shawn Leslie, Ryan Harrigan, Jack Mitchell and Jack Haley.
Senior Brett Lockhart, senior Jacob Lida, and juniors Joe Bouchard and Justin Greenberg all have plenty of varsity experience on the blue line. Talented newcomers on defense include juniors Jagger Benson and Mark Blaney, and sophomore Nate Shirley.
Post-grad goalie Owen Cuddyer will team with returning senior Jakob Wepman to form Tilton’s goaltending duo.
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Depth up front, leadership and experience will be major factors in any success the Hornets have this winter.
Senior Myles Abbate led Proctor in scoring last year and will again be relied on heavily for production, as will seniors Jack Swarbrick and Troy Ladka, junior Ronan Walsh and sophomore Cooper Rice. Two new sophomore forwards to watch are James Tepper and Grant Porter.
Senior Kevin Craig and junior TJ Beaver will be defensive cornerstones for coach Mike Walsh. Post-grad Chris Sullivan should step right in. Freshman Bryson Martin hopes for a key role on the blue line.
In goal, new junior Cole Chingris will be in the goaltending mix.
ST. PAUL’S (10-11-3)
The Pelicans hope to make an immediate splash in their new conference after spending a year as an independent. Second-year coach Dan Murphy will rely again on team speed and special teams play.
There is plenty of experience back in the forward group. Senior Julien Menes (25 pts) and senior Eric Sinson (20 pts) will be offensive leaders, along with seniors James Orne (6 goals), Jon Saklad (6 goals) and Ty Green. New sophomores Malcolm Bussey and Owen Stadheim and freshmen JT Halliday and Cooper Flinton will provide solid depth.
Seniors Teddy McElaney and Max Dumas, and junior Jack Hepp have a good load of experience on the blue line. Sophomores Bryson Russell and Alex Lavigne and freshman Jake Sullivan join the group.
Senior Andy Beran, who ironically hails from St. Paul, Minnesota, saw the vast majority of time in goal last winter for the Pelicans.
VERMONT ACADEMY (16-17-4)
A nice blend of returning players and new recruits to the program greet new head coach Cody Staves, most recently a head coach with the California Golden Bears organization.
The Wildcats have a lot of production back in the fold led by senior John Kondub (53 pts), senior Nick Rashovsky (37 pts), senior John Peloso (34 pts), senior Hunter Krasnow and senior Mason Cipriano.
Seniors Rasmus Metsola, Jonne Ijas and Patrick Odgen return on the Vermont blue line. Newcomers Garrett Lowry (senior), Anthony Santosuosso (senior), Charles-Olivier Gagnon (junior), John Guay (junior) and Drew Naylor (sophomore) give the back line some nice depth.
In goal, senior Dylan Regan returns and will be an anchor. Post-grad Steven Turner gives the Wildcats a nice duo between the pipes.
The Bulls graduated nine seniors from last winter’s squad, and return just one of last year’s top six defensemen, so new players to the program will have to make an impact immediately.
Coach Alan Thompson does return three of last year’s top five scorers in senior Kevin Pitts (29 pts), junior Tim Manning (23 pts) and senior Isaiah Fox (20 pts). They will be leaned on for offensive production. New sophomore Jake Waterman looks to have a key role.
Newcomers on the blue line ready to contribute right away include post-grad Joe Biddle, and sophomores Adam McNabney and Carter Rose.
Two goalies also return in senior Connor Androlewicz, last year’s primary starter, and junior Keenan Alhanas.
BREWSTER ACADEMY (10-19-0)
New head coach Mike Doyle, formerly an assistant at Berkshire, says his club needs to have good team chemistry that buys into a simple game. With a good core of defensemen, Doyle expects his club to have a strong team defense ethic.
Senior Nic Rosenburg (22 pts) will be an offensive catalyst for the Bobcats. seniors Jake Wern and Ben McCabe and sophomore Brady Hoff should be key offensive performers as well. Post-grad Dana Canavan and new juniors Max Eckstein and Grant Sikich should pay immediate dividends.
On the blue line, seniors Lenny Brochu and Harry Concannon and junior Pete Stanger have good experience on defense, where post-grad Marco Gianconti and junior Riley McCauley join the fold.
Post-grad Jack McGee, who backboned Fairfield Prep to a Connecticut D1 state title last winter, looks to win the starting goaltender’s job.