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Conn. D2 Preview, Preseason Top 10: Guilford is the pick

Connecticut Division 2 Poll

2North Branford10110
3Woodstock Academy2221
5South Windsor9120

Division II is often a toss-up, the last hot team taking home the title. Few coaches had a strong feeling about favorites in this year’s race. The ones that did, their picks varied a bit. If you tossed a bunch of names in a hat and pulled them out randomly, you might have a better shot at predicting the finish than we do here.

Out of that disorder, the votes very narrowly went to the defending champion.

Guilford (21-5-0) won its first Division II title in 23 years (the Indians won Division III in 2010). Some big contributors return from that team, but they need to replace graduated goaltender Kyle Dwyer and top centerman Ricky Sandella. Back are junior top-line forwards John Delucia and Jack Ring, along with junior Jake Watrous and sophomore Jack Dacey. Joe Neleber and Tom Cattaneo are senior defensemen in front of new goalies Mete Yanbul and Alex Attruia.

North Branford (10-11-0) looks young to coach Ralph Shaw, but other coaches see the Thunderbirds’ young talent. John Lovelace returns for his senior year in net, and senior Brendan Dupuis (14 points) and junior Nick Mancini give him some experienced defensemen.

Junior Sean McKee, who had 27 points last year, paces an offensive attack that should add several talented underclassmen.

Avery Riva
Woodstock Academy

Woodstock Academy (22-2-1) won the Division III championship last year in its fourth varsity season. Mike Starr’s Centaurs move up a division with a lot of big names to replace from the group that led the new program to glory, but there’s a good core back.

Defense should be a strength, with seniors Aidan Boisvert and Ryan Wojciechowski and juniors Liam McDermott and Ethan Thorpe. Several young forwards saw some time last year. Senior Pat Delaney and sophomores Austen Ledonne and Doug Newton give the Centaurs some depth down the middle, and junior Avery Riva and sophomore Jake Starr return on the wings. Sophomore Jake Black and junior Matt Odom could step in to key roles.

A couple of neighboring (in part) programs drew attention, too. No. 4 Farmington/Avon/Windsor/Lewis Mills (19-5-0) is turning from upstart to regular; the Generals graduated only two players and was heavy on juniors and sophomores last season. No. 5 South Windsor (9-12-2) is close to a perennial. The Bobcats graduated eight from a team that went to the Division II semifinals before falling to Guilford by a goal.

Jason MccKinley

Cheshire (12-10-0) graduated 11 players, so the Rams will be looking to the kids to step up. There are a few upperclassmen moving intobigger roles, too, like senior Kyle LeTourneau, who’s expected to have an impact offensively.

Ben O’Connor

Coach Anthony Giusto will look to seniors Liam Killea and Jared Purslow up front, along with junior Jason McKinley.Freshman Niklas Vasiljevs comes from the Junior Wolf Pack with a pedigree: His father, Herberts, was a longtime pro and Latvian national team player. Senior captain Sawyer Hackett and juniors Ben O’Connor and James Ilnicki will lead the defense in front of the net,manned by sophomore Nicholas Maringola or senior Anthony Vignola.

Patsy Harris

Watertown/Pomperaug (18-6-1) comes off a run to the Division II final, and coach Vic Vicenzi says the Indians want to earn their way back for another chance. They’ll have senior co-captains Nick LaBella and Eli Rosen down the middle, with two other senior captains, Hunter Shay and Drew Mancini, on defense in front of junior goalie Ryan Fleming.

Hunter Shay

Looking to sustain pressure in the offensive zone will be senior forwards Brandon Barnosky, Michael Benson and Michael Sasso with juniors Troy Harwell, Patsy Harris and James Moaddel. Senior John Biello and junior Tim Leonard will help on defense.

Trumbull (8-12-1) had some hard-working players returning and picked up some talented young newcomers to complement them and add depth. Seniors Matt Mocker and Eric McCabe are co-captains, Mocker the leading scorer and McCabe the versatile (“and abrasive,” said coach Greg Maxey) player who can play forward or defense.

Junior Luke Liebowitz and sophomore Marco Minopoli will lead the defense in front of two competing goalies, senior Leo Thanasoulis and sophomore Alex Tsymbalyuk. The Eagles expect contributions up front from junior Alex Jackel; sophomores Damian Stryc, Manny Bellios, Collin Mallozzi and Donny Ryan; and freshmen Owen Finnegan and Jack McClean.

Tyler Sadak

Glastonbury (9-12-2), a little short in numbers this year, moves down to Division II. Coach Ken Barse will have to move some players around, coming in with only two defensemen. The Tomahawks have junior goalie Brendan O’Connor back, along with senior forwards Chris Aiudi, Tyler Sadak and Drew Rousseau.

No. 10 Westhill/Stamford (15-6-2) graduated Christian Compolattaro, the goalie who led them to the Division III championship two years ago, and some other contributors to both that team and last year’s winning team.

Senior John Kanaris takes over in net, with seniors Everett Dolan and Ryan Hart (moving back from forward) on defense in front of him. Senior Cooper Healy returns up front, along with sophomore Gavin Dolan. Transfer Colin Bernard will help the attack as well, and co-coaches John Santagata and Doug Robinson expect some freshmen to step into the lineup.

North Haven (4-15-1) has a new, and young, coaching staff, headed by Nick Costanzo. He feels they’ve got some talent, as long as everything comes together for the Indians.

They expect to have a strong defense led by juniors Sean Quinn and Simon Brubacher along with sophomores Andrew Carmody and Donny Funaro. Senior Alex Cianci may play defense or go up front to complement experienced forwards like senior co-captains C.J. Kenny and Jamie Montesi, senior alternate captain Sam Pethick, and speedy junior Dom Biondi.

Newcomers Jack Marottolo (whose father, C.J., coaches Sacred Heart University) and Mason Sullivan will step into important roles up front, and seniors Jeremy Hickcox and Ryan Millea will battle for time in net.

Newtown (14-7-1) was one of Division III’s best all year, winning its SCC/SWC conference tournament, but penalties at the wrong time left the Nighthawks out of the CIAC tournament. The Nighthawks step up to Division II with what coach Paul Esposito sees as a balanced roster with strong leadership.

The mix of scoring and grit up front will rely on some underclassmen, like junior winger David Brestovansky, back off a 26-point season. Seniors Marc Carlson, Jack Hanley and newcomer Carl Bianco, sophomore Mattias Paltauf and freshman Phil Makris are other top forwards. The defense includes senior Devin Marsh and junior Jetson Ku in front of junior goalie Justin Halmose.

Amity (6-15-0) has a new coach but a familiar face: former assistant Mike “Scooter” Richetelli moves up to replace Gary Lindgren, who retired after 20 seasons. There’s experience in net, with seniors Tyler Cole and Michael Holloway, and senior Jake Silliman headlines an experience defense corps. Seniors Jamie Blum and Joey Schittina and juniors Jason Csejka and Colin Hughes lead the forwards as the Spartans look to improve on offense.

New Milford (7-14-0) has experience in key positions, including senior forward Nate Capriglione, team captain coming off a 27-point season, and four experienced defensemen: seniors Ben Paquin, Bryan Almeida and Tyler Helmus along with junior Evan Golembeske. That corps also picked up sophomore Cameron Schopher from bantams.

Joining Capriglione up front for the Green Wave are assistant captains Ryan Berry and Max Helberg. Coach Scott Capriglione has junior Ben Marano back in net, and classmate Hayden Giampietro, in from South Kent, could pick up some time.

Milford (4-16-0) will look for more consistency in hopes of getting back to the Division II tournament after two years’ absence. Coach Sal Follo’s Indians are led by captains Santiago Palacio, a right winger, and defenseman Jake Burwell. Seniors Jacob Rooney and Joe Stacy and sophomore Matt Gilebbi are back at foward, and senior Jason Lavallee and sophomore Evan White lead the defense.

E.O. Smith/Tolland (12-11-0) graduated all-state forwards Nick Mayer and Evan Valenti after high-school careers that helped the Bucks win a Division III title and move up. They have senior Jake Ciraco back in net, an experienced goalie.

Interestingly, the former other half of the goaltending tandem, senior Eamon Judkins, is moving out of the net: He’ll play forward this year, joining juniors Owen Stacey (60 points in two years), Ross Lennon and Gavin Till (who may play some defense). Senior Jason Franklin is a third-year regular on the blue line, and junior Sean O’Brien will join him in a corps that will be key for coach John Hodgson’s team..

East Haven (19-5-0) added three schools — Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and East Hampton — in a co-op. The Yellowjackets posted the top regular-season record in Division II and took some hits from graduation and transfers.

Brendan Battiston

But coach Lou Pane’s team has senior captain Matt Twarowski, one of three captains along with classmates Zach Paquin (12 goals, 14 assists) and C.J. Teto (6-8-14). Sophomore Joe Consiglio had 11 points last year. On defense, junior Chris Giglietti returns off a 12-point season in which he was plus-23.

Conard (7-13-1) has a new coach, former Chieftains player and assistant coach Chris Tornaquindici. He thinks he has a good mix of coaches for this team, which is fast and tough but small. One player who’s gotten bigger is junior goalie Shea Henderson, who’s grown three inches in the past year. Junior forward Brendan Battiston brings some size and grit, and senior captain Jack Starr gives them speed.

Hall/Southington (12-10-3) was tied in the Division III final with nine minutes to go. It was one of only two teams to beat eventual champion Woodstock Academy. It was competitive with just about everyone it played. The Warrior Knights didn’t get the title but were moved up a level this year. Coach Brian Cannon does have a strong goalie back in senior Zach Monti. A solid defense in front of him includes captain Drew Booth and fellow seniors Brendan Moore and Andrew Mitchell. There’s some depth in returning forwards, too, the likes of seniors Miles Aronow, Graham Kennedy, Jacob Mohr, Anthony Abbattiello and Will Carpenter plus juniors Mike DiPietro and Nate Zmarlicki. Jake Albert, a new senior, should contribute, too.

Graham Kennedy

Brendan Moore

Miles Aronow

Branford (9-12-1) had a roster loaded with sophomores and freshmen last year in Jim DiNapoli’s first year as head coach. The Hornets are one year removed from three championships out of four in the tough SCC/SWC Division II.

Michael Fornabaio

Michael Fornabaio

Michael writes for Hockey Night in Boston, covers the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for the Connecticut Post, and once covered the Beast of New Haven. He grew up at the New Haven Coliseum. Story, blog links @BSTSoundinOff blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio.
Michael Fornabaio
- 9 hours ago